When the torturers struck the transcendental God who became immanent in creation, the suffering dealt was not only for the person of Jesus. With every lash of the whip, two lashes were felt. Every thorn was felt twice. Nails pierced four hands, and four feet as well. “Every blow rending the body of the son had its cruel echo in the heart of his Mother.” St. Bonaventure exclaims, “Why wouldst thou, most honored Lady, be immolated for us? Is not our Savior’s passion sufficient for our salvation?” (1)
Yet, as she has revealed in recent centuries, her suffering did not stop there. In light of numerous mystical writings and apparitions, we could now rightly echo Bonaventure and say, why wouldst thou, most honored Lady, continue to suffer for us? Is not our Savior’s passion sufficient? Is not your earthly suffering sufficient?
How can Mary behold the face of God and suffer in her body-soul perfection? Does that not seem contrary to our notion of the beatific vision? What of God’s promise that “he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more”? (2) Is it even possible for a creature who has attained the fullness of unity with the Most High to experience privation in suffering? Perhaps the denial of Mary’s mystical suffering has an element of fear in its theological and philosophical debate. It just doesn’t seem right that she should continue to suffer. But that’s the whole point: It’s not right that she should continue to suffer!
Ah, but the first heaven and the first earth have not passed away as yet; they have not become the former things. (3)
And so we hear the words of the child Jesus in a vision to Sr. Lucia in Spain in 1925: “Have compassion on the Heart of your most holy mother, covered with thorns, with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment, and there is no one to make an act of reparation to remove them”. (4) Following the Child’s words, the Blessed Mother reiterated in the apparition:
Look, my daughter, at my Heart, surrounded with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce me at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. You at least try to console me, and say that I promise to assist at the hour of death, with the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months shall confess, receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary, and keep me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me (5).
It is impossible to disregard the Blessed Mother’s words here. Most Catholics would probably say they love Mary. Love involves compassion. If we have true love for Mary, we should be somewhat wounded by these words. Mary’s suffering is not something fanciful. It’s not some sort of motherly guilt trip she has laid upon us to get her children in line. This is clearly not a reference to her suffering at Calvary.
Mary says “at every moment.” She suffers here and now.
She approaches the throne of grace incessantly for us, mediating grace for us. And she suffers with God for the salvation of the most souls possible. Her suffering is real, and she suffers with God. If we are going to honor our heavenly Father and Mother, this is something we should take seriously.
In the modern world, Mary continues to exercise her role in the passing on of the Gospel of suffering, written by the Redeemer and a rich source for all those who suffer with him and in his name. This Gospel of suffering was solemnly passed on to her from the lips of the Savior as she stood at the foot of the Cross “so that it could be proclaimed to the whole community of believers.” (6)
In my treatment of Mary’s mystical suffering, I will first begin with a treatment of God’s suffering.
Suffering Within the Holy Trinity
How could the Son of God “had he not from within the deepest precincts of eternal Triune life itself feltcompassion for human wretchedness—indeed, if he were not compassion itself—he would never have consented to become incarnate in a history covered with such pain and loss as ours routinely has been?” (7) The mystery of suffering within the mystery of the Trinity is outlined well by Ratzinger in “Behold the Pierced One”: “The Father suffers in allowing the Son to suffer, and the Spirit shares in the suffering, for Paul says that he groans within us, yearning in us and on our behalf for full redemption.” (8) Christ suffered. Christ is also God. And as Ratzinger points out, “suffering presupposes the ability to suffer, it presupposes the faculty of the emotions.” (9)
The metaphysics of God has long held that he is unchanging. My intention here is not to overturn the longstanding metaphysical tradition. That would both irrational and irresponsible. But perhaps our human wisdom falls somewhat short of divine wisdom and omnipotence. The Incarnation seems to be a change in God, yet it is harmonious with his unchanging nature. Suffering would also seem to indicate a change in God, yet suffering, too, is harmonious with his unchanging nature. Suffering does not compromise God’s omnipotence, but rather glorifies it, because suffering does not jeopardize it. His suffering also magnifies his radical freedom and love.
John Paul II notes in his 1980 encyclical Dives in Misericordia that God not only has hesed—describing God’s goodness and faithfulness to his covenantal commitments, and therefore to himself—but also rahamim. Rahamim speaks more of the love a mother has for her child (rehem means, in fact, mother’s womb).
