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 | By Fr. Bill Ashbaugh

What Can We Learn About Coping With Sorrow From the Mother of Jesus

I am not sure there is any kind of grief quite like the grief of a mother who has to watch one of her children die. A number of years ago, a mother was called into the hospital because her son was hit with a stray bullet. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some gangs were shooting each other over money and drugs. When she arrived at the hospital, there was nothing more the doctors could do. The mother just held her son in her arms. The pain was so deep. With great tears and sobs she cried out loudly, “My dear son, my dear son.” He died in a short while. The mother’s sorrow was so great it seemed as though she herself would die along with her son. I am sure she would have died in his place if God had let her. But that was not his plan for her, or her son.

During Lent, we journey with Jesus to the cross. If we have enough courage to walk with Jesus on this journey, we will find Mary, His mother there. One of the most amazing images in Scripture is Mary standing by the cross of her Son, watching Him die. Who can truly imagine this sorrow other than a mother who herself has lost a child. Mary bore her sorrow all through her life. It is good for us to contemplate the grief of Mary so that we will have more sorrow for our sins, for that is what put Jesus on the cross to begin with. It is also good to meditate on her sorrow because Mary’s was not a destructive sorrow, but one that led her to even greater love and hope. Sometimes our grief can be destructive when we forget the power of the love of God and the resurrection of Jesus. Our mourning and sorrow, while it is a part of our human life, must not put us in the grave, but allow us to help others during their time of darkness and grief to come out of their graves.

For our spiritual fitness this month, let us walk with Mary and meditate on her sorrows. Traditionally Catholics have meditated on the Seven Sorrows of Mary. This practice has a long history that became especially popularized after the 13th century. St Bridget of Sweden (1302-1373) encouraged this devotion. For this meditation, you will need your Bible (unless you know the passages already!). Find a quiet place and pray:

Dear God and Father,

help me now to have a greater love for Jesus, a greater hope in my own salvation and that of others, a greater sorrow for my sins, and a greater desire to comfort those who mourn by meditating on the sorrows of Mary, the Blessed Mother.


Seven sorrows of the Virgin Mary

1   The Prophecy of Simeon: Read Luke 2:34-35. Pray: Mary, you watched with happiness and amazement as Simeon held your Son and prophesied – but you were touched with sorrow when told that Jesus would be a sign of contradiction that would be opposed, and you yourself would be pierced with a sword. Help me, Mother, to learn to accept the unexpected sorrows in life and to surrender them all in faith to God. Our Father; Hail Mary; Glory Be.

2   The Flight into Egypt: Read Matthew 2:13-14. Pray: Mary, your heart was crushed when you heard that Herod was looking to destroy Jesus, your Son. You had to quickly leave your home and go into a strange land far from your family and friends and support. The news of innocent children being slaughtered broke your heart. You joined the many mothers who cried out to God in grief. Be with those who have lost children and help them to continue their journey of life with God. Our Father; Hail Mary; Glory Be.

3   The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple: Read Luke 2:43-45. Pray: Mary, your heart was filled with sorrow and anxiety as you looked for Jesus without finding Him for three days. Perhaps you felt you had failed Him. You were worried about what might have happened to Him. Mary, please help all parents who constantly worry about their sons or daughters who are lost to drugs, or crime, or who have lost their faith. Help them in their grief to have hope that, like Jesus, they, too, will be found. Our Father; Hail Mary; Glory Be.

4   The Meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross: Read Luke 23:27-31. Pray: Mary, you knew the hour had come. What sorrow and dismay filled you as you saw your Son beaten, bloodied, bruised and humiliated as He made His way through the crowd carrying His cross. You were not going to leave Him. You would walk with Him on this road, knowing it was the Father’s will. Mary, help us be with those who are suffering and dying. May we not turn away from them in their hour of greatest need. Our Father; Hail Mary; Glory Be.

5   The Crucifixion: Read John 19:17-37. Pray: Mary, you stood by the cross of your Son. A great sword of sorrow pierced your heart. The words of Simeon that you had heard long ago had come to pass. You remained standing by the cross of your Son, bringing Him what comfort and strength that you could. Your heart in sorrow thanked God your Father for allowing you to be the mother of so wonderful a Son. You wanted to protect Him from the words of hate and revilement that were being cast at Him. You wanted to pull the nails out of His hands and feet and comfort Him in your arms as you did when He was a baby. But you knew the hour had come. He was to give up His life so that all might live in God. You accepted His last words to you, “Woman, behold your son.” He did this to reveal to you your mission as Mother of all those who believe in Him. Mary, help those who comfort the dying with their presence, especially parents who are with a son or daughter who is dying. Give them the strength they need to help the dying to be born anew into eternal life. Our Father; Hail Mary; Glory Be.

6   Jesus’ Body is Taken Down from the Cross: Read John 19:38-40. Pray: Mary, with great love you held the body of your Son. Has there ever been any sorrow like yours? Mary, our sins put your Son on the cross, and because of it, our sins have caused you so much pain. Please accept our contrition. Mary, pray that we may be able to be with you as you held the lifeless body of Jesus, so we will know the great price and cost of our own redemption, and give our hearts completely to God. Our Father; Hail Mary; Glory Be.

7   The Burial of Jesus: Read John 19:41-42. Pray: Mary, you helped wrap the body of Jesus and with tenderness you were with those who laid His body in the tomb. You did so, not without hope, for just as God the Father gave Jesus to you miraculously, you also believed in the words of your Son, that He would rise again. Help all those who mourn and are in grief from the death of a loved one. Pray that they have a strong faith and hope in the promises of Almighty God. Pray that their sorrow may not lead them to destruction, but to a deeper insight into the height and depth and width of God’s love for us, and the hope we have in the resurrection. Our lives, like our Lord’s, will end with the empty tomb, for His love is far stronger than death. Our Father; Hail Mary; Glory Be.