Written on: September 19, 2018
Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, September 15
It seems like we have had a lot to be sorrowful about in recent days:
Our world, our county our church is hurting terribly these days! It can be depressing and debilitating. So how do we bring all these things to prayer?
We have the perfect role model in Mary! How did she deal with the sorrows in her life? By the time this feast became publicly celebrated, seven sorrows were identified with Mary:
There is nothing really written about how she dealt with all these sorrows except that she took them to heart and pondered them.
There seems to be at least a few possible ways to take things to heart. I mention only two:
I suspect Mary did the appropriate amount of grieving that would surely have gripped her heart and spirit. She was a Mother, after all, who loved much and she was also human like us. Jesus witnessed some of her sorrows and how she dealt with them with dignity and grace… and he witnessed her willingness to continue to live in a godly manner for her whole life.
However, Mary seemed to have had an amazing capacity to name her grief, claim it and celebrate the learnings from it.
She allowed her suffering to open spaces within her to make ever more room for God. Could this be attributed to life-long practice of pondering things in her heart? It’s not too surprising then that Jesus learned to be obedient and faithful because of the witness of his dear Mother and the support of his Heavenly Father.
In the gospel from today, Jesus entrusted Mary and John to each other and gave us a model for what church should look like:
Jesus wants us, his church, to embrace each other with loving care and generosity, by welcoming all who come to this precious feast of remembrance, the Eucharist. All those who are hurting, lost or confused, ought to feel welcome here. And we, members of the church, have a responsibility to help create that welcoming spirit wherever we are.
Mary may have lived in the “silence and obscurity of ordinariness,” according to Carol Houselander, but it was not a life that is unattainable to us, for she was human as we are. Her pattern of pondering did not separate her from others but brought her closer to them, for she found Christ in all of them. She stayed with difficult feelings and experiences until they were transformed by grace and wisdom.
She learned to withdraw so that she could go forward. She did not stay pondering in her room. She went out to others, gently calming situations, offering sympathy, sharing her wisdom and simply being a loving presence to those around her. I honestly do not think she could have stood peacefully at the foot of her son’s cross without recognizing a higher purpose was operative there.
Frances Weller, a noted psychotherapist, “on navigating our losses” wrote that
“The work of the mature person is to carry grief in one hand and gratitude in the other and to be stretched large by each of them. How much sorrow can I hold? That’s how much gratitude I can give. If I carry only grief, I’ll bend toward cynicism and despair. If I have only gratitude, I’ll become saccharine and won’t develop much compassion for other people’s suffering. Grief keeps the heart fluid and soft, which makes compassion possible.”
Mary seemed to know a bit about this need for balance between sorrow and gratitude. She was stretched large by her sorrows and grew in gratitude for her many blessings. We would do well to imitate her gracious reception of both realities.
Sister Mary Elizabeth Looby currently ministers as a Spiritual Director. She has been a teacher, principal and pastoral associate, as well as a member of leadership and a formatter. Sister Mary Elizabeth enjoys people and spicy Thai food.