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Those Crazy Catholics: Weekly Message for 09-15-2020
Dear Fellow Digital Pilgrim, Pax Christi:
Today is the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, which, when you think about it, is a pretty strange liturgical feast – at least from the perspective of merely human logic.
After all, why would 1.2 billion people (that’s the current estimation of how many Catholics there are in the world) “celebrate” the agonizing pain of a woman who watched her son suffer betrayal, humiliation, unjust condemnation, abandonment, mockery, physical torture (scourging and crowning with thorns), gruesome crucifixion, and finally death? The memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows is one of those expressions of Catholic piety that leave non-Catholics (and even some nominal Catholics) shaking and scratching their heads in perplexity.
And yet, there we go celebrating Our Lady of Sorrows every year. We prayerfully contemplate her misery and gaze upon her tears, and we thank God for them and find ourselves comforted and encouraged by them. How does that work?
A few years ago I received an email from a woman whose family had just suffered a tragic loss through suicide. She described how she was dealing with the heart-wrenching sorrow. All she did was go to prayer and silently, through the eyes of faith, stand with the Blessed Virgin Mary at the foot of the Cross. That’s all she could do, and that’s all she needed to do.
The Secret to a Great Performance
That email reminded me of a conversation I had with the actress who played Mary in Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion of the Christ” while I was researching my scene-by-scene analysis of the film, Inside the Passion. I asked her how she was able to play the role so convincingly when she wasn’t even a Christian believer. She told me that at first, she had tried to play different emotions one at a time. But that didn’t work. Eventually, she explained to me, “I realized that it was all very simple. I am his mother, and I can’t let him suffer alone. Once I had that realization, everything just clicked.”
That’s the beauty of this apparently odd memorial. God, in order to redeem this fallen world and bring healing, saving grace into our lives, chose to come and accompany us in the midst of our suffering. He chose to be “Immanuel”, God-with-us, most intensely through the Incarnation and the Eucharist, but also through the gift of Mary as our “Mother in the order of grace,” as the Second Vatican Council put it.
Knowing that she suffered, just as we suffer, and knowing that her faith sustained her so that she was able to persevere through her Good Friday all the way to Easter Sunday, can fill us with strength, patience, and even joy as we make our way through this “valley of tears” where we find ourselves.
Let’s take some time to contemplate this comforting mystery as the liturgical memorial approaches. God surely has something he wants to give to each one of us through it. And maybe it will help to slowly work through our Retreat Guide dedicated to this theme, A Mother’s Tears: A Retreat Guide on Our Lady of Sorrows.
In the meantime, keep counting on our prayers as we continue striving to find creative ways to help you draw closer to God.
Peace in Him,
Fr John Bartunek, LC