Oscar Wilde was a brilliant, witty author. He was jailed on a moral charge at the height of his career. The humiliation devastated him. It also purified him. In de Profundis, one of his later writings, he says: "Where there is sorrow, there is holy ground."
The devotion to the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady has its origins in Sacred Scripture and Christian piety. This devotion always links the Blessed Mother with her Son's suffering.
Origins of this Memorial
The Servites introduced it to increase devotion to Our Lady's Sorrows. In 1817, Pius VII extended the feast to the Universal Church. It was originally celebrated on the third Sunday in September, but Pope Pius X moved it to September 15th after the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.
Our focus today is on the woman who stood by Christ's Cross (John 19:25). Mary's sorrow is captured powerfully in the Stabat Mater, a wonderful Latin poem. It begins, 'At the cross her station keeping, Stood the mournful Mother weeping, Close to Jesus to the last; Through her heart, his sorrow sharing, All his bitter anguish bearing, Now at length the sword had passed'.
The sight of Jesus' broken body must have been painful for Mary. I can only imagine the ridicule she endured from those who crucified Jesus. Despite the pain, confusion, and ridicule, Mary stood by the foot of the Cross. Neither pain, sorrow, nor ridicule can separate her from Jesus. A "sword that pierces the heart" will not make Mary cower.
Pondering In Her Heart
The heart of a woman who "kept all these things in her heart" (Luke 2:51) knew a great deal of pain. Parenting often involves heartache. It is inevitable that great love and sacrifice will cause deep pain. Mary understands when our hearts are hurting, as she has been there. There are both highs and lows to motherhood. The joy of seeing one's child come to life is simply priceless, as many mothers can attest. Seeing the miracle of life unfold before one's eyes is a wonderful experience. Motherhood, however, also entails many sacrifices. The responsibility to watch one's child grow and develop, and experience and live life is unlike any other. Mary had the joy of being the mother of Jesus and the sorrow of seeing her Son crucified.
Our Lady of Sorrows takes us back to the Cross, where Jesus was crucified and hung, dying before his mother. He said, "Woman, this is your son," to His mother in that moment of intense sorrow. It wouldn't have lessened Mary's sorrow to hear Jesus say to the disciple, "This is your mother." Even in that painful moment, she knew that she had let go of her Son, the flesh of her flesh, by accepting to be a mother to other children.
The Sorrow and Courage of Mary
This feast of Our Lady of Sorrows reminds us that Our Lady cries in sorrow for each of her children who die in the torment of injustice as Jesus did. Mary also cries in sorrow when her children die in sin and eternal damnation.
Let us turn away from sin, work for peace and justice, and pray with Mary for the conversion of sinners so that the sorrow of all mothers will be consoled.
Today, we celebrate not Mary's sorrows. We celebrate today the courage, the conviction, and the love that made her stand erect beneath the cross amidst all those sorrows, for she knew she was standing on Holy ground.
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About Father Boby John, C.S.C.
Father Boby John, C.S.C., ordained a priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross in 2008, worked as a pastor and as an educator with tribal populations in Northeast India for thirteen years. Originally from Kerala, India, Father Boby grew up with three siblings. He is a dedicated and detailed educationist with experience in educational leadership. He is currently working as an executive assistant at the world headquarters of Holy Cross Family Ministries, North Easton, Massachusetts.