This article was originally published by Decided Excellence Catholic Media.
September marks the month of the Sorrowful Mother, Mater Dolorosa, the woman who faithfully stayed with the Lord through his most vulnerable and physically weak moments on earth. In order to understand Our Lady’s role (especially during the Passion), we must first look to her Son, who set the stage for this great drama of our redemption. It is within his Passion that our suffering is made sweet and by which our frailties and weaknesses are wiped away. Our trials each day are purified in his blood and are poured out as incense as prayers that rise up to God.
Our Lady goes before us as the first woman cleansed by Christ’s mercy. She was kept free from sin from her conception and was fittingly kept pure all of her life. Her role as woman is an inspiration for all women, demonstrating the realities of spiritual and physical motherhood alike. Hers is a life radically devoted to God in complete faithfulness, radically implanted in the process of redemption.
Though a physical mother to one alone, she is a spiritual mother to us all. She is both virgin and mother, a sign of contradiction in the life of women according to nature. As such, she lived out a perfect complement and imitation of her Divine Son, who lived his whole earthly life as a sign of contradiction. The Blessed Mother’s role is particularly significant for all women: she sets the stage for our primary mission to be mothers, be it a spiritual or physical reality.
Our Lady shows that the maternal nature of woman can be lived out fully in all states of life, all stations, all works, and all circumstances—dignified and beautiful in the light of the New Eve, our perfect example. But the reality is that motherhood requires sacrifice. It requires day-to-day selfless acts, thoughtfulness, intention, gentleness, patience, and steadiness through the inevitable ups and downs of life. It requires labor to bear life into the world. It requires suffering.
When we turn to the Gospel and see the promise of Christ we can be certain that any suffering united to him will be made sweet. We know his way is narrow and requires an acceptance and surrender in the face of the crosses we each bear.
In my new book—Mary, Teach Me to Be Your Daughter—I spoke of Our Lady’s watchfulness as servant and as mother: “She watched Christ scourged, and knowing the preciousness of His Blood desired to wipe each drop from the cool marble ground as he was torn away from her… in these moments she became more than His mother, she becomes the watchful servant, the faithful one, the woman whose fiat entered into the dark hour” (Mary, Teach Me to Be Your Daughter, p. 66).
Was her suffering eradicated because of her holiness? No. In fact her capacity for both joys and sorrows was escalated due to her perfections. With this in mind, we might consider that the closer we draw to Christ, the closer the kiss of suffering will be, and the more sure we can be that our suffering is redemptive when united to him; our suffering is useful. It saves souls.
Our Lady’s heart was united to Christ’s heart, and so with his heart, her heart was also pierced. Her sorrows and suffering are not rooted in sin, evil, fear, or despair. They are sorrows surpassed only by hope. The suffering that could have been a bitter drink was instead made light and sweet. As the baptized, we are promised all the graces necessary to carry each burden entrusted to us, and in doing so, we console the heart of Christ. Because of this, “The mother—our mother—was His comfort, and one of the greatest gifts given to the human race” (Mary, Teach Me to Be Your Daughter, p. 66).
Journey into the Heart of Mary
Mary, Teach Me to Be Your Daughter leads Catholic women on an intimate journey into the life of Mary and reflects on the ten principal virtues that she possessed.
Surrender Like Mary
She shows us that surrendering to our own suffering and circumstances becomes something powerful, that we are given Divine help to bear all things well, especially through the grace poured out in the sacraments. In imitation of Our Lady, this perfect servant of Christ, we can offer our service, our suffering, our lives, and be inspired by great acts of love, heroic sacrifice, and the willingness to bear our own cross for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.
Sometimes those crosses will be great, but many times it’s the day-to-day moments we can offer: the sweeping, the dishes, the overnight wakings of a baby, the patience we show our spouse, the dinner we make for our neighbor, the days of illness, plans that unravel, frustrations at work, and difficult relationships. It’s the everyday moments of affliction and suffering united to the Immaculate Heart of Our Lady, given to Jesus, that become a part of the greater picture of the redemptive storytelling of God.
What a grace and gift to have a mother to whom we may relate, who can console us and help us carry our burdens, so that we might be like her in our own labors bearing Christ into the world anew.
Megan Madden is a homeschooling mother with a passion for writing and speaking on authentic femininity and virtuous womanhood. In 2017, she began graduate studies in marriage and family at the International Theological Institute in Austria.
The results were the development of Megan’s online ministry A Mother’s Lace, as well as speaking opportunities and her book with Ascension: Mary, Teach Me to Be Your Daughter.
Megan lives outside of Oxford, England with her husband, who is a lecturer in theology, and their five children.