Of this love one can say that it is completely gratuitous, not merited, and that in this aspect it constitutes an interior necessity: an exigency of the heart. It is, as it were, a “feminine” variation of the masculine fidelity to self expressed by hesed. Against this psychological background, rahamim generates a whole range of feelings, including goodness and tenderness, patience and understanding, that is, readiness to forgive (10).
God’s love is all-harmonious. God the Father’s motherly love is harmonious with his hesed. What is missing in metaphysics is a metaphysic of vulnerability. And it makes metaphysical sense as well. A person who loves another person with their whole being becomes vulnerable to the other. The lover becomes “at the mercy” of the beloved. When the beloved is predisposed to the good, the lover shares in the joy of the choice. When the beloved is predisposed to the evil, the lover shares in the wound of the choice. This is the greater love, because this involves self-donation, sacrifice, and unity. Now the metaphysical question then becomes: How can the vulnerable creature exhibit the transcendental in a better way than the Transcendent? How can the father of the prodigal son in his yearning for the son’s return express something greater than the Father.
Christ clearly demonstrates on Calvary the vulnerability of God. God is one. Could only the Second Person of the Trinity be capable of being wounded? I say no. For in the Trinity, there exists three distinct but co-equal divine persons of the same essence. How could only the Son experience suffering in the vulnerability of his love? How could the Father not suffer at the rejection of his Son? If God’s heart recoils within himself at the loss of Ephraim, (11) what of the sight of his grieved Son in Gethsemane? What of his Son on the Cross?
Transcendental Suffering—If God Can’t, Mary Can’t
For a creature to demonstrate a divine attribute to a greater degree than the Creator is a metaphysical absurdity. To suggest that there may be a choice of suffering in glory, we first must show that this is a capacity for God as well. It is our confession of faith that the Son is the perfect image of the Father. Yet the Son freely chose to lay down his life and suffer for our sins. This tells us a great deal about the Father. “Only if the Son is the Father’s perfect image, which in no way diminishes the brightness of the original, only then can he reveal the Father without alteration and loss.” (12) The Son as the Father’s perfect image teaches us about the Father in the Spirit. If the Father and the Son are one (Jn. 17:22), how can the Son suffer while the Father looks on without feeling every bit of it?
St. Athanasius teaches us the concept of homoousios—the Father and the Son are one in essence (13). Though the Father and Son are one in essence, this does not eliminate the distinction between their persons, nor does distinction in their persons eliminate the oneness of their essence (14).
To say that the Father suffers with the Son as the Son dies is not to enter into the patripassian heresy. The heresy “stemmed from modalism that did not sufficiently recognize the distinction among the persons in God. If there is only one divine person, the person who suffered on the Cross is as much Father as the Son.” (15) However, we do not say that the Father died. That would be absurd. One of the ways in which the person of the Father is distinct from the person of the Son is that the Father never became incarnate. Jesus is the only divine person who became incarnate. In taking on human nature, the Son could die, since death is the separation of body and soul. And die he did! It was not his nature that died. Natures don’t die; persons die. Rightly, it may be said that God died. Jesus is God. Jesus died. Therefore, God died. However, the Father is pure spirit. It may not be said that God the Father died. So, we do not enter into the patripassian heresy. In the Father’s oneness with the Son, the Father certainly experienced death because of the perfect unitive love contained within the Godhead. However, God the Father did not die. But he felt the death of his Son. “The Father dwells in his crucified Son, and this paternal presence must entail a sharing in all his sufferings.” (16)
Father Jean Galot, S.J., points out a profound connection between Jesus’ parents at the foot of the Cross: “In the visible countenance of Mary we can recognize an image of the invisible Father.” Suffering intimately with her Son, Mary acquires a far-reaching motherhood when Jesus says, “Woman, behold your son.” The Father, present in great intimacy with his Son, pours out his paternal love upon all in his painful childbirth. Says Galot, “The openness of Mary’s love, in the sacrifice of her Son, to a universal motherhood thus evokes the openness of the Father’s love to a universal fatherhood.” (17) In other words, the parents of Jesus, God the Father and the Mother of God, enter into a new universal parenthood as Christ becomes the firstborn among many brethren. (18)
