I am still getting to know Mary.
Since I was Protestant for most of my life, Mary did not play a big role in my understanding of how God relates to us. She gave birth to Jesus, and then she really didn’t come into the picture very much after that, except for a few instances when she wanted to talk to Jesus and he seemed to dismiss her. The first time, at the wedding at Cana, Mary told Jesus that there was no more wine and he replies, “Woman, how does your concern affect me?” (John 2:4) Later, the other gospels record a story of Jesus speaking with his disciples when his mother and relatives come and wish to speak with him. “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Jesus replies. And stretching out his hands he indicates that his disciples and anyone who does the will of his heavenly Father are his true family. (Matthew 12:49)
We don’t learn too much more about Mary. She presented him to Simeon in the Temple. She lost him on the way back from Jerusalem. She did a lot of pondering things in her heart. She is in the background, mainly, meek and mild, observing and thinking about things.
At least, that was my experience of her.
In recent years, however, I can only describe my relationship with her as one in which she is making herself known to me.
I think, because I have had a difficult relationship with my own mother, I resisted the idea of relating to Mary as a mother. And, knowing that, she has been pursuing me slowly and gently.
I began 2019 with a consecration to Mary that I felt compelled to do even though I did not fully understand what that meant. My journal entry on January 1 reads:
I look forward to entrusting myself to her and knowing that she has my best interest – holiness, sanctification, and drawing closer to Jesus – at heart.
Throughout the year, she did not fail to meet me in many different ways, but I felt the greatest connection to her when I learned about her as Our Lady of Sorrows.
On September 15, I prepared a homeschool lesson for my children for her feast day and, as often happens, I learned right along with them about the seven sorrows she suffered as the mother of our Lord.
I finished the lesson, but felt a tugging inside to look into this devotion more, so later that week, I read about her apparitions to St. Bridget of Sweden. When I saw her appeal for pity, something resonated inside me:
“I look around at all who are on earth, to see if by chance there are any who pity Me, and meditate upon My Sorrows; and I find that there are very few.“
As a grieving mother myself, I read these words and identified with the feeling that for everyone else, the loss of my daughters and the terrible grief that I felt then and still live with every day, has passed. Sometimes I feel as though I’m the only one still grieving, the only one who remembers the trauma of their deaths.
But then the thought struck me, “Wait a minute! She has already seen Jesus raised! She has seen heaven. She knows the ending!”
How, I wondered, did she still need pity 1200 years later – and even today?
For you, the reason for this may seem obvious. But I am severely limited by my humanity. I needed more understanding, and so I asked for it.
And then it came.
She is not asking for pity for herself! She is asking for pity in order to make us aware of the cost of our sin. She wants us to recognize that our sinfulness cost Jesus tremendous suffering and, as a result, also caused her suffering as his mother. Her desire is for us not to take our sins lightly, but to recognize the price that was paid for them and to repent sincerely with true contrition.
And in this way, the pity she is asking for is for our own benefit.
If that were the only benefit, it would be an enormous one, but she went on to promise seven graces to those who spend time each day in meditation on her sorrows.
Since I learned about this, I have been meditating on the seven sorrows almost daily. It has been a helpful reminder to me of the effects of my sins and a motivation for sincere repentance.
I have been using this beautiful meditation on YouTube when I want to pray the full chaplet or rosary of the Seven Sorrows. But sometimes, if things are busy, I just spend a few minutes meditating on each sorrow to myself and praying a Hail Mary for each one.
I encourage you to spend some time reflecting on the Seven Sorrows of Mary. It only takes a few minutes each day, and the awareness of the suffering that Our Lord and Mary endured for our sins and for love of us is a compelling motivation to pursue holiness and to keep eternity in our sights so that one day we might be united with them there forever.