“God our Father, when Jesus, Your Son, was raised up on the Cross, it was Your will that Mary, His Mother, should stand there and suffer with Him in Her Heart..”
– Concluding Prayer of the Office of Our Lady of Sorrows
Sorrow and suffering are strange things. Amongst many effects, they leave us believing that we are truly alone in our grief – that no-one could have suffered as we have, that no-one could understand our suffering. This is not the case at all, needless to say. Sorrow, sadness, suffering, grief – these are the common lot of all people, and none is immune from their sting. And it is for this reason that we empathise when we see another person suffering or grieving; we understand that pain they are now subject to, for we have shared it.
Thinking of the Mother of God, it can be tempting to think Her life was a blessed one – and while it most certainly was, this does not mean it was free of suffering. On the contrary, She suffered enormously, for it was the will of God that She should take part in a mystical way in the Passion of Her Son, over and above the normal human suffering Her Heart felt at watching Her Son die on the Cross.
Because of this, the Mother of God is the one we should turn to when we are beset by suffering or grief or loss or adversity – She understands our pain all too well. Her Immaculate Heart is thoroughly pierced by the Sword of Sorrow, as Simeon prophesied it would be.
Empathy is curious; it doesn’t actually make things any better in a real sense, but the simple realisation that another person understands is, in itself, a blessing. And so it is when we turn to Mary. And beyond simple empathy, She obtains for us the graces we need to bear our trials with fortitude and with courage, supported always by the gift of our Faith.
This faith gives our suffering both meaning and value. Like Her own sufferings at the foot of the Cross, ours – when united to the Passion of the Lord – assume a redemptive quality. God can make use of the sufferings we offer to Him with a humble heart; these sufferings can help to sanctify us, because we learn important lessons within them; and they can help to sanctify others, by meriting divine grace on their behalf.
If this were not the case, then the Cross would be worthless, achieving nothing – and that could not be further from the truth. It is by the Cross that we are saved.
Mary has a very specific and singular role within that plan of salvation – and we do, too. And our suffering is the key that unlocks a treasury of divine grace, if only we will allow it to do so.