This is integral to the topic at hand. If somehow Mary, by suffering with her suffering children, could express a greater love in heaven for creatures than God the Father can for his only-begotten Son, then I have certainly stumbled upon a new heresy. Some would say that if God the Father suffers, then he is no longer omnipotent, because suffering implies change. However, if God the Father does not suffer with his Son, he is lacking in love. God is love; and love in all its perfection is compassionate. Love is complete when it is vulnerable. Jesus is the world’s greatest lover because he subjects himself in compassion and vulnerability toward our miserable condition. He suffers with us. This loving characteristic is not different from the Father’s love. The persons of the Holy Trinity are co-equal. Jesus cannot be more loving than the Father. “The suffering of the Son is ultimately a Trinitarian experience … the Persons of the Godhead do not operate in isolation, surely.” (19)
Mary has been assumed into heaven. But now we see that she can suffer, because at least within the Godhead there is suffering in heaven due to sin. “He underwent our sufferings before he underwent the cross and before he took our flesh upon him, for if he had not already suffered he would not have entered on the course of human life.” (20)
Mary, as the divine spouse, has perfect creaturely compassion. She suffers because of her spousal unity with God. And, possessing a resurrected body, she suffers spiritually and physically. Certainly, Mary does not suffer by necessity. Suffering comes through some sort of privation. Mary is and always has been in communion with the divine will. The saints who have been brought into glory need suffer no longer. But the assumed Mother, body and soul in heaven, presents an altogether unique scenario. She is a mother whose children are in peril. But what mother could allow her children to suffer?
As St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort teaches us, “Mary is the sanctuary and repose of the Holy Trinity, where God dwells more magnificently and more divinely than in any other place in the universe.” (21) If Mary is God’s perfect dwelling, and God suffers at the loss of his children, Mary in her union with God will groan in travail with the Spirit.
Many may object that the notion of the Father suffering ventures into the realm of “process theology” and commits an error of anthropomorphism. But this is not a case of taking an experience and projecting it, but taking the witness of the Scriptures and Tradition and reflecting on it.
It’s not anthropomorphism to say that God suffers. Rather, it is anthropocentrism to say that only man and not God is capable of suffering. Suffering is not something restricted to man, but is experienced within persons. Demons, too, suffer with the damned of humanity at the eternal loss of God. Suffering, therefore, transcends humanity. To say that Christ suffered in his humanity but not his divinity separates the hypostatic union of Christ, contrary to the Chalcedonian formula.
My first argument is based on the same principles for which we have the Theotόkos dogma—the communication of idioms. The second corresponds to the inner nature of the Trinity.
The logic for this belief is as follows:
Jesus suffered. Jesus is God. Therefore, God himself suffered.
Jesus is the perfect image of the Father. The most widely known image we see of the Son is that of Christ enthroned on the Cross. The Father and the Son and the Spirit are one God in the Holy Trinity. Therefore, the suffering of Jesus is a Trinitarian experience.
The experience of suffering as such entails the experience of the disorder due to sin, whether it be spiritual or physical. Man was not created to suffer. Man was created for union with God. Therefore, to say that God suffers is not an anthropomorphism, but a right statement about the nature of love, which is vulnerable to the beloved. A bride is not an inconsequential thing. The New Jerusalem is the bride of Christ, his beloved. It would stand to reason, that if one called to be his bride rejects him, he would be affected by it. The Lamb was slain for the bride of the Lamb. He came to be slain. This was his will.
Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” (22) He reveals at the judgment just how much he is present in the experiences of his children. And this is the height of love—love to the point of identification. This is the love Jesus has for the Father, “I in thee.” This is the love the Father has for Jesus, “thou in me.” This is the love God has for his children, “I in them.” And this is the love Mary has for Jesus when the sword of sorrow pierces her heart, which has become one with Jesus’.
