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Mary: A Mom with Real Life Worries

Patty Simpson
September 16, 2022

Simeon … said to Mary, the child’s mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35)

When invited to write a reflection, I picked this week based on my schedule, without looking at the readings. When I did look at them, I thought, “The irony!” Our readings this weekend deal with dishonest, exploitative or self-serving manipulations of others by those in possession of or with authority over money. Go figure that the Administrator/business person on staff gets these readings! However, while I will say that each of us owes it to our self, others and our God to think about where our money comes from, how we handle what money we have, and what values our use of money supports, always asking ourselves “Cui bono?” (Who benefits?), and perhaps I will unpack that another day, this is not what spoke to me this week.

Instead, I was drawn to a feast celebrated by the Church on Thursday: Our Lady of Sorrows. Unless you go to daily Mass, closely follow the Church calendar or were/are affiliated with a church or school with this name, there’s a decent chance you have not often focused on this feast. It is omitted by the Church when September 15th is a Sunday.

An ancient notion, with roots in the fourth and fifth centuries, when formalized in the 1400s, the feast was originally titled Our Lady of Compassion. The word compassion derives from roots which mean “to suffer with.” While there are multiple versions of the seven sorrows settled on as “Mary’s sorrows,” the original ones cover sorrows Mary experienced throughout her life, including living with a prophecy that “you yourself a sword will pierce” (related to her child), being a refugee fleeing a massacre, fretting about a temporarily “lost” child, and watching her son condemned to and then suffering an agonizing, violent death. These experiences translate into a singular, core message for us: Mary gets it. Mary can relate, really relate, to so many of the sorrows, worries and challenges we experience in life, particularly those experienced by mothers/parents, the powerless, those marginalized by the Church and/or society.

I was struck by the coincidence (Is there any such thing?) that this feast falls during the week of 9/11, perhaps our most contemporary national collective day of sorrow. On a local level, awareness of the feast drew my heart to the many, many stories of personal sorrows shared so poignantly with me by so many of you over the thirty years I have been blessed to walk this faith journey with you, most especially in the five plus years since I lost my son, Owen.

s a past Harvard Divinity School student of mine, now assistant professor of theology at Emmanuel College, Kate Mroz-Weinstein, runningtheologian on social media, wrote last week on the Feast of the Nativity of Mary (quoted with permission), “…in my teaching, I do my best to share with my students how Mary is a model of social justice and concern for those who are suffering,…she was faithful and tough, rather than pure, passive and obedient…She was a badass!” It’s true. She was!

Our Lady of Sorrows, be with us in our moments of greatest anxiety and grief. Model for us compassion and resilience. As we continue our journeys, being there for and with each other, when someone asks, “Cui bono?” may our emulation of you make the answer obvious: “Each other.”