I hesitate writing posts like this, and yet by not doing so, by only writing about the joys — and there are many — I fear I might somehow miss reaching someone, or come across as unauthentic. There comes a time, and Lent seems fitting for it, to show that along with all of the sunny days and consolations come many heart-piercing moments.
It seems so fitting that my soul sister Ann and I consecrated ourselves to Mother Mary on Our Lady of Sorrows feast day. We hadn’t planned it that way, it’s just the way it fell, and I knew we couldn’t hide from it or wish for a more sunny feast day to land on.
We got our Lady of Sorrows for a reason, and I trusted it; that the reason would bring about a good. Indeed, before then and since that day, many tears have fallen between the two of us.
This weekend, it just sort of gripped me for a while; the pain of being a mother right now, in this age, and in this phase, and with this disposition. I’ve always felt things deeply. That’s the way God made me and most of the time I would never want it differently. The joys, too, are so deep, so euphoric, so bliss-filled. Would I want less?
No, but to offset that, there is the other side of it. Just as deeply as I naturally absorb the joys, even in the small things — things some might miss — so, too, do I take in, fully, wholeheartedly, the painful moments.
[Screenshot image of an image I found here. The caption describes the object as “A wooden carving of the ‘Virgin of the Seven Sorrows and Mother of all those who cry’, by Spanish artist Francisco Romero Zafra.” It is displayed in a church in the Andalusian capital of Seville, southern Spain. Photo by Marcelo del Pozo/Reuters.]
And there have been a lot lately. Oh, nothing like what some have had to contend with. I see how the world is hurting, and all of the horrific things people are going through, and that, too, breaks my heart. But it is relative isn’t it, in terms of what we actually feel? We feel the things that touch us directly so much more deeply. That is human nature. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. And the more deeply we feel those things close to us, I suppose, the more we can begin to sense what others might be going through.
In that way, this soul-piercing existence we live begins to make some sense. We can understand that escaping suffering does not lead us to greater understanding, greater empathy. It leads us to satisfaction, temporary peace, and lack of a need for God.
Do we not see, then? It is in our suffering that we become readied to open up to the suffering of others, and then to reach out when we can to soothe that suffering. The more we can feel Christ’s own suffering, the more we will understand what it is He wants us to do, for Him and for those around us.
This suffering won’t last forever. It is temporary. The more we are allowed to endure, the more prepared in a way we will be with what happens next, what is required of us, what will lead us to eternal bliss.
There’s consolation there, is there not?
And yet…when the sorrow hits, does knowing all this make it any easier? No, not really. At some point we can bear it up well no longer. It is then we surrender, close the door, go into ourselves, and just let the tears flow as they may. This, too, is necessary.
Do a Google search of images for Our Lady of Sorrows to see more of what I’m talking about. Some of those images are so powerful to me, and so helpful. To know that Our Blessed Mother hurt as much as I am hurting right now does bring relief. It helps me to know she knows, and is with me, and will help bring comfort and encouragement. She’s been here, but she’s also on the other side of it now. Like when we suffer something and then, after working our way through the abyss and experiencing it fully, come out the other side, ready to help others who experience the same.
And that’s what this Mary stuff is all about. It is nothing to be troubled over. This is not some kind of Catholic superstition. Mary is real, she is Jesus’ mother, and she wants to bring us relief, to provide a safe place to go, to offer her maternal arms as vessel for our tears. She wants to help sop them up and squeeze us and remind us that our tears are bringing us closer to her Son, rather than further away. Is that not the most beautiful thing ever? I find it so.
Somehow, in this messy life I live, this life that has been filled with more tears than I know what to do with, I do have that assurance that God is with me, closer than ever in fact, and that every single one of those droplets of tears that flow, salty and sloppy, from my eyes has a purpose and power that will, in the end, be part of my salvation.
“God can be trusted, even when he is leading us through the deepest darkness. This means that great faith is justified – for Abram, and for us.” – Fr. Robert Barron
Q4U: How do you love God in your tears?