The Mother of God fits in with all of this because her Immaculate Heart dwells in Christ corporally in heaven. She suffers in heaven. She is the Mother of God, in whom the Spirit groans in travail. She is the perfect Temple of the Holy Spirit in whom God became Incarnate. She is Our Lady of Sorrows, who needs reparation because of the sadness of losing souls. She is the lover of the Lover. As lover, she has the interests of the Beloved first and foremost, to the point of identification. She feels the loss of each soul because she is the spiritual mother of all. She is the Mother of every man and every woman. When God’s children fall into hell, her children fall into hell. These are creatures that God created for eternal union, and not just creatures, but children, and not just children, but heirs of the throne. They freely reject her Son, and in rejecting her Son, they reject her as well, because she is one with the Son. Moreover, the witness of the saints shows that the more in communion one becomes with the Lord, the more one suffers. One need only look to the suffering in the lives of John Paul II, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Francis of Assisi and other stigmatics, and all the martyrs.
Universal Parenthood of Mary in the Son
Mary is rightly called spouse of Christ and spouse of the Holy Spirit. But I believe it may be added: she is also spouse of the Father, based on her shared universal parenthood with the Father. Granted, it seems a little strange that one who could rightly be called daughter of the Father could then be called spouse of the Father. But it is no less bizarre than the notion that the Mother of God is the spouse of her Son. The fact of the matter is, there is no known word to describe the profound love relationship that characterizes Mary’s relationship with each person of the Holy Trinity. Yet, only in her union with the will of the righteous Father does the mystery of her divine motherhood come to light. Could it be that the two parents of Jesus, God the Father, begetting him from all eternity, and Mary, whose womb bears the most blessed of all fruit, are somehow not espoused? Perhaps this is a question for greater theologians than myself. But how could the Son and Spirit be in a spousal relationship with the Queen while the Father, from whom the Son and Spirit proceed, is not part of such intimate union? She is the handmaid of the Lord. And her yes at the Annunciation may rightly be seen as the consummation of humanity and divinity. God makes a total gift of himself while Mary makes the offering on behalf of all humanity.
I believe that the relationship between the Heavenly Father and the Blessed Mother is seen in Joseph and Mary’s search for the divine child. When the Blessed Mother locates the Son after three days absence, she says to him, “Behold, your father and I have sought you sorrowing.” For Joseph and Mary, they experienced three days of pain, anguish, and agony at the loss of the divine Son. (23) For the Father and Mary, they search in pain, anguish, and agony for each of their children lost to sin. Mary feels the Father’s every concern for sinful man. She searches sorrowfully and diligently with him.
God Is Love
God is primarily a lover. He creates out of love. He holds creation in existence out of love. Love is his very essence. God is love. (24) “God never ceases to draw man to himself.” (25) He does this through his Cross. “I, when I am lifted up from the Earth, will draw all men to myself.” (26) Each man finds himself crucified on one side of Christ or the other. It is there that man makes his choice to revile or repent. God will not force himself on the soul. He cannot force his creatures to love him. That is contrary to love. Love by its nature is a gift.
Looking back on trials of rejection in my life, I am so thankful for the intensity of the suffering I felt when I have had true love to give. The misery of rejected love is such an intense suffering. I remembered those experiences later on when I rebelled against God, rejecting his love and choosing sin. I became able to sympathize with him. This is what God takes on, yet his love is eternal, and thus, his rejection becomes eternal. He loves more intensely than can be grasped by the human mind. If he is to be wed to his people, he earnestly awaits their confession of love. What torments does God the lover go through when spurned by his beloved? If he is spurned by his beloved, it’s not simply the loss of one of a great number, but one precious and unrepeatable one.
God remains faithful in his covenants. He loves with a personal love, unlike the other gods, Pope Benedict XVI says in the 2005 encyclical Deus Caritas Est. The Old Testament uses “boldly erotic images” in describing God’s passionate love for his people. Israel became guilty not merely of false worship and sin, but of “adultery and prostitution.” (27) Yet, even though Israel commits adultery and has incurred judgment and repudiation, God cannot give her up. He says, “My heart recoils within me, my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger, I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come to destroy.” (28) The pope goes on to explain, God’s passionate love for his people—for humanity—is at the same time a forgiving love. It is so great that it turns God against himself, his love against his justice. Here Christians can see a dim prefigurement of the mystery of the Cross: so great is God’s love for man that by becoming man he follows him even into death, and so reconciles justice and love (29).
