“Mondays with Mary” – Pope St. John Paul II on the Suffering of Mary

Although yesterday was the twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, it was also the memorial for Our Lady of Sorrows. This memorial focuses on the seven great sorrows in the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary: 1) The Prophecy of Simeon, 2) Flight into Egypt, 3) Losing Jesus for Three Days, 4) Meeting Jesus on the Way to Calvary, 5) Mary standing at the Foot of the Cross, 6) Jesus Taken from the Cross, and 7) the Burial of Jesus.

Our Lady of Sorrows

For many of us, human suffering is difficult to understand. It could be suffering from losing a job, losing a family member, enduring great amounts of stress, or suffering from a physical ailment for many years. Although many people react differently to suffering, most people object to it and ask “why” is this happening to me. As Christians, we must remember that our Lord talked about taking up our crosses and following him. Carrying a cross is not easy. It takes work and is a great challenge for many of us. Often, we have many crosses at one time we must endure.

There are two means to endure such suffering; the first way is to pray, and to pray often. Conversation with God can yield answers. The second is to look at our Blessed Mother who suffered greatly through her life beginning with the Prophecy of Simeon in Luke 1:34-35, which states,

“Behold this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also) that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.”

To give us in depth look on how to follow the Blessed Virgin Mary’s lead, I turn towards our future saint, Pope St. John Paul II, from his Apostolic Letter, Salvifici Doloris (On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering). In the later years of his life, Blessed John Paul II showed us himself how we were to suffer. Hang on to your souls; his words are poignant.

JP II and papal cross

“It is especially consoling to note –and also accurate in accordance with the Gospel and history – that at the side of Christ, in the first and most exalted place, there is always His Mother through the exemplary testimony that she bears by her whole life to this particular Gospel of suffering. In her, the many intense sufferings were amassed in such an interconnected that they were not only a proof of her unshakeable faith but also a contribution to the Redemption of all. In reality, from the time of her secret conversation with the angel, she began to see in her mission as a mother her “destiny” to share, in a singular and unrepeatable way, in the very mission of her Son.”

“…It was on Calvary that Mary’s suffering, beside the suffering of Jesus, reached an intensity which can hardly be imagined from a human point of view but which mysteriously and supernaturally fruitful for the Redemption of the world. Her ascent of Calvary and her standing at the foot of the cross together with the beloved disciple were a special sort of sharing in the redeeming of her Son. And the words which she heard from His lips were a kind of solemn handing-over of this Gospel of suffering so that it could be proclaimed to the whole community of believers.”

“As a witness to her Son’s passion by her presence, and as sharer in it by her compassion, Mary offered a unique contribution to the Gospel of suffering…She truly has a special title to be able to claim that she “completes in her flesh” – as already in her heart – “what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.”

“In light of the unmatchable example of Christ, reflected with singular clarity in the life of His Mother, the Gospel of suffering, through the experience and words of the Apostles, becomes an inexhaustible sources for the ever new generations that succeed one another in the history of the Church. The Gospel of suffering signifies not only the presence of suffering in the Gospel, as one of the themes of the Good News, but also the revelation of the salvific power and salvific significance of suffering in Christ’s messianic mission and, subsequently, in the mission and vocation of the Church.”

“…The Divine Redeemer wishes to penetrate the soul of every sufferer through the heart of His holy Mother, the first and most exalted of all the redeemed. As though by a continuation of that motherhood which by the power of the Holy Spirit had given Him life, the dying Christ conferred upon the ever Virgin Mary a new kind of motherhood – spiritual and universal – towards all human beings, so that every individual, during the pilgrimage of faith, might remain, together with her, closely united to Him unto the cross, and so that every form of suffering, given fresh life by the power of this cross, should become no longer the weakness of man but the power of God.”

Wow! I told you the words of Blessed John Paul II would grab your souls. I can honestly say that I have more hope and joy in my own sufferings after writing those words out for you than when I began this post.

A few reflections for this week:

1. Pray that you come to understand why Jesus gives you the sufferings and crosses you have in your lives. Ask Him to help you know how the sufferings will save you.

2. How can the Church help you to endure your sufferings and lead you closer to Christ and His Holy Mother? Know that you are not alone in your sufferings and generations of Christians before you endured the same.

3. Take your sufferings and crosses and present them to the Blessed Mother and pray for her intercession as your spiritual mother.

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