My friend’s daughter was born last year on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. What a feast to be born on, we joked. Couldn’t she be born on a more joyous feast? We were making light, but our back-and-forth reminded me of how difficult it is to truly understand suffering.
Interestingly, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (September 14) takes place on the day before the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows (September 15). This feast recognizes that Christ suffered; He died to save us. He didn’t have to suffer this horrible death, He chose to. It is because of this choice that we can praise His death on the Cross, that we begin to understand that suffering can be redemptive.
We know Christ suffered for us, but what about our own suffering? Why bother “offering it up?”
This is where Our Lady speaks to us. Throughout her life, she showed us how to suffer well. Imagine when she went to present Baby Jesus in the temple, and she was told that her heart would be pierced by a sword? Mary knew that she would suffer one day, stand beneath the Cross on which her Son was dying. Any mother would agonize over those words, question this world full of pain. Yet, Mary, fully human, accepted her own cross and was a wonderful mother to Christ throughout His life, including walking the way to Calvary.
It is a fact that there is suffering in this world – it exists because of original sin and the choices individuals continue to make. Embracing suffering and sacrifice does not mean that we think suffering itself is a good. Rather, when we suffer well we offer our own pain as a prayer that God will bring grace into our broken world. We have the privilege of uniting our sufferings to Christ on the Cross. Like Mary, we trust in the Lord throughout our sufferings.
All of us have crosses to bear – these two feasts, the Exaltation of the Cross and the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, are the days to ask for Mary’s intercession so that the Lord might give us the grace to see the redemptive character of suffering and offer these sufferings as a prayer.