Solemnity of Our Lady of Sorrows- Patronal Feast
“Drawn Closer to Our Mother”
Msgr. Thomas Gervasio
Today the liturgy of the 25
Sunday in Ordinary Time defers to our Blessed Lady as we celebrate the feast of our Co-Patron—Our Lady of Sorrows. Her feast of course is September 15
but the Church permits a patronal feast to be moved to the nearest Sunday. The same is true of the feast of our patron, St. Anthony.
Some might ask, “Don’t you think that in 1939 the Bishop could have given a parish a more “uplifting” title than Our Lady of Sorrows? After all, there are so many more titles of the Blessed Virgin—Our Lady of Grace, Queen of Angels, Queen of the Universe, Mary Immaculate, and so on. We need only to look at the many windows of our Church that are dedicated to the beautiful titles God’s People have given to the Mother of God found in the Litany of Loreto. Why do we honor and indeed celebrate the “sorrows” of Mary? Yet, our parish finds itself with the title of “Sorrows.” Why?
When we devote greater thought to it, Our Lady of Sorrows is a title that most closely joins Mary to us! Here we are not meditating on the glories of Mary, exalted above the angels and saints or reigning as Queen of the Universe or as the sinless Virgin. Our Lady of Sorrows draws us closer to the humanity, the human experience of Mary as a woman, a disciple, as a mother. Looking into Scripture the Church has identified for us seven dolors or crucial events in her life that draw Mary and God’s people ever closer! I wonder how many of us could name the seven dolors or sorrows of Mary?
- The Presentation of Our Lord—Mary and Joseph take Jesus to the Temple after his birth only to hear Simeon foretell an ominous future—that a sword would pierce Mary’s heart.
- The Flight into Egypt when the Holy Family had to suddenly uproot themselves from all that was familiar and all that that knew and loved and flee a foreign land to escape the clutches of Herod
- The anxiety of three days in search for the Child Jesus and then finding him in the temple
- Accompanying Jesus along the road of Calvary, witnessing his suffering and the cruel taunts of the crowd
- Standing at the foot of cross to gaze upon his agonizing death
- Holding Jesus in her arms after taking him down from the cross
- The grief of bringing him hastily to his tomb
Mary was fully human, sometimes bewildered, sometimes puzzled, often not so clear on the deep meaning of these sorrowful events. She had to ponder these things in her heart. She had to bring these events to her faith, her prayer, her constancy.
In this way Mary is so close to us. We know that in addition to life’s joys and successes, there are also those times when we are bewildered, puzzled, uncertain and anxious. We know that we experience times when the sword pierces our own hearts. Don’t we wonder about God’s plan for us and how it is working itself out in our lives, in our families?
When we come to those moments, Our Lady comes to us as our teacher and model. She teaches us to stay with it, to be faithful. She encourages us to keep going. She teaches us to trust….to have the conviction that God is still there and that he loves us and has an interest in everything that happens to us. Mary in there in the background as mothers often are.
So today we do not honor or celebrate Mary’s sorrows in and of themselves but rather the confidence, courage and trust Mary brought to them. Reflecting on the figure of Mary at the foot of the cross, Fr. Henri Nouwen wrote:
“Standing erect, holding our heads high, is the attitude of spiritually mature people in the face of the calamities of our world. The facts of everyday life are a rich source for doomsday thinking and feeling. But it is possible for us to resist this temptation and to stand with self confidence in this world, never losing our spiritual ground, always aware that ‘sky and earth will pass away” but the words of Jesus will never pass away.”
On our patronal feast, let us say, “Mary, Our Lady, Our Mother of Sorrows, help us to remember this always and pray for each one of us!