She didn’t feel useless. She knew that her presence mattered, her prayer mattered.
I’ve always been drawn to images of Our Lady of Sorrows, her eyes filled with tears and her heart pierced by a sword (or seven). There’s something about our sorrowful Mother that invites you to stop a moment and weep alongside her, or at least to be with her in her suffering. She had been told when Jesus was only six weeks old that the sword would pierce her heart and for 33 years she had walked that long road to Calvary.
Then, when at last the Lord’s hour had come, she could do nothing. Simon carried his Cross and Veronica wiped his face, but his Mother, who loved him more than any woman had ever loved her child, was asked just to stand there, helpless, weeping.
During this crisis in our Church, I feel a lot like Our Lady of Sorrows. I fast and I pray and I write, but it feels like nothing. I want to grab this Cross and carry it for those who have buckled under the weight. I want to wipe the blood from their eyes and encourage them to keep going. I want to do something, to pen the magic policy that will keep children safe or read the hearts of bishops and tell them what to do next.
And I can do something. I can fast and pray and write. But mostly, it just feels like standing uselessly at the foot of the Cross watching the one I love suffer. Mostly I feel like Our Lady of Sorrows.
But she didn’t feel useless. She knew that her presence mattered, her prayer mattered. She knew that being faithful in loving the innocent victim was a tremendous gift, just as it is now. We don’t stand idly by as survivors suffer and the Church reels; we stand as witnesses. We give the suffering the strength to go on by our willingness to suffer alongside them. When we weep for the victims, when we fast and pray, when we read the testimonies and acknowledge their pain, we live like Our Lady of Sorrows. And our love gives them strength, as Mary’s love strengthened her Son in his final agony.
But the Blessed Mother’s heart wasn’t full only of pain on that dark Friday afternoon. As she stood beneath the Cross, tortured by the anguish of her beloved Son, she also knew hope. She knew that for all the ugliness of Good Friday, Sunday would dawn with incomparable joy. She knew that, in the end, God would be the victor.
That’s what the Evil One wants us to forget: that however much evil there has been hiding in the ranks of our Church, however many cover-ups, however many hearts broken, God has promised that evil will not have the final say.
The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church, he told us, which might feel more like a threat than a promise to some. But that doesn’t foretell only the endurance of the Church but her purification, her ability to emerge from what seems irreparable corruption, by the help of men and women who choose to be saints in spite of the evil of those who ministered to them.
But more importantly, evil will not have the final say in the lives of those hurt by abuse or scandal. God’s grace is far bigger than we can imagine, and the God who turned the evil of Calvary into a day called “Good Friday” is able to work all things for good. Just as Mary knew that Jesus would rise, we know that God can bring healing, can even (by some miracle we cannot comprehend) turn this sorrow to joy.
But in her hope, Mary still wept. Though she knew that Sunday was coming, she was still nearly overcome by grief. The sword pierced her no less fully because she knew her anguish would end in joy. The torture and murder of God was horrific and Mary didn’t pretend it wasn’t, simply because she had hope for the future.
In this, you and I can learn from our Blessed Mother. We can learn to live in hope while still weeping with those who weep. We can learn to lend strength to the suffering in true solidarity without letting our sorrow consume or define us. We can learn to be present on Good Friday while keeping our hearts fixed on Easter joy. Even when we can’t feel the joy, we can ask Our Lady of Sorrows to help us trust that it’s coming.
It may be a long Good Friday, friends. But you and I know, as Mary knew, that Sunday is coming.