Suffering Together with Mary
Going into Holy Week, we solemnly remember the great suffering that Jesus went through to redeem the world as a result of our sin. No suffering can compare to Jesus’s as He was condemned to death and crucified, taking on the weight of all of our sins. We will feel this particularly poignantly on Good Friday. But it is important that we remember another participant in the Passion who also suffered: Mary.
As Catholics, we do not worship Mary like we worship Jesus. Mary still needed to be saved by Jesus—she was simply saved through the Immaculate Conception rather than through baptism. We do, however, honor Mary in a special way because of her cooperation in the birth, life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus. Mary said yes to God and gave her whole self to Him, becoming his handmaid. Like all Christians, in saying yes to God, she also said yes to bearing suffering and sorrow.
Mary’s suffering is so significant that there is a feast day dedicated to it: the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows is celebrated each year on September 15. In honor of her suffering, and as a penitential practice, we have the blessing of praying the Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, handed down to us from the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order in the 1200s. The chaplet gained renewed devotion in the 1980s in response to the recommendation of Our Lady of Kibeho in Rwanda.
The Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows of Mary focuses on seven profound sufferings of Mary:
- The prophecy of Simeon: At the Presentation of the infant Jesus, Simeon predicts that a sword will pierce Mary.
- The flight into Egypt: Mary and Joseph flee to Egypt with the infant Jesus to avoid Herod’s slaughter.
- The loss of the Child Jesus in the temple: Mary and Joseph search for Jesus for three days before finding Him in the temple in Jerusalem.
- Jesus meets Mary on the Way of the Cross: As He carries His cross to the crucifixion, Jesus meets his mother.
- The crucifixion: Mary stands at the foot of the cross as Jesus is crucified and dies.
- Jesus is taken down from the cross: Mary receives the body of Jesus.
- Jesus is buried: Mary witnesses the body of Jesus laid in the tomb.
To pray the chaplet, meditate on each sorrow while reciting one Our Father and seven Hail Marys. Some people choose to begin the chaplet by saying the Act of Contrition. Try praying the Seven Sorrows of Mary this Lent and suffer together with the Mother of our Savior. It can help remind us that we are all called to suffer and carry our cross for Christ. But it will also remind us of redemption. As we pray seven Hail Marys over seven sorrows, we remember that seven is the number of perfection in the Bible. And, following that seventh sorrow, we can rejoice in looking forward to the Resurrection and triumph of Jesus over death.