Does this mean that all men will be saved? No. For those who don’t love and serve the Lord in this life will not in the next either. The Lord burns with love for all souls, but some souls burn their lamps dry before he comes. Those who saved their oil for the bridegroom enter the marriage feast, while those who do not remain outside. The bridegroom says to them, “Truly I say to you, I do not know you.” (30)
Jesus speaks of a soul’s final rejection to Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska, “The loss of each soul plunges Me into mortal sadness. You always console Me when you pray for sinners. The prayer most pleasing to Me is prayer for the conversion of sinners. Know, my daughter, that this prayer is always heard and answered.” (31)
We would do well to heed the messages of consolation heard in the apparitions of the past few centuries. At Akita, a voice spoke from a weeping statue of the Virgin Mary, “Many men in this world afflict the Lord. I desire souls to console him to soften the anger of the Heavenly Father. I wish, with my Son, for souls who will repair by their suffering and their poverty for the sinners and the ingrates.” She called on souls everywhere to pray, even in secular institutes. She concluded by urging people to “be faithful and fervent in prayer to console the Master.” (32)
Fatima is strong in its call for reparation. “Make of everything you can a sacrifice, and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which he is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners.” (33) Later, the children prayed with the Angel:
Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I offer you the most precious Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges, and indifference with which he himself is offended. And, through the infinite merits of his most Sacred Heart, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of you the conversion of poor sinners. (34)
After the prayer, the Angel of Peace directed the children toward the Eucharist, “Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Make reparation for their crimes and console your God” (35).
What sins horribly outrage the Lord? Sr. Lucia, in her commentary on the message of the angel, says they are insults and sacrileges, the indifference and ingratitude of unworthy communicants, those who insult and persecute him, and those who do not know him, those who know him and do not love him, and “Judases, who place their hand with him in the dish, after which they go off and betray him in exchange for their own condemnation.” (36)
Mary, at Medjugorje, invokes reflection upon the suffering Lord. On March 29, 1984, she says, “Ponder how the Almighty is still suffering today because of your sins.” The following week, she said, “Make an atonement for the wounds inflicted upon the Heart of my Son. That Heart has been offended with all sorts of sins.” (37)
Various Apparitions and an Eye into the Mother’s Suffering
In addition to the Fatima message quoted above, the Blessed Mother has appeared numerous times to reveal the pierced heart that so loves her children.
In La Salette, France, in September 1846, the Blessed Mother appeared to 11-year-old Maximin Giraud and 14-year-old Melanie Mathieu. France at that time was enduring a period of dramatic change and revolution. A cultural shift proved hostile towards traditional beliefs. Intellectual attacks were being waged against the nature of man and against Christianity. Fewer and fewer people in France attended Sunday Mass. It was in this setting that the Blessed Mother appeared to convey the message that the people’s sins—particularly violation of the Sabbath and the taking of the Lord’s name in vain—were making the arm of the Lord heavy upon her. (38) “For how long a time do I suffer for you! If I would not have my Son abandon you, I am compelled to pray to him without ceasing; and as to you, you take no heed of it. However much you pray, however much you do, you will never recompense the pains I have taken for you.” (39)
On February 21, 1858, in the sixth apparition of the Blessed Mother to St. Bernadette at Lourdes, Bernadette speaks of how the Lady’s joyous face fell and became sad. Two tears fell from her eyes and rolled down her cheeks. When Bernadette asked her what had caused her sadness, Our Lady simply responded, “Pray for the sinners.” (40)
In an early encounter with the Blessed Mother, St. Faustina, filled with joy, asked the Blessed Mother if she knew how terribly the young sister was suffering. The Mother of God responded, “I know how much you suffer, but do not be afraid. I share with you your suffering, and I shall always do so.” (41)
On the first Friday in September of 1936, a few years before the Nazi invasion of Poland, Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska recounts in her diary a vision of Mary’s sufferings:
In the evening, I saw the Mother of God, with her breast bared and pierced with a sword. She was shedding bitter tears and shielding us against God’s terrible punishment. God wants to inflict terrible punishment on us, but he cannot because the Mother of God is shielding us. Horrible fear seized my soul. I kept praying incessantly for Poland, for my dear Poland, which is so lacking in gratitude for the Mother of God. If it were not for the Mother of God, all our efforts would be of little use. (42)
