Faced with a challenging situation with her daughter, Tina Mayeux encourages us to turn to Our Lady of Sorrows to endure our swords of suffering.
The month of September is devoted to Our Holy Mother under the title of Our Lady of Sorrows. Her feast is celebrated on September 15. The image of Our Lady of Sorrows is a striking depiction of Mary, at times tearful, her exposed heart pierced with swords, revealing the sufferings she endured during her life and at the time of her Son’s passion and death. The swords convey the reality that Our Lady bore her share of sorrow and hardship on earth, as predicted in Luke’s gospel by Simeon, where he foretold to her that, “you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:35)
The devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows spread beginning in the 11th or 12th century. The feast was originally known as the Feast of Our Lady of Compassion, indicating the great empathy and unity with which Mary suffered with her Divine Son. In fact, the word compassion comes from the Latin roots cum and patior, which means to “suffer with.”
Honoring Mary under this title of Our Lady of Sorrows can be a particularly appropriate devotion for wives and mothers. As mothers, the daily trials and sufferings of our children naturally become our own. This compassion or “suffering with” our children stems from the great love we have for them and the union of our hearts with theirs. When we see one of our little ones fall and scrape their knee or observe our older child being excluded by others, we naturally endure the suffering and hardship with them and desire to help them in whatever way we can. Our hearts are closely united to the hearts of our own children, much as the Immaculate Heart of Mary was so perfectly united to her Son’s Sacred Heart. Just as she stood by the Cross as Jesus suffered and died for us, we often must stand by and see our own children endure the difficulties and hardships of life. Like Mary standing faithfully at the foot of the Cross, there are some times when all we can do is to remain present to our children and offer them our love and prayers.
St. John Paul II spoke of Our Lady of Sorrows:
Mary Most Holy goes on being the loving consoler of those touched by the many physical and moral sorrows which afflict and torment humanity. She knows our sorrows and our pains, because she too suffered, from Bethlehem to Calvary. "And thy soul too a sword shall pierce." Mary is our Spiritual Mother, and the mother always understands her children and consoles them in their troubles. Then, she has that specific mission to love us, received from Jesus on the Cross, to love us only and always, so as to save us! Mary consoles us above all by pointing out the Crucified One and Paradise to us!
One of our daughters recently experienced a particularly challenging situation, a trial that also affected our family and called for me, as her mother, to step in and provide more support and assistance than I ordinarily do for her. Facing some difficulties at school, our daughter transitioned back to online distance learning from home, with me as her supervisor. Coming to terms with this new reality, I recognized I would need to sacrifice and be more present to our daughter and stand by her as she navigates the difficulties she has with school and completing her work.
I brought my disappointment and frustration with the situation to Jesus in Adoration, placing her in the hearts of Jesus and Mary. I asked them to strengthen and guide me as her caregiver and accountability person and to give her the discipline necessary to succeed with her schoolwork and to get through high school. This experience, although initially a sword of sorrow for our family, has proven to be an opportunity for both of us to practice patience and virtue and to turn the circumstance into a blessing.
I returned to the Gospel passage where Jesus presents John, the Beloved disciple, to His Mother with the declaration, “Woman, behold, your son” (John 19:26). Similarly, with my daughter’s difficulties, I realized that Jesus is saying to me, “Here is your child who needs you,” and that my role is to stand by her, to support her, and to love her through these challenging times.
This personal challenge with our daughter’s education is only one example of a situation where we can turn to Our Lady for help. Through devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows, each of us can be consoled and encouraged in our role as mothers. By meditating on Mary’s love for Jesus during his passion and death, we can draw strength for the task of supporting our children through their own trials and difficulties. We receive courage to stand by our own children with compassion when they endure the swords of sorrow that will come in this life.
Copyright 2022 Christina Mayeux
Images: Our Lady of Sorrows statue by Pedro De Mena, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons; Our Lady of Sorrows painting licensed by Holy Cross Family Ministries;