The Feast of Our Mother of Sorrows is such a remarkable event in our lives as the seven sorrows of the Blessed Mother continue to be one of the most profound realities in our spiritual practices. As you know, Mary has a very special place in the Catholic tradition since she was chosen by God to give birth to Jesus and also because of the pain and suffering she endured, her life has become a constant inspiration that goes across religious affiliation. The celebration of this feast gives us a wonderful opportunity to look closer and dig deeper into our own sorrows, imperfections, wounds and allow them to break into our lives, once again.
Since I was little, it has been a tradition of my family to visit a shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows every first friday of the month. I’m not sure if my facts are accurate, readers can always make correction, however. History tells that the little chapel was erected on the belief that Mary appeared to a farmer. On his way to the field, one morning, he saw a strange stone that has the image of the Blessed Virgin and apparently caught his attention. He took it and brought it back home. The small village eventually came to be known as batong paluway, lit. ‘a stone that’s slowly growing’. In the altar, there’s a magnifying glass provided for the devotees to have a detailed look at the image. For more than two decades now, I have yet to hear a Vatican pronouncement about the apparition. But nevertheless, what matters most is that the image has had significant value in the lives of many and the faith of every pilgrim was beyond question.
Time and again, I tried to convince myself that this strong family devotion was indicative of our religiosity. For many years, I thought, failure to go on a given friday morning, not noon or afternoon was considered a mortal sin. My mother was stricter than God and Mary. She was reasonable, though. I still vividly remember the times when it was almost impossible for me to get out of bed at 5 in the morning and would make any excuses to stay as long as I wanted. My mother was extremely insistent and cunning and consequently, my modus operandi didn’t work. Over time, I‘ve been particularly invested in the monthly pilgrimage and can proudly attest that lives have been changed, families reconciled, diseases healed, sick recovered, some made a fortune and most importantly, the assumption that the Blessed Mother has come to visit her people came alive. It was miraculous.
One of my classmates in college (name withheld), used to tell me that he wasn’t fully convinced with the way Catholics practice faith especially performing sacrifices on lent. Basically, for him, to deliberately enter into suffering for whatever reason is absolutely ridiculous and absurd. It needs no elaboration that self- sacrifice is central to Spiritual life and in fact, one of the surest ways to get a glimpse of God.
The Blessed Mother is an epitome of sorrow. Truly, there’s nothing more devastating than seeing your own child suffer the most horrible punishment the ancient world has ever known and found yourself, helpless and miserable standing by the foot of the cross at the moment of death. Any parent would feel the same way hearing a closing remarks from a Doctor that there was no hope of recovery for a child stricken by cancer. Similarly, any parent will be much affected learning one of the children getting laid off from work and is on the brink of foreclosure and has no clear cut options. By the same token, it surely is heartbreaking for a parent whose teenage daughter has become sexually active and one day, sheepishly and tearfully, broke out the news that she’s two months pregnant and is seriously considering abortion either because her boyfriend totally disappeared after knowing about the unplanned pregnancy or she just wasn’t ready for the responsibility. I have heard and encountered numerous stories of parents who felt terrible about issues of parenting especially in such cases of a teenage son who attended catholic school, went to Church every Sunday with the Family and now, got addicted to drugs, felt alienated in high school, eventually, stopped going to the church and started calling churchgoers as bunch of hypocrites. You as a parent, how would you handle and face this situation?
Let’s say if you are a teenager. You fell in love for the first time. You had no idea what it was about and where it would lead you but you still went on. You were so excited. You put your heart into it. You sacrificed a lot of your time, energy and relationships. You can’t focus on studies. As a result, your grades significantly got low. As soon as you went home, you did nothing but imagine until you dropped. You skipped meals and cared less about anybody else in the house. Your friends knew about the relationship but hardly the details. They started wondering. They invited you for a night out but you declined. Your family noticed you were acting strangely. Your mother checked you out if there was something wrong or if there’s anything she can do for you and you said, no. A couple of your friends have been telling you about cheating…Hard to believe. Who cares! You’re in love. You had absolutely no suspicion. You saw everything from your own point of view. In an unexpected scenario, while shopping in the mall on a saturday morning, you saw your significant other holding hands with someone else. Painful as it is, would you easily fall into disillusion? Would you let yourself be crippled by despair?
I’m not an expert in dating and relationships and I won’t even venture to but trained as I am in Spirituality and a bit of theology, let me suggest something. Faced with child loss, teenage pregnancy, addiction, unbelief, infidelity, to name a few, we don’t need someone giving us a rational account of what happened but somebody to sit quietly with us, accept us for who we are and not what we did, hug us, help us face the sunset, read a piece of poetry, listen to music, offer words of comfort, a mere presence and learn in prayer. Let’s turn to the Blessed Mother. Let’s bring our pain, sorrow, struggles and sufferings and let her embrace us and feel the tender Motherly love and care and let her fill our emptiness. Amen.