MEDITATIONS ON THE SEVEN SORROWS OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
Posted September 22, 2013
CURRENT THOUGHTS ABOUT PAST SORROWS
Before we end this month of September—which is dedicated to the Dolors of Mary—by embarking upon a series of seven meditations that will look at those Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary, let us first talk a little about sorrow and suffering in general.
Suffering and Sorrow Are Dirty Words Sorrow is not a happy word—at least for those who seek their happiness in this life! In fact, the spirit and goal of the world is to eliminate as much sorrow as possible! Their ambition is to at least take out the pain from suffering—if they cannot altogether take out suffering itself! To avoid ‘suffering’ the heat of summer, we have air-conditioning units. To avoid ‘suffering’ the cold of winter, we have furnaces. To alleviate the ‘sufferings’ of injury, illness and disease, we have pain-killer drugs. To protect ourselves from the ‘sufferings’ of tedious, laborious, long journeys, we now cars, trains and planes that take us everywhere in a fraction of the time traveling used to take. To avoid the ‘sufferings’ of labor and toil, we now have so many tools and machines that will do most of the work for us. The list of examples could go on forever! Nobody likes to suffer, nobody want to suffer, most people work at avoiding suffering! Many “…desire to please in the flesh… only that they may not suffer the persecution of the cross of Christ” (Galatians 6:12).
Yet, what does Heaven say? What did Our Lord say? What did Our Lady say? Sometimes, following the attitude of the world—all pleasure, no suffering—can lead to eternal suffering: “For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26). “For unto you it is given for Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him” (Philippians 1:29). “You cannot drink the chalice of the Lord, and the chalice of devils: you cannot be partakers of the table of the Lord, and of the table of devils” (1 Corinthians 10:21).
Sorrow was the ‘Bread and Butter’ of Life for Jesus During His life, Jesus had tried to teach the Apostles the need for suffering. Jesus insisted that He, Himself, was born to suffer and willingly chose to suffer, rather than avoid suffering: “It is written of the Son of man, that He must suffer many things and be despised” (Mark 9:11). “The Son of man must suffer many things” (Luke 9:22). This scandalized many, even St. Peter, who vehemently argued that these things would not happen to Jesus, that he—Peter—would not let them happen. The following passage relates this incident:
“From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples, that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the ancients and scribes and chief priests, and be put to death, and the third day rise again. And Peter taking Him, began to rebuke Him, saying: ‘Lord, be it far from thee, this shall not be unto thee.’ Who turning, said to Peter: ‘Go behind me, Satan, thou art a scandal unto Me: because thou savourest not the things that are of God, but the things that are of men!’ Then Jesus said to His disciples: ‘If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For he that will save his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for My sake, shall find it” (Matthew 16:21-25). “And whosoever doth not carry his cross and come after Me, cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:27).
Lessons Fall on Deaf Ears At the Last Supper, Jesus tried to prepare them for His and their own sufferings, saying: “Amen, amen I say to you, that you shall lament and weep, but the world shall rejoice; and you shall be made sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman, when she is in labour, hath sorrow, because her hour is come; but when she hath brought forth the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. So also you now indeed have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice; and your joy no man shall take from you” (John 16:20-22).
Sadly, despite all the lessons that Jesus tried to teach His Apostles about suffering, they just didn’t seem to catch-on to the need and necessity of suffering. When the chips were down and the Passion arrived, Jesus stayed around to suffer, while the Apostles fled! They may have learned the lesson in theory, but, in practice, they failed miserably. Jesus even came close to avoiding the ultimate crowning suffering to His long life of suffering—as He begged His Father, during His Agony in the Garden, to take away this ultimate chalice of suffering from Him. Nevertheless, He acquiesced to the will of His Father.
Driving the Lesson Home After His Resurrection, Jesus encountered sadness and despondency at the sufferings He had undergone throughout His Passion and Death. Nobody had understood and grasped the need for what had happened. Jesus explained to the Apostles that the suffering was necessary: “Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the dead, the third day” (Luke 24:46); and, to the two disconsolate and sad disciples, walking on the road to Emmaus, He said: “God before had showed, by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ should suffer” (Acts 3:18).
