Take inspiration from the Virgin Mary, who endured unfathomable sorrows with grace.
September is the month dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows. This September is an especially fitting time for us to find strength in this devotion, as we adjust to challenges with work and school, societal upheaval, and an unusually tempestuous weather cycle. Our masked world can feel surreal, as we stay at least six feet apart from our neighbor. Our Lady offers us the best possible consolation.
Immediately following August’s devotion to the Immaculate Heart, and preceding October’s devotion to Our Lady of the Rosary, September is an ideal time to strengthen our connection to Mary. So what better moment is there to immerse ourselves in her sorrows? The love and compassion we feel as we meditate upon her sorrows allows us to forget or transcend our own for a time. Further, we are reminded that our Mother truly understands us.
In the words of Pope St. John Paul II, “Turn your eyes incessantly to the Blessed Virgin; she, who is the Mother of Sorrows and also the Mother of Consolation, can understand you completely and help you. Looking to her, praying to her, you will obtain that your tedium will become serenity, your anguish change into hope, and your grief into love.” This month, let’s unite our sorrows to Mary’s. Before we know it, we’ll actually be more joyful! Here are 10 ways to do just that:
1Transform pain into purpose
Take the sufferings you endure and offer them up for the reparation of Mary’s Immaculate Heart.
Drawing upon your own sorrows will prevent a lukewarm heart, and let you instead be on fire with devotion and love as you contemplate the sorrows of our Mother and offer up sacrifices and acts of reparation, such as the First Saturday Devotion.
Taking pain and transforming it into purpose through these acts is healing for the mind and heart.
In this month of Mary’s Sorrows, dwell less on your own sorrows, and cultivate joy just by thinking of the wonderful Blessed Mother we have! Feeling low? Say a Hail Mary on the spot. Another idea is to journal your sorrows and then write a prayer asking Mary to help you to heal them.
3Ease someone's suffering
Offer to carry someone’s cross for a bit, like Simon of Cyrene. You can do this by sending a card, closely listening when someone wants to talk about a worry; a grief; a pain; or a loneliness and offering time and empathy instead of being “too busy” to be there for them. You could send a bouquet to someone who is having a hard time: maybe roses or lilies in honor of Our Lady! Cook someone a meal that tastes so good they forget their troubles! Try “comfort food” like pasta, chicken soup with biscuits, or a brunch of pancakes and eggs.
4Pray the Seven Sorrows Rosary or Seven Sorrows Devotion
The Seven Sorrows devotion involves praying seven Hail Marys a day, each one while meditating on one of Our Lady’s seven sorrows, which are:
The prophecy of Simeon.
The flight into Egypt.
The loss of the Child Jesus in the temple.
The meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross.
The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus.
The taking down of the Body of Jesus from the Cross and preparation for burial.
The burial of Jesus.
And the Seven Sorrows Rosary involves dwelling upon each of the seven sorrows as you would one of the mysteries of the Rosary, with seven Hail Marys instead of a decade. Begin each sorrow with an Our Father.
Check out this book for more specific ways to contemplate, pray and dwell more deeply with the sorrows of Mary.
5Pray the Rosary, especially the Sorrowful Mysteries
As you contemplate Gethsemane, the Scourging, the Crowning with Thorns, Carrying of the Cross andthe Crucifixion, imagine walking with Mary and offering her your loving presence and support, your willingness to stay with her as she watches her beloved son’s suffering. Here’s a moving prayer companion for the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, complete with meditations, art and music, on YouTube.
6Donate something, even if it is a widow's mite
Give the money you can manage, to a charity for those suffering. The Catholic Near East Welfare Association, which assists those in need in the lands associated with the Bible, has been designated as one of Pope Francis’s special charities during this time of the coronavirus pandemic.
7Partner with someone in prayer
Pray daily for someone you know who is suffering, and let them know you’ll partner with them in prayer so that the person feels less alone. This is a great month to pray this Prayer for the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, September 15: “O God, in Whose Passion a sword of sorrow pierced the most dear soul of the glorious Virgin-Mother, Mary, as foretold by Simeon, mercifully grant that we who reverently commemorate Her sorrows, may obtain the blessed effect of Thy Passion. Who livest and reignest, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.”
8Make an altar to Our Lady of Sorrows in your home
Choose a prayer card, statue or work of art featuring an image of the Virgin and adorn it with flowers you’ll keep refreshing all month as a little act of tenderness and candles (battery-operated are safest) that you light during prayer. Place a small box near the image and ask each member of the family to write one act of love or mercy they promise to do to console Our Sorrowful Lady this month, or an intention they wish to pray for. Place that resolution in the box as a gift of love. Pray for Our Lady to grace you with some of her faith and courage! This prayer box is a great project for children to help design.
Contemplate its searing beauty as it inspires you in prayer. Pay special attention to the tears that you can see have formed upon her cheek. They resemble pearls and remind us how, just as oysters turn grit into pearl, our sorrows can be transformed through Jesus and Mary into greater purpose.
10Listen to a Marian hymn
Try the traditional “At the Cross Her Station Keeping” by the Cathedral Singers or a setting of the Ave Maria. The incomparable beauty of the music is perfect to accompany or inspire prayer to Our Lady.