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Mary's sorrows

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The mystery of the participation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Sorrowful Mother in the passion of her Son is probably the event of the Gospel that has found a wide and intense resonance in popular devotion, in certain pious exercises (Way of the Cross, Via Matris, etc.).

A proof of that religiosity is the famous medieval sequence Stabat Mater Dolorosa (The sorrowful mother stood),  attributed to Jacopone that exceptionally became part of the mass formulary.  Even if Stabat praises, with a naive feeling of pity, the pain suffered by the Virgin in the Passion and Death of Jesus, it intensely reflects the essential of the Gospel namely that: "the center of the Christian religion is not in the mourning itself of Marybut in that "bringing  the death of Christ" that the "mater dolorosa" helps to live as an experience. " [E.. De. Martino]

The sequence is already  found in the Franciscan missals of the first half of the 14th century.

Finally Pope Pius X fixed the date on September 15.

In the apostolic Exhortation Marianis Cultus, Paul VI, presented in this manner the memorial of September 15: “the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows is a  perfect occasion to relive a decisive moment in the history of salvation and to venerate together with the Son exalted on the cross the mother who shared His suffering”(n.7).

Contemplating Mary associated with the Passion of the Son, the Church meditates on her own mystery and on her own mystical participation in the sorrows of the Redeemer  so that, fruitful of children, she can arrive  to the final glory: “Make that the church, uniting herself with Mary to the passion of Christ, be worthy to participate in His resurrection”.

A penetrating gaze on the Virgin is given by Saint John Paul II  in his  Rosarium Virginis Mariae. In fact at number 22,the Holy Father illustrating the mysteries of sorrow writes: “This abject suffering reveals not only the love of God but also the meaning of man himself. Ecce homo: the meaning, origin and fulfilment of man is to be found in Christ, the God who humbles himself out of love “even unto death, death on a cross” (Phil2:8). The sorrowful mysteries help the believer to relive the death of Jesus, to stand at the foot of the Cross beside Mary, to enter with her into the depths of God's love for man and to experience all its life-giving power”.

Therefore Mary is really the model for those who, contemplating the Mystery of God Become Man, effectively deepen the mystery of man and the Paschal Mystery, that is the root of his salvation.

In confirmation of all this there is the testimony of Luisa, who considered the contemplation of  Jesus’ Passion and Mary's sorrow as a  fundamental point of reference for her spiritual experience.

Sharing Mary’s sorrow in seeing his Son dying on the cross is not simply sitting back and watch to grieve, but as Luisa teaches us, accompanying  our Celestial Mother in her sorrow to participate in the fruits that are ripened from the Passion for the salvation of souls.

In a passage from her diary, dated  September 17, 1905 Luisa, in  the day of the Sorrows of Mary Most Holy, reports what Jesus said about How one can participate in the sorrows of Mary.

Everyone can share in the merits and in the goods produced by the sorrows of Mary Most Holy. One who, in advance, places herself in the hands of Providence, offering herself to suffer any kind of pains, miseries, illnesses, calumnies, and everything which the Lord will dispose upon her, comes to participate in the first sorrow of the prophecy of Simeon. “Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted(and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed’” (Luke 2:34-35).

One who actually finds herself amid sufferings, and is resigned, clings more tightly to Jesus and does not offend Him, it is as if she were saving Him from the hands of Herod, keeping Him safe and sound within the Egypt of her heart – and she participates in the second sorrow. “When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him’” (Matthew 2:13).

One who feels downhearted, dry and deprived of God’s presence, and remains yet firm and faithful to her usual practices - even more, she takes the opportunity to love Him and to search for Him more, without tiring - comes to participate in the merits and goods which The Virgin Mary acquired when Jesus was lost. “When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, ‘Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety’” (Luke 2:48).

One who, in any circumstance she encounters, especially in seeing Jesus gravely offended, despised, trampled upon, tries to repair Him, to compassionate Him, and to pray for the very ones who offend Him – it is as if He encountered in that soul His own Mother who, if She could have done it, would have freed Him from my enemies; and she participates in the fourth sorrow.  “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children,for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’” (Luke 23:28-29).

One who crucifies her senses for love of my crucifixion, and tries to copy the virtues of His crucifixion within herself, participates in the fifth one. “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” (John 19:26-27).

One who is in a continuous attitude of adoring, of kissing Jesus’ wounds, of repairing, of thanking etc., in the name of all mankind, it is as if she were holding Him in her arms, just as Mary held Him when He was deposed from the Cross - and she participates in the sixth sorrow. “There were many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him. Among them were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.” (Matthew 27:55-56).

One who remains in God’s grace and corresponds to it, giving a place to no one else but Him within her heart, it is as if she buried Him in the center of her heart - and she participates in the seventh one. “The women who had come from Galilee with him followed behind, and when they had seen the tomb and the way in which his body was laid in it, they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils. Then they rested on the sabbath according to the commandment.” (Luke 23:55-56)


My dear Sorrowful Mother,

today, more than ever, I feel the irresistible need to be close to You.

No, I will not move from your side,

to be spectator of your bitter sorrows and to ask You,

as your child, for the grace to place in me your sorrows

and those of your Son Jesus, and also His very death;

so that His death and your sorrows

may give me the grace to make my will die continually,

and make rise again, upon it, the life of the Divine Will.

                                                                                                   (Luisa Piccarreta)

don Marco
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