Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Pillar of Strength
What Our Lady of Sorrows can teach us about doing God’s will and staying strong in the midst of suffering.
Our Lady of Sorrows, the feast the Church celebrates on Sept. 15, is our pillar of strength and grace. So worthy of our respect, Mary has much to teach us about following God’s will in our own lives, especially in the midst of suffering.
Our Lady is our model because she united her will to that of the Father’s.
“If you start with the doctrine, she was conceived without sin: no original sin, no personal sin, nor could she sin,” says Father John Corapi, internationally recognized EWTN preacher and member of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity.
Yet, she still possessed complete freedom, he says, which is “having the power to do what you ought to do.” Although she was free from sin and willing in faith to do whatever God asked, Mary did not understand all that was happening to her.
“She still said, ‘How can this be?’ to the angel,” explains Father Corapi.
Mary called herself “the handmaid of the Lord.” Therein, perhaps, lies the greatest difference between Our Lady and the rest of us in following God’s will. She obeyed God in humility, without hesitation, even though she didn’t completely understand.
“Many times people make fatal errors because they think they have to understand,” Father Corapi says. “Many people say, ‘If you can explain the Trinity, I’ll become Catholic.’”
Understanding is often impossible, and we must accept this with humility — the most important virtue exemplified by Mary — he says.
The significance of this virtue is evident by going back to the beginning: It is absent in the Book of Genesis in the fall of man.
“Pride leads to disobedience, the inference of knowing for yourself what is good for you. Disobedience leads ultimately to death,” Father Corapi elaborates.
How to Imitate Mary
How do we grow in grace and virtue like Mary? The first step is to ask her to help us grow in humility.
“You will soon be humiliated. To grow physically, you must exercise until it hurts. For spiritual growth, the Holy Spirit will exercise us in humility. Humiliation will cause it to grow,” Father Corapi explains.
The second step is to pray the Rosary.
“It is so simple. It is the prayer of the Gospel,” says Father Corapi. “It is the Good News, which is Jesus Christ. Mary’s mission, the reason for her existence, is to bring us to Jesus, to God. We interiorize him and we become the body of Christ.”
We can also grow in virtue by self-examination, reflection and effort.
“We look at our weaknesses, and we can practice the virtue opposite it. We can ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten us and for grace that is immediately available to us. Virtues are tools to use against our inherited weaknesses,” says Johnnette Benkovic, EWTN host and founder of the Catholic apostolates Living His Life Abundantly International, Inc. and Women of Grace.
Mary teaches mothers the virtues by her example.
“Mothers can learn all the hard things from Mary,” says Father Corapi. “Your actions are your most eloquent sermons. My mother started preaching less and praying more in my teens.”
Our Lady shows us how to live a life of prayer.
“Mary had an intense solitude in her soul,” Father Corapi shares. “She was a constant contemplative, especially after the Crucifixion. Mothers must be contemplatives in action.”
Discerning God’s Will
How do we discern and follow God’s will in our lives?
First, make sure what you are trying to discern is in accord with Church teaching, pray with humility and patience, and ask for the Blessed Mother’s guidance.
“I place it on the altar of the Immaculate Heart of Mary,” says Father Corapi. “Doors will open and doors will slam in your face.”
He gives the example of his late vocation to the priesthood and the rejection of certain religious orders due to his age.
“I knew that it was not God’s will [for me to join those orders],” he says of these rejections. God had other plans for him. Since his ordination in 1991, Father Corapi has traveled more than 2 million miles preaching the Gospel, and he has reached millions of souls through television, radio and the Internet.
Prayer is the way to discern God’s will in our lives, having a “supernatural outlook” on everything that happens, says Benkovic.
“We must first love him and come into a relationship with him through Jesus,” she explains. “God is the perfection of all goodness. There is nothing that he could desire for us that would be outside our benefit and capacity for us to know true joy and happiness. Our Lady gave her Fiat to all that Yes would mean. That is what we must do.”
Our Strength in Sorrow
“Mary stood at the foot of the cross. She was a pillar of strength for her son,” says Benkovic. “She is standing there with us in every trial and shares with us her own strength, her own faith, her own trust and perseverance.”
Benkovic knows this is true. In 2004, her 25-year-old son Simon returned from a tour of duty in Iraq, then was killed weeks later in a tragic car accident near their home. The following year, her husband, Anthony, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and died two years later.
In the midst of her sorrows, Our Lady was there.
“She takes us into that place in her heart that was pierced,” shares Benkovic. “She nurtures us in her Immaculate Heart because she is the mediatrix of all graces. She places us there where there is every grace we need.”
Venerable Edel Quinn, who devoted her life to the Legion of Mary apostolate, drew strength through her prayers to Our Lady.
“Ask Mary Mediatrix to pour his divine life into our souls so that it may be he who lives and no longer we,” she wrote, recorded in Words of Life From Edel Quinn. “Ask Mary each day to obtain for us strength for that day to carry on his work and hers.”
Lisa Socarras writes
from Annandale, Virginia.