Why we need Our Lady of Sorrows

El_Greco_PietàToday is the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.   To be honest, it’s taken me a while to really get this feast day.

Here’s what the me-of-ten-years ago would have said: Why do we have a feast day dedicated to Mary’s sorrow?  Isn’t that just a little negative and depressing?  Can’t we highlight the positive instead?

And here’s what the 2009 me would say  in response: We have this day because we need it.

See, if I’ve learned anything over the last ten or so years, it’s that there are times when life is just painful.  Period.  When you’re going through any kind of grief, or heartache, or loss, it just stinks for a while.  There’s no way to go around the pain; you just have to go straight through it, steeling yourself, trusting that at some point you will emerge out the other end.

And it’s hard to be in that painful place; man, is it hard.   But during the times that I’ve felt huge emotional loss, it helps when I accept, when I simply recognize, that it’s going to be tough.  It’s going to  hurt like hell for a while.   It never helped when people tried to jolly me out of my misery, or tried to reframe my pain in such a way as to make it seem less horrible.  What helped, instead, was having people there to hold my hand and acknowledge  my suffering … or, even better, to tell me of the times that they too had once hurt beyond imagining.

So when I think of Mary’s sorrow — that excruciating agony she must have felt watching her son die, being totally unable to do anything — it actually helps me.  It shows me that I’m not alone.  And it’s a reminder that even Mary herself had to ride out the pain, going straight through it, before she could get to the other side.

She’s been there herself.   That’s why she gets us.

Painting by El Greco

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