With our Mother of Sorrows

Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help (13 September 2014)
Next Monday the universal church commemorates Our Lady of Sorrows, a day after the Exaltation of the Cross. What is the memorial of Mater Dolorosa (Mother of Sorrows) all about and what might it mean to us? I’m sure we’re all familiar with sadness, with having to mourn, to suffer, or worse, to watch others suffer as our Blessed Mother did at the foot of the cross. What do we feel during those times? Helplessness? Hopelessness? Abandonment. Perhaps… but consider this. If sorrow and suffering are bad, why do we commemorate it?

Let’s use Matthew 5:4 as a starting point for this reflection –  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  Fr Robert Barron, in his TV series Catholicism gives a very good exposition of this. He suggests we look at that beatitude this way – how happy you are if you’re not addicted to good feelings, because good feelings, pleasant sensations and being comfortable may not be God or lead us to God.

We all thirst and hunger for God in our own way and in the process of seeking God, we might take the easy way out and be content with just feeling good or being comfortable. We might fill spaces meant for God with these good feelings, sensations and comfort. These can serve to distract us from God or worse, cause us to get addicted to such feelings. That’s not God. The more we try to fill ourselves with good feelings and sensations, the more we may lose the space for God in our lives by being addicted to them. So blessed are those who mourn, who don’t chase after good feelings, sensations and comfort, for they have space for God in their lives.

Jesus continually reminds us that as true disciples, we have to take up cross to follow him. Following the Lord is not about feeling good all the time – following the Lord is about focusing on the word of God, following it, spreading it, loving our neighbours, including those we don’t like. In fact, being a follower of the Lord presupposes that we’re prepared to suffer, at least a little, for his sake. It’s not easy but that’s our call to follow the Lord, even all the way to the cross of Calvary.


Stabat Mater by Perugino

We take another example of our Mother of Sorrows. At the foot of the cross, we saw her standing by the side, grieving wordlessly. She felt deep grief but remained strong in her faith that her beloved son did not die for naught. Blessed is she who mourned. But how was she comforted? God planted in her the seed of hope, a seed that withstood the need to be comforted quickly. Ever since Jesus’ youth, she knew that he was meant for more. There were many instances in his childhood where she saw or heard odd things about him but just kept them in her heart. She knew that his earthly ministry must have been just a start of something more. Her hope was a hope of something beyond what she could see at the moment, a hope that was based in her deep faith in God.

What does this mean to us now? We all go through suffering, we mourn and have to accompany the suffering of others. These are all difficult to bear and often, we want to run away. But the example of our Mother of Sorrows reminds us that there are times where we have to stay and not run away. To stand, grieving wordlessly at the foot of the cross, having nothing else but our faith and prayers. To have the faith to realise that with every Good Friday, there is an Easter. To pray for the strength that comes from faith that allows us to go beyond just yearning for good feelings and comfort but to be close to God. To hope and wait for better times. In Ecclesiastes 3:1, Qoheleth the teacher reminds us, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”

We pray for courage to face suffering and mourning, in ourselves, in others. We pray for peace that only the Lord can give. We pray for the freedom to seek God and God alone. It seems apt to end with the prayer from the Collect of the Friday of Sorrows (Friday before Palm Sunday in some countries):

O God, give your Church the grace
to imitate devoutly the Blessed Virgin Mary
in contemplating the Passion of Christ,
grant, we pray, through her intercession,
that we may cling more firmly each day
to your Only Begotten Son
and come at last to the fullness of his grace.
The Stabat Mater Dolorosa (Mother of Sorrows standing…) has been put to music by a number of composers. Here’s one from Vivaldi, sung by countertenor Philippe Jaroussky.

Part One

Part Two


1 Response to “With our Mother of Sorrows”

  1. 1 muzzer 15 September 2014 at 9:55 09

    Thank you for another beautiful ‘homily’ and for awakening us to realise that without experiencing sadness, pain or suffering, we would not think of, turn to or be close to God (to eventually feel His goodness).

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about the brushhead

had a head like a brush (it's more like an egg now). seeks to sweep through thought and faith with that brush. tries to wax philosophical but often forgets to wax off. trying to be good brush to all, while discerning what kind of brush he's meant to be.

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