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Don’t try to live Lent on your own

OUR LADY
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This book is a guide for bringing Mary with you, and the Chaplet of her 7 Sorrows will help, too.

Have your Lenten resolutions lasted longer than your New Year’s resolutions? Don’t worry, I won’t ask for a show of hands.

My sister can be ferociously disciplined—that’s why in January she smiles knowingly at the unknown faces in her gym. She calls them “resolutionaries.” Most of them don’t last.

What if we had a companion—a constant companion—throughout Lent, one who is truly compassionate, who has suffered more than we ever could, and experiences perfectly the joy that we long for? That would make this Lent a bit different from the others, wouldn’t it?

What if we asked for the companionship of Mary, the mother of Jesus, who is our mother also? It’s easier than you think, and more fruitful that you might expect. And there’s a guide—a charming and wise book called Lenten Journey with Mother Mary, by respected Mariologist Father Edward Looney of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin. I had the good fortune of interviewing him on February 28 on The Catholic Current. (You can find the audio and notes for the interview HERE.)

The book offers a meditation and a recommended “Lenten Action” for each day of Lent. Of course, that’s what one would expect of a book meant to be a companion for a Lenten journey. The book adds greater value by guiding one in praying with Mary through the Octave of Easter. I believe that once one has become accustomed to Mary’s compassionate and guiding presence, it will be natural to turn to her in prayer throughout the day and throughout the year.

One of the themes of the interview with Father Edward that stood out for me was Mary’s zeal for souls. Of course, she loves her Divine Son as no other human can. Consequently, she can’t help but love those whom he loves, and to love them as he loves them—that is to say, freely, fully, faithfully, and fruitfully. She wants us to be united with her Jesus, to remain united with him, and to share her perfect joy with him in the eternal happiness of Heaven.

What sane person could spurn her companionship, guidance and intercession? God offers us so much through Mary! It boggles me that we avail ourselves so little of what she is so eager to give. I am reminded of a poignant observation of St. Ignatius Loyola:

There are very few people who realize what God would make of them if they abandoned themselves into his hands, and let themselves be formed by his grace.

We would be very well formed by grace if we accepted gifts and guidance offered to us by our Blessed Mother.

Father and I agreed that there are certain fundamentals that should be part of the life of every Catholic who wishes to remain close to our Blessed Mother: the Rosary, the Scapular, the Miraculous Medal, the Five First Saturdays. There are special Marian devotions that we could take up during each liturgical season. During Lent, we can stay close to Mary via Father Edward’s book. I also recommend praying the Chaplet of Our Lady of Sorrows.

Here is how the Chaplet is prayed:

Each group of seven is begun with an Our Father. The groups of seven Hail Marys are an occasion for meditation on “Mysteries” — in this case, the Seven Sorrows of Mary, listed below:

The First Sorrow

The prophecy of Simeon
Reading: Luke 2:25-35.

The Second Sorrow

The flight into Egypt
Reading: Matthew 2:13-15.

The Third Sorrow 

The Child Jesus lost in the Temple
Reading: Luke 2: 41-50.

The Fourth Sorrow

Mary meets Jesus carrying the cross
Reading: Luke 23: 27-29.

The Fifth Sorrow

Mary at the foot of the cross
Reading: John 19: 25-30.

The Sixth Sorrow

Mary receives the body of Jesus
Reading: Psalm 130.

The Seventh Sorrow

Mary witnesses the burial of Jesus
Reading: Luke 23: 50-56.

This beautiful Chaplet helps us to recall that our sin is the cause of great pain not only to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (as seen in the First Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary, when we meditate upon the brokenheartedness of Jesus) but also the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Repentance comes more easily, and perseverance is more readily at hand, when one has spent much time in company with Our Lady of Sorrows.

Whether Lent has begun well or weakly for you—no matter—do not walk this journey alone. Take Mary with you!

When I write next, I will offer another reflection for Lent. Until then, let’s keep each other in prayer. 

 

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