The Servants of Mary invite you to take time this Lent to walk with Mary as she experienced sorrow in her life. These are known as the Seven Sorrows or Seven Dolours. Mary like each of us knew suffering.
The Fourth Sorrow: Mary Meets Jesus Carrying His Cross
Luke 23: 26-27
“As they led him away they took hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country; and after laying the cross on him, they made him carry it behind Jesus. A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him.”
When I reflect over my life, this fourth sorrow is the one I can identify with most strongly and in a personal way. One of the key words in this sorrow is the word “meet”. Mary meets Jesus carrying his cross. The Cross is a symbol for suffering. Suffering is not something we choose most times, it chooses us or someone we love. The first time I experienced meeting someone who was suffering happened when I was Coordinator for our Motherhouse.
I was in my late thirties. Up to that point, I had been working with and teaching first graders. So, coming to the motherhouse and being responsible for the care and welfare of sisters who were much older than me was a challenge. We had just started setting up a health care unit for the sisters who needed extra care and nursing care. I knew nothing about the medical field. I was grateful for the nursing staff we had who taught me a great deal over those four years.
What I remember the most which changed my life in ways I didn’t understand at the time, was that most of the women I was carrying for just wanted me to walk with them as they lived and faced whatever illness or suffering that they were experiencing. All they really wanted form me was love and compassion as they lived and died.
The last year and a half of being the Coordinator was an extremely difficult and draining journey of walking with twelve different sisters who were living with serious illnesses and preparing for their deaths. Each one of those women graced me with their willingness to trust me and allow me to companion with them to the end of their lives.
Mary was a faithful companion for me during those four years. Many a time I would go to her in my prayer and ask for the grace and the wisdom to know what I needed to do or when to get out of God’s way.
Mary in her own life experienced a great deal of suffering. She walked with her son from the stable to the cross. Mary knows what it means to suffer. Even in my own life when I am faced with personal suffering or that of one of my family members, Mary is always at my side. I have had many family members deal with life threatening illness and some have died from these illnesses. One of those was my sister-in-law Linda, who at the age of 34 was diagnosed with breast cancer. Stage four. This illness changed her life and the life of my brother and their four young children forever.
When she was first diagnosed, she believed in God, a kind of distant God who was there when you needed him. By the end of her life, God was front and center. There was no fear or anxiety. She knew to whom and where she was going and so did my brother.
None of us know with whom or when suffering will be part of our journey, but it will come and I pray that you will have someone in your life, like Mary, to turn to who will be at your side every step of the way.
I don’t have the answer to the question why is there so much suffering in our world, but these words from Fr. Richard Rohr help me to accept suffering is a part of our lives as much as joy.
“Until we love and until we suffer, we all try to figure out life and death with our minds. Love, I believe, is the only way to initially and safely open the door of awareness and aliveness, and then suffering for that love keeps the door open and available for ever greater growth. We dare not refuse love or suffering or we close the door to life itself.”
By Sr. Kerry Larkin, OSM