When I first signed up to write this particular reflection, I thought it would come easily. I am sure like many of you, sorrow is something to which I could definitely relate right now. I’ve tried sitting down to write this so many times, but I found myself stuck. Then, in Mass one day (how well the Lord knows me), I realized the question, the source of my writer’s block—Being sorrowful isn’t a particularly positive quality of a person. We wouldn’t usually consider it something that illustrates a high moral quality. So, why then is sorrowful considered a Marian virtue for this study?
Sorrowful certainly doesn’t seem like a virtue when I experience it. When I experience sorrow, I can generally see myself go through the stages of grief at least once a day (sometimes more) and more than once I have found myself lingering on the anger stage. Anger toward the people who may have hurt me, or anger at the Lord for giving me a cross I never wanted to carry. I usually complain at how unfair life can be and fall into hopelessness. I feel abandoned by God.
Sorrow is a virtue of Mary, because she sorrowed well. I don’t mean that she was good at being sad, that she went through those five stages of grief like nobody’s business. I mean that Mary never failed to make her sorrow and her suffering redemptive.
There is a common devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows, in which she is portrayed as having seven swords pierced through her heart. These seven swords represent seven moments in her life, beginning with Simeon’s prophecy and ending with the Burial of Jesus, in which Mary experienced intense sorrow. In each of these moments, including the Passion and death of Jesus, Mary didn’t suffer alone, she suffered on alongside and on behalf of her son.
When we allow our hearts to be pierced and united to the bleeding heart of Christ, we can also make our suffering redemptive. Christ raised up human suffering through His saving death, and so by uniting our human suffering to His cross, we are able to participate in His salvation of souls. This is what Mary did. We follow Mary, suffering at the foot of Jesus’ cross, suffering with her Son.
Sisters, when you feel sorrow, follow our Lady and keep looking up at Christ, even if it means craning your neck a bit. Know that offering up your sorrow does not necessarily mean that your sorrow will be eased. When we are standing at the foot of the cross, we might not experience the consolation we desire, but that does not mean we aren’t close to Christ. In fact, we are close enough to have His own precious blood fall on us. When we sorrow with Him and through Him, when we allow ourselves to participate in His suffering, we allow ourselves and others to participate in His resurrection. This is what makes sorrow a virtue.
Reflect: What is your normal reaction to sorrow? In what ways can you make your sorrow redemptive?
Act: Mediate on for 10-15 minutes today on one of the seven sorrows of Mary. Choose from: The Prophecy of Simeon, the flight into Egypt. Matthew 2:13, 14, the loss of the Child Jesus in the temple. Luke 2: 43-45, the meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross, the Crucifixion, The taking down of the Body of Jesus from the Cross, and the burial of Jesus.