After Christ’s departure at the Ascension and the descent of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, the Apostles finally understood and took those lessons to heart; and, after being arrested and punished by the Jewish Sanhedrin, they “went from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer reproach for the Name of Jesus” (Acts 5:41). All of them were given a life of suffering by Divine Providence, which they embraced to the point of martyrdom—the pinnacle of both love and suffering: “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
St. Paul—Man of Suffering Later, when Our Lord converted St. Paul, He said of Paul: “I will show him how great things he must suffer for My Name' s sake” (Acts 9:16). Yet as St. Paul so wisely says later: “God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). “The sufferings of Christ abound in us” (2 Corinthians 1:5). “We foretold you that we should suffer tribulations” (1 Thessalonians 3:4). “In all things we suffer tribulation, but are not distressed; we are straitened, but are not destitute” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9); “we are reviled, and we bless; we are persecuted, and we suffer it” (1 Corinthians 4:12). “For I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). “We suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified with Him” (Romans 8:17). “If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him” (2 Timothy 2:12).
What is our Approach and Attitude to Suffering? Sometimes, I think we wholeheartedly agree with Psalmist, when he says: “Thou hast shown Thy people hard things; Thou hast made us drink wine of sorrow” (Psalms 59:5). Likewise, we have all perhaps been in a situation when we could say: “The sorrows of death have encompassed me: and the perils of Hell have found me. I met with trouble and sorrow” (Psalm 114:3).
Our Lady told St. Bernadette that she would not make her happy in this world, but in the next! This is an echo of Our Lord’s words to His Apostles at the Last Supper, when He told them that they would be sorrowful and that world would rejoice, but that their sorrow would be turned into joy—in Heaven!
Even though Our Lord had that it is impossible to serve two masters—God and the world of mammon (pleasure and treasures)—many think that they can prove Him wrong. The want joy and pleasure here below, and then joy and pleasure in the after-life! St. Paul warns us of these kinds of people: “For many walk…that they are enemies of the Cross of Christ” (Philippians 3:18). They want no part in the sufferings of Christ. This so well stated by the Imitation of Christ:
“Jesus has always many who love His heavenly Kingdom, but few who bear His Cross. He has many who desire consolation, but few who care for trial. He finds many to share His table, but few to take part in His fasting. All desire to be happy with Him; few wish to suffer anything for Him. Many follow Him to the breaking of bread, but few to the drinking of the chalice of His Passion. Many revere His miracles; few approach the shame of the Cross” (Book 2; Chapter 11).
Let us remember the words of that great Doctor of the Church, St. Augustine, who said that the same sufferings lead some souls to Heaven and other souls to Hell. Yes! The very same sufferings have two very different outcomes! It all depends upon whether we accept the sufferings in a Christian manner (and endure them meritoriously), or whether we despise the sufferings like pagans or worldlings, and in anger we try to get rid of them.
Sufferings We Deserve Sometimes we know we deserve suffering—as in the case of punishment for our sins: “For we suffer thus for our sins” (2 Machabees 7:32). “O that my sins, whereby I have deserved wrath, and the calamity that I suffer, were weighed in a balance … He shall be punished for all that he did, and yet shall not be consumed: according to the multitude of his works [sins], so also shall he suffer.” (Job 6:2; 20:18).
Unjust Suffering At other times we also suffer wrongs or injustice, we suffer for something we have not done: “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). “The Lord doth mercies, and judgment for all that suffer wrong” (Psalm 102:6). “Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:10). “Wherefore let them also, that suffer according to the will of God, commend their souls in good deeds to the faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19). “And God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able” (1 Corinthians 10:13). “I suffer grevious pains in body: but in soul am well content to suffer these things because I fear thee” (2 Machabees 6:30). “For this is thankworthy, if for conscience towards God, a man endure sorrows, suffering wrongfully” (1 Peter 2:19). “My children, suffer patiently the wrath that is come upon you: for thy enemy hath persecuted thee, but thou shalt quickly see his destruction” (Baruch 4:25). “His sorrow shall be turned on his own head: and his iniquity shall come down upon his crown” (Psalms 7:17). “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer ... Be thou faithful until death: and I will give thee the crown of life” (Apocalypse 2:10).
