The birth of a child is almost universally a time of great joy. But, it is often preceded by the pains and difficulties of labor. Holding her newborn, the mother, in her joy, is able to put aside the difficulties and pains she just experienced in childbirth.
The early years a mother shares with her son or daughter, perhaps several, will establish a deep bond that will sustain her with joy, unforgettable memories as well as times of concern and stress. Overall, we believe that through the years, mothers retain a deep and lasting joy because that child is “my baby”. These joys, in most families, will outdo and help deal with the challenges of parenthood.
Mary as a young woman experienced these emotions. Her emotions were far deeper than any other woman, and not just because of her tender age. Her child was to be born not like any other boy or girl. Mary was told this by one sent by God. Her astonishment and fear was diminished by her love and devotion to God. In her innocence and absolute faithfulness to the Covenant God of her people, she was able to say 'yes' and to rejoice in the role God assigned to her:
She also was told that through her child she would suffer far more than most mothers. The joyful years of youthful work, prayer and service were effected by the reminder that a sword would pierce her heart. Her complete trust in God was maintained, even when challenged by how her son was treated. He was questioned, criticized, rejected, beaten, publicly disgraced. And then, crucified as a common criminal. She received his body in sorrow but with faith that God was with her at this time. A Mother of Sorrows she was and would be for countless numbers of women and men who deal with rejection, hatred, misunderstanding, homelessness, unexpected pregnancies and so much more.
Yet with all of this, the image I have of Our Lady of Sorrows, is a tender, loving mother with the body of her dead son. Her peaceful acceptance of the call made years before by God sustained her. Mary, the mother of Sorrows, gives courage and strength to all who come to this loving mother. What an extraordinary patroness of the Congregation of Holy Cross.
In looking to Mary we find comfort and strength in a troubling and chaotic world. We come to realize that through our sufferings and challenges, we are able to identify with the mother of Jesus. Through Mary we can understand that all are called to bear their crosses. Great is our heritage of those who have done so faithfully. For us, it is to better understand the message of the One who calls us, loves us and seeks that we too proclaim the greatness of the Lord. He has called us to be his loving sons and daughters.
This reflection for the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, the Patroness of the whole Holy Cross family, was written by Fr. Larry Olszewski, C.S.C., who is a member of the United States Province of Priests and Brothers. Currently residing at the Holy Cross Community in Cocoa Beach, Florida, where he assists in parish ministry, Fr. Larry has served in many capacities in Holy Cross since his Final Profession in 1961 and Ordination in 1964, including missionary work in Peru; administration with Catholic Relief Services in Senegal, Tanzania, Burundi, and New York City; development at King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania; and parochial ministry in Vermont and now Florida.