Being Our Lady of Sorrows

Simon helps Jesus carry his Cross

Simon helps Jesus carry his Cross

I love St. Simon of Cyrene. I love that he was plucked out of nowhere, forced into a task he despised, and found eternity in the process. I love that he kept Jesus company on the road to Calvary. I love the image of walking beside my friends as they suffer and spelling them for a bit.

I love St. Veronica. I love that she stepped out of the crowd to wipe the blood and sweat from Jesus’ eyes. I love the risk she took to offer an act of human kindness in a sea of inhumanity. I love the image of serving my friends as they suffer, bringing some peace and beauty into their painful lives.

I love being Simon. I love being Veronica.

But lately I’m neither. Lately I’m Mary.

Normally, identifying with the Blessed Mother is a good thing, a sign that you’re doing something right. You’re trusting God or pointing people to him or interceding. But when the people you love are being tortured, being Mary just means you’re standing there doing nothing.

I don’t want to do nothing. I want to fix it. I want to love them out of their pain or take it over for them. I at least want to do something, say something to make it better, even just a little, even just wiping the sweat out of their eyes.

Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

But I’m not Simon. I don’t get to carry their crosses with them or for them. And I’m not Veronica. I don’t get to give them a moment’s peace. I’m Mary. I only get to be there with them, loving them in utter futility as a sword pierces my heart.

I hate being Our Lady of Sorrows. I hate standing there doing nothing, watching the people I love suffer. I hate waiting for a diagnosis, hearing about infidelity, watching depression. I hate going to prayer and begging, begging, begging to take their crosses from them and being told no. I hate being useless in the face of catastrophic pain.

And yet.

And yet, with all that he could have asked of his Mother in that moment of his greatest need, this is what he asked: just be with me. Just stand there and watch me suffer. Just love me in my pain.

And somehow, that nothing that she did was everything that he needed. Somehow, it bore fruit down through the ages for every one of us. Somehow, it is in her silent suffering with that Mary fulfills God’s plan for her. I’m sure she also wanted to be Simon or Veronica or Peter whipping out a sword or anyone doing anything. But she knew that being there and “useless” was good and right and beautiful.

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Weinende (weeping) Madonna by Hermann von Kaulbach

Our Lady wasn’t Our Lady of Sorrows only on Good Friday. She suffered the day after the Annunciation and when Simeon told her the sword would pierce her and when they fled into Egypt and when Jesus was lost and when he left home and when he foretold his death and when she stood at his tomb on Holy Saturday and a thousand other times in between. Because her suffering with him, somehow, accomplished something.

I can’t say I get it. I don’t know what it does to suffer with someone, especially when that person can’t feel you there. But I know that it works for good because God gave that job to his Mother. The most powerful woman in history was left powerless because her helpless inaction was necessary and good and powerful. I don’t have to know how. It’s enough to know that when I am Our Lady of Sorrows, standing uselessly by as the ones I love suffer unimaginable pain, I am not useless. It is good to love them, even when that love seems impotent. It is good to suffer with.

If you are where I am right now, watching helplessly as those you love suffer, know this: it is not to no effect. You are not alone. Our Lady of Sorrows stands uselessly with you, holding you up as you weep and rage and faint from exhaustion. And somehow none of it is useless. Somehow, it is just what you need, just what your beloved needs, just what the world needs. And sometimes that’s enough.

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About Meg

I'm a Catholic, madly in love with the Lord, His Word, His Bride the Church, and especially His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist. I'm committed to the Church not because I was raised this way but because the Lord has drawn my heart and convicted my reason. After 2 degrees in theology and 5 years in the classroom, I quit my 9-5 to follow Christ more literally. Since May of 2012, I've been a hobo for Christ; I live out of my car and travel the country speaking to youth and adults, giving retreats, blogging, and trying to rock the world for Jesus.
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12 Responses to Being Our Lady of Sorrows

  1. LeAnn says:

    Just what I needed to hear right now today.

  2. James Vranish says:

    🙂 Beautiful article!

  3. Jean Folken says:

    Meg, I just came from Mass and your beautiful reflection ‘Being Our Lady of Sorrows’ deepened my love for our Blessed Mother. As a mother I can relate to her sorrow for her child and all those I love…when they suffer I want to do all I can to help the pain and suffering go away…but sometimes I can’t. Mary’s sorrow and her deep trust in God give me the strength to hold on and trust in God.
    Thank you, Meg

  4. I realize what you’re trying to do. By saying that she was someone who just stood there, you are emphasizing the “uselessness” of what she was called to do. I get that. Yet, I notice within my heart, as I read this, an objection. I think it’s because I have never imagined Mary just standing there. You don’t think she hugged His feet, caressed them, kissed them? You don’t think she told Him how much she loved Him, cried with Him? I see her doing these things, not out of any desire to intervene or to undo what must be done, but out of her love and motherly solicitude. Her acts of affection at the foot of the Cross are just as much “doing something” as what Simon and Veronica did. All three of them, in their own way, are able to punctuate the way of the Cross with moments of compassion. In the final analysis, they are not all that different. Mary wipes His feet, as Veronica wipes His face. And, by uniting her will perfectly with the will of Christ — indeed, by “suffering with” — she carries the Cross with Jesus, just like Simon did.

  5. Melissa says:

    When Daddy had just died, Rosie wrote about him on her website. She asked that people contribute to a fund to help with my expenses, bring me food, invite me to dinner, or come help me clean. A young man I had never met came and brought his sister. Their father had died several years back after a long illness, and they knew what I was going through. They were completely non-judgmental about the horrific state of the mess in which I lived; they just helped me clean.

    After a few hours, I was so overcome with both gratitude and grief that I just broke down and sobbed big ugly snotty tears for what seemed like forever. The man sat beside me, saying nothing, just watching, but he was present for me. Occasionally he reached over and patted my back. His sister stood a few feet away and gave me a long, kind, understanding, encouraging smile.

    I will never forget what they did. I tear up just thinking about it. They were Our Lady of Sorrows to me. God bless them.

  6. Anne says:

    Having recently learned a good friend’s once seemingly blissful but now rocky marriage is ending, I have been sitting here saddened and feeling completely useless — even after months of daily praying for her, for him, for healing, a reunion if God wills it, for the children — but unable to help in any concrete way that seemed to matter (despite knowing the power of prayer). This was just what I needed to read today. Thank you.

  7. Nicole Kramer says:

    I needed this, and I needed it today. Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!

  8. Jean Lupinacci says:

    And God is there with us as we suffer, standing in solidarity with our suffering and loving us.

    • Jean Lupinacci says:

      And God is there with us as we suffer, standing in solidarity with our suffering and loving us.
      My husband’s best friend lost his soon to a tragic illness last year and he immediately went to his friend’s side and stayed with him. He cried with him, laughed with him, remembered the good times and the bad times, but mostly he just stayed with him in solidarity with his suffering.

  9. Sean says:

    So beautifully written. Thank you.

  10. Karen says:

    Beautiful!

  11. Jolly Janette says:

    Beautiful and inspiring👍 God bless you😃

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