“The mystery of God’s love is not that our pain is taken away, but that God first wants to share that pain with us. Out of this divine solidarity comes new life.” –Henri Nouwen
I find it interesting that the first sorrow that Mary experiences is the prophecy of Simeon, foretelling the suffering that she will experience through the suffering of her son Jesus. “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed,” Simeon says in the Gospel of St. Luke. Mary’s first sorrow is the knowledge that she will suffer. I always wonder if it would be better to know ahead of time what we will face, so we can prepare ourselves for it; to steel our hearts so to speak. But as we spend time contemplating the Seven Sorrows of Mary, I think it is telling that it is a sorrow itself to know the suffering ahead.
There is no question that each of us will encounter sorrow in our lives. Suffering is part of the human condition ever since the fall of Adam and Eve, when sin entered the world. The consequence of original sin is suffering. How and when is the question. The loss of a child or spouse, parent or friend; ongoing physical ailments; financial stress;difficult relationships… the list goes on. For some, it may come as a tsunami—unexpected, overwhelming, unfathomable. For others, it may be wave after wave of smaller trials that on their own may not seem like much, but can be wearing and wearying to the person absorbingthem.
As we have said before, our faith is one of paradox. We cannot avoid suffering this side of heaven, but we belong to a God who—as we enter into the mystery of his suffering—enters into ours. He shows us the way, and by allowing his mother Mary to experience his sorrow in a unique way, he shows us how to meet others in theirs. Unlike Christ, we cannot take on the suffering of another person. But we can walk with them; we can accompany them in their grief. There is a saying that I find to be so simple, profound, and true: “Joy shared is joy multiplied. Grief shared is grief divided.” Like Simon of Cyrene, helping Jesus to carry his cross, the women of Jerusalem and St. Veronica offering Jesus their tears and aid along his way, and like our Blessed Mother and St. John at the foot of the cross, we too are called to share in the grief and sorrow that others bear. Christ shows us that he makes all things new. Even suffering, which came into the world because of sin, becomes the means by which we become holy, when we unite it to Christ in courage and love, as Mary did.
We accept sorrow, but we do not wallow in it.
We struggle, but we strive to persevere.
We grieve, but we still hope.
As we continue to go deeper into the mystery of suffering and sorrow, through the intercession and example of the Blessed Mother Mary, let us also remember with hope the promises that she revealed for those who recite the Chaplet of Seven Sorrows faithfully.
1. “I will grant peace to their families.”
2. “They will be enlightened about the divine mysteries.”
3. “I will console them in their pains and I will accompany them in their work.”
4. “I will give them as much as they ask for as long as it does not oppose the adorable will of my divine Son or the sanctification of their souls.”
5. “I will defend them in their spiritual battles with the infernal enemy and I will protect them at every instant of their lives.”
6. “I will visibly help them at the moment of their death, they will see the face of their Mother.”
7. “I have obtained from my divine Son, that those who propagate this devotion to my tears and dolors, will be taken directly from this earthly life to eternal happiness since all their sins will be forgiven and my Son and I will be their eternal consolation and joy.”
May we trust in the promise of new life, as we walk through the sufferings of this life!