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Just Your Ordinary Mom

The Seven Sorrows are really a cause for celebration and a true invitation for all of us to cling to Mary as a person who can show us the way to the Father, despite the obstacles and distractions of life.
by Kathryn M. Cunningham, MAPS | Source:

        Years ago, I needed a prop for an opera that our small company was staging.  I borrowed a large religious picture that would be clearly visible from the audience from friends in a business who had these pieces “all over the place”.  Take what you need, they offered.  I selected one of the “old school” pictures of Our Lady of Sorrows.  You know the one; Mary pulls aside her garment to expose her wounded heart complete with seven large swords thrust through it.  The look on her face is surprisingly serene.  I have always found this picture thought provoking and a cause for deep meditation on this mystery of Our Lady’s role in our salvation. 

        At rehearsal, that day, one of the cast members saw the image and commented; “See, that Catholic Church, it’s always about inflicting pain.”  I am embarrassed to say that I had neither the courage nor knowledge, at that time, to rebut or correct or affirm the fact that he had obviously experienced pain as part of his encounter with the Church.   I have regretted that.  Through the years, however, I have often contemplated that very image and wondered why and how it could invoke such opposite reactions in different people. 

        The image is stark.  In this particular picture, the swords are large, not daggers like some “sorrows” pictures that I have seen.  The image is clearly meant to communicate “serious pain”.  It is an image that, upon viewing, one almost wants to say;’ “glad it’s not me, good thing it’s her”.  We see the image of someone serene in the midst of pain and we are shocked, put off. We are challenged that we could never be that “deep” and we want to avert our eyes and thoughts and ignore the image.  But what we are really avoiding is the realness  of life.  There is no life without pain, no spiritual growth without challenge that stretches us to the breaking point.  Isn’t it just easier to look away from that reality? 

        Mary’s reality was a mixed bag like life for any one of us.  She had the heady delight of being requested by God himself to bear his Son, to which she unhesitatingly said yes.  I don’t know about you, but that would have put me on “Cloud 11” for quite some time.  How could you not believe, at that juncture, that life would be “perfect from now on”?  She went on to have her own kinswoman call her “The Mother of my Lord”.  From there she experienced shepherds, angels, Magi and the whole world coming to her side to affirm the wonder of it all.  Then “real life" began.  As a young Mom, obedient to the Jewish Law, she took her baby to the temple to be consecrated.  On this day of celebration she received a very disturbing prophecy from the elder Simeon (1).  Her husband had a dream and because of that they abruptly departed for foreign  Egypt (2), a place with no friends, family, or acquaintances.  Upon returning to some regular semblance of family life and community celebration,  she thought that she was actually responsible for losing (3) the son that God asked her to bear.  After witnessing her Son mesmerize, heal, bless and feed thousands of people, she had to endure seeing him bleeding, sweating, and stumbling on his way to his own death (4), heart wrenchingly unable to do a single thing about it.  She stood silently and stoically at the foot of his instrument of death for hours watching his life slowly slip away (5).  To add insult to injury she was forced to watch the powers that be abuse and desecrate his dead body with an instrument of war (6).  Last but not least, she held his cold, limp body (7), covered with spittle, blood and dirt in her arms.  This was the very same body who’s warm, sweet smelling, infant head she cradled while angels sang.  Any one of these seven sorrows would have done in most people I know.  Yet Mary endured all of them with grace and fortitude and the courage to be ever present even after all of her son's most trusted followers had run away.  Talk about the ebb and flow of life! 

        So what’s the point of the seven sorrows and all the images that spring from this declaration of the Church?  The point is that Mary is us.  She is all of us, a real human who’s life intersected with God.  This is same possibility that each of us is invited to,  daily.  She did her best to live life in the real world and asked no special privilege or immunity from the storms of life.  She experienced wonders and joys, tragedy, deep sorrow and life out of control.  Just like us.  She was an ordinary Mom.  So when we look to Mary as a model, encourager and intercessor,  we do not have any reason to believe that her intercession and support comes from some place that we can never attain, some holiness that is impossible for mere humans. There are those who incorrectly say that Jesus’ model of humanity is beyond us because; after all, he was really God.  We cannot say that about Mary.  She lived life. She knows fully what it is to be human and strive for holiness in an inhospitable world.  Her seven sorrows show us that.  They are really a cause for our own unspeakable hope and tangible encouragement.  Go to Mary. We celebrate the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows on September 15.

 Copyright© 2008 by Kathryn M. Cunningham, all rights reserved.  




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