The Blessed Mother, under the title of the Lady of All Nations, appeared to visionary Ida Peerdeman 56 times from 1945 through 1959 in Amsterdam. During this series of apparitions, the Blessed Mother revealed the depths of her mystical suffering. In May of 1949, the Lady appears with tears streaming down her cheeks “clad in mourning.” A body slides down from a crucifix revealing a bare cross. She says, “The way of the Cross begins anew.” (43)
In many of the visions in 1951 the Lady is seen standing in front of a large Cross. When she steps aside, Peerdeman is thrown into excruciating pain. The Lady steps back in front of the Cross and says on one occasion, “My child, just as he suffered, so did I suffer as the Mother of the Son of Man.” In another vision, when the Lady steps back in front of the Cross, she begins to writhe in agony and weep in “indescribable sorrow.” In another, she collapses beneath the Cross, weeping bitterly as a sword is thrust into her heart. “In the sufferings, both spiritual and bodily,” she says, “the Lady, the Mother has shared. As soon as the Father had elected her, she was the Co-redemptrix with the Redeemer, who came into the world as the Man-God.” (44)
In Akita, Japan, where a statue of the Blessed Mother wept 101 times, a guardian angel spoke to Sister Agnes Sasagawa in 1975, saying, “Do not be so surprised to see the Blessed Virgin weeping. She weeps because she wishes the conversion of the greatest number; she desires that souls be consecrated to Jesus and to the Father by her intercession.” The angel went on to say that the Mother of God took great delight in Japan’s consecration to her Immaculate Heart because of her love for the nation. Nevertheless, “she is sad to see that this devotion is not taken seriously.” (45)
In Medjugorje, on November 6, 1983, the Blessed Mother speaks about her suffering to the visionary Jelena. Total and complete conversion and renunciation of sin would come from knowledge of Mary’s sufferings. “Consider how sinful the world is today,” she says, “how many have tepid faith and do not listen to Jesus. If you only knew what I go through, you would never sin again.” (46)
On April 14, 1984, she says, “Dear children! Sympathize with me. Pray, pray, pray.” This bears witness to “the suffering experienced by Mary through a lack of prayer and penance.” (47)
These are a sampling of the spiritual signs that point to a mystical suffering of the great Mother of God in heaven. Father Teiji Yasuda, an eyewitness to the Akita lachrymations, explains the mystical suffering of Mary within her mediation of all grace. Because the applications of the effects of Christ’s Paschal Sacrifice continue until the Second Coming, she continues to mediate all grace through her intercession.
Amidst this mystical and real process of the joint distribution of all graces, Jesus and Our Holy Mother are jointly struggling against Satan to help believers courageously join in the subjective redemption, or the application of the effects of Christ’s sacrifice. Because of this mystical struggle with Satan—where the eternal lives of souls are at stake—one can affirm that our heavenly Mother is still offering up her mystical pains of childbearing for us, all believers, while acting as an instrument of graces to sanctify us (48).
Yasuda’s insight is most valuable, especially as an eyewitness. She suffers in virtue of her universal mediation. How could the Blessed Mother truly be a mother to the Church and not suffer with her lost children? How could the Mother of All Peoples not suffer grievously as 46,000,000 babies are aborted every year worldwide? (49) How could she not shed countless tears for her innocent children, whose blood cries to heaven for vengeance, and for their transgressors, also her children? What bride would not share in the sorrows of her spouse? Mary’s heart is so one with God’s that the lance thrust into Christ’s side becomes the sword that pierces her own heart. (50) God calls all human beings into existence to share a life of love with them. He loves them and pursues them, constantly drawing man to himself. When he is rejected he is plunged into mortal anguish, St. Faustina says. What of the spouse?
Mary is our mother in the order of grace, the Second Vatican Council professes in its Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium. (51) This motherhood began at the Annunciation, continues through Calvary, and “lasts until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this salvific duty, but by her constant intercession continued to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation.” (52) If the Blessed Virgin’s intercession were not constant, we know that the Lord’s mighty arm would have come crashing down on France before the apparitions at La Salette.
Reparation to Our Lady of Sorrows—a Response of the Loving Faithful
Lex orandi, lex credendi—the Church prays what she believes. