Failure in Church leadership, a rejection of faith by the culture, and ruthless attacks on the dignity of the unborn are systemic in our age. Sorrow, loneliness, and fear for the future due to the present moment are all palpable feelings in the human condition for our current time period. When the societal storm waves crash into our lives, we must cling to the witness and presence of Our Lady of Sorrows and allow her to be the lighthouse that brings us safely to shore.
Traditionally, Christian art has highlighted the Blessed Mother standing in mourning, but also in power, at the Cross while Jesus slowly suffocates and dies for us. Most people are also aware of the famous and beautiful statue of the Pieta, with Mary holding the lifeless body of the Lord. During and directly after salvation there is tremendous sorrow that is encapsulated by the Mother of God. The feast of Our Lady of Sorrows follows the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross for just that reason.
On September 15th, the Church remembers that both the Incarnation and Crucifixion involved Mary’s sorrow. Simeon foretold that “a sword would pierce” her heart (Luke 2:35), and Christ breathed His last with His Mother and John at His feet (John 19:30). Her lesson for practicing Catholics is to place our attention on her Son while we travel through this valley of tears and rollercoaster ride of tribulations. Catholic beliefs will be heavily highlighted in forthcoming headlines because of the Heartbeat Bill in Texas and President Biden’s choice to double down against irrefutable Catholic teaching. Our invitation is to stand tall amidst the sorrow.
The Texas bill has brought promise to many and has caused an eruption of hatred for countless others. Some know this is a step in the right direction of protecting human life at its most vulnerable stages while others are either staunch pro-choicers or believe that abortion should remain legal even though they believe it is immoral. Too often, the innocent are those who are deemed worthless and disposable because those who are stronger believe freedom or legality override everything else. Catholic voices have mostly been either silent or loud in disagreement toward the Heartbeat Bill. In the midst of the conversation remains our Mother.
Hearts will be hurting among the Catholic faithful because we desperately know that our world needs the light of Christ and the love of Mother Mary if we are to carry the burdens of this world with courage and fidelity. Love is what allowed the Blessed Mother to remain faithful despite her sorrow. Love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7). During tumultuous seasons of disbelief and attacks on the truth from all sides, Catholics must also endure through a loving focus on the Lord, like Mary.
Mary must have found the events of Good Friday utterly painful but also revealing of fallen human nature. She knew her Son better than anyone. How could the crowds turn on Him and how could human beings disastrously kill their Savior? When viewing the issues that surround life in the womb or the topics of culture and gender ideology, there is also deep confusion among many believers. How did we get to this point in time? How could mankind so tragically misunderstand the dignity and nature of the human person?
At the Presentation of Jesus, we are told by Simeon that the pain inflicted on Mary will be deep and intense. The nature of a sword wound is that the weapon leaves a trail inside of the victim. That opening into the heart of Mary is the avenue by which we are given access to the heart of Christ—that pain of not only the death of her Son but her viewing of His unfathomable suffering. That sight is what makes up the sorrow that we “celebrate” today.
Surveying the toxic ground of our culture ought to frighten, scare, and confuse us. The trajectory of a society that champions the murder of innocent children and the right to invent right and wrong ought to bring us sorrow. Our Lady of Sorrows, however, teaches us that it is through the sorrow and pain that redemption comes to fruition. She shows us the perspective needed when we experience difficulties standing up for the Gospel. We need to remain on task and in our place, faithfully tied to Christ who is on the cross next to us.
The Blessed Mother could not fix anything on Good Friday. On Holy Saturday she could do absolutely nothing but weep over the destruction that was imposed on her Son’s body. There was a deep loss that she experienced far more than anyone could imagine. She was not simply virtuous, and her strength was not summarized by perseverance but by trust in God. Having the most well-known Catholics in governance and in the media defy Church teaching is a reality that no individual can fix. Our role is to be steadfast in faith and vocal in prayer and truth.
As the most holy human person to ever live, the Blessed Mother conveys the needed recipe for defeating evil: the heartbeat of her Son. Even when Christ’s heart stops beating, He still restores the world. In fact, it is through the ceasing of His heart that salvation is brought to the human race. The tens of millions of souls that have had their heartbeats come to an end as a result of abortion were not alone in their suffering. Christ was with them and His Mother’s heart wept in sorrow as they never had a chance to see the light of day.
Let us bear the crosses that come our way and the hardships that we see in our culture as opportunities to become entrenched in the gaze of Jesus Christ like Our Lady of Sorrows. The way her Son looked at her must have remained a sight for her eyes that lasted throughout that first holy weekend and for the rest of her time on earth. In the sorrow, Christ still saves. The Blessed Mother reminds us that everything can be restored by her Son. So, let the sorrow guide us home.
[Image: Seven Swords Piercing the Sorrowful Heart of Mary in the Church of the Holy Cross, Salamanca, Spain]