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Hillary Ibarra ponders how mothers feel it when a child suffers, and how God hears a mother’s prayers on her child’s behalf. 

Sometimes the poetry of prophecy goes over my head. 

When Simeon tells Mother Mary at the Presentation that a sword will pierce her, I often think, Wait a minute! Mother Mary was not pierced as our Lord was pierced. Not by an actual sword. 

Yet I am a mother who understands all too well the piercing sword that wounds a mother’s heart when her child endures mental, emotional, or physical pain. I understand that each time Jesus was scorned or ridiculed or rejected, Mother Mary knew that sword’s thrust. Each time He endured a blow or a lashing, Mary felt it. 

Though my heart has been pierced by the sword many times when one of my four children has experienced rejection, alienation, pain, or hurt feelings, still I took Simeon’s prophesy too literally until one night when I lay awake in bed, praying about one of my children, feeling the agony of the penetrating sword. 

I had recently been worrying about each of my children for unique reasons when my child’s teacher called me that afternoon, concerned, telling me that my child was listless and unlike her normal self. 

I had not noticed that my teenager was depressed or anxious, and guilt choked me. My child’s words a few days previously when I picked her up from school had struck me oddly, but I had not noticed the big change in behavior that alerted this teacher. This child of mine is an introvert, and I am an extrovert. I sometimes take her desire for solitude for granted, and I have learned to tread lightly while still being present and affectionate because my personality is sometimes too much for her. 

My husband and I both spoke with her that afternoon, and our teenager asserted that she was okay, but I felt strongly that this was not the case, and so that night I talked to God as I lay in bed with tears flowing, my heart pierced because I knew my child was hurting in some way I did not fathom. 




During my prayers, the prayers of a mother pierced by her child’s suffering, my teenager came into my dark room, lay across my lap and poured out her heart as I stroked her hair, listened to her, and offered a few clarifying questions. I at last grasped what had been troubling her and thanked God for His intervention. 

I understood Simeon’s prophecy keenly in those moments with my teenager. I realized, too, how quickly God responds to a mother’s prayers over her children when we cry out to Him from our pierced hearts. 

Jesus saw how His sufferings pierced His own Mother’s heart. He gave her Simeon’s prophesy to warn her of the difficult road ahead, and she reflected on it until the time when she understood it. 


Click to tweet:
I realized how quickly God responds to a mother’s prayers over her children when we cry out to Him from our pierced hearts. #CatholicMom

We can be certain when we present our children to God at baptism or in prayer that our children will know suffering and that we will feel it, too, because of our great love for them. Our Lord, however, redeemed even suffering—a mother’s suffering on her child’s behalf, too. Suffering is not merely the lowest common denominator of human experience. It is not meaningless or a dead end, thank God! Our Lord’s suffering was not the end of the story, and whatever suffering our children endure, whatever suffering pierces our heart through their experiences, it is not the end of their story or ours.  

Prayer is the salve for and the answer to this suffering, for our Lord and His Mother both understand very well what we are feeling, and they will help us. 



Copyright 2024 Hillary Ibarra
Images: Canva