“Jesus said: ‘Can you drink the chalice that I shall drink?’ They say to Him: ‘We can!’ He saith to them: ‘My chalice, indeed, you shall drink!’” (Matthew 20:22-23). St. Mark also recounts the same incident with some more detail: “Jesus said to them: ‘Can you drink of the chalice that I drink of: or be baptized with the baptism wherewith I am baptized?’ But they said to Him: ‘We can!’ And Jesus saith to them: ‘You shall indeed drink of the chalice that I drink of: and with the baptism wherewith I am baptized, you shall be baptized!’” (Mark 10:38-39). Here we can see the chalice of suffering and the baptism of blood, which is the ultimate suffering—death.
Let us reply with Psalmist: “I will take the chalice of salvation; and I will call upon the name of the Lord” (Psalms 115:13). Remembering the words of Scripture: “Take all that shall be brought upon thee: and in thy sorrow endure, and in thy humiliation keep patience” (Ecclesiasticus 2:4). “For I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). “If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him” (2 Timothy 2:12).
Our Lady and Suffering This is exactly what Our Lady did during her life on earth. She revealed to the Venerable Mary of Agreda, that there was not one moment throughout her life—and in that of her Divine Son’s life—that they did not suffer in one way or another. Suffering was the ‘daily bread’ that their Heavenly Father gave them day after day.
This is why Our Lord wants Our Lady to be honored for her sufferings today—as revealed in the modern-day Marian apparitions and those of Our Lord to Berthe Petit, the Franciscan Tertiary: “Teach souls to love the Heart of My Mother pierced by the very sorrows which pierced Mine….Cause My Mother’s Heart, transfixed by sorrows that rent Mine, to be loved” (Our Lord, December 25, 1909). “The Heart of My Mother has the right to be called ‘Sorrowful’—and I wish this title placed before that of Immaculate, because she has won it herself … She has earned it by her identification with My sorrows, by her sufferings: by her sacrifices and her immolation on Calvary endured in perfect correspondence with My grace for the salvation of mankind.” (Our Lord, September 8, 1911).
Our Lady of Fatima manifested her Immaculate Heart as Sorrowful, less than six years later, at the second apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, on June 13, 1917. Lucia relates: “In front of the palm of Our Lady’s right hand, there was a heart encircled with thorns, which pierced it. We understood that it was the Immaculate Heart of Mary, outraged by the sins of humanity, and that she wanted reparation.”
At the sixth apparition of Our Lady of at Fatima, on October 13, 1917, Lucia says: “l saw Our Lord, and Our Lady who appeared to me to be Our Lady of Dolors [Sorrows].”
In the vision concerning the five first Saturdays, which took place on December 10, 1925, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Lucia with the Child Jesus by her side. She held a heart surrounded with sharp thorns. At the same time the Child Jesus said: “Have pity on the Heart of your Most Holy Mother. It is covered with the thorns with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment and there is no one to remove them with an act of reparation.” Then Our Lady said to Lucia: “My daughter, look at My Heart, surrounded with the thorns, with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. You, at least, try to console me.”
In Lucia’s last vision, which took place in June of 1929, Lucia states that: “Our Lady was beneath the right arm of the Cross. It was Our Lady of Fatima with Her Immaculate Heart... with a crown of thorns and flames.”
Our sorrows and sufferings are but pale reflections, or echoes, of the sorrows and sufferings of Our Holy Mother! They help us resemble her; they make us recognizable as her spiritual children. Let us thank God for our crosses, sorrows and sufferings, and not look upon them as curses, but as blessings! “Blessed are they that suffer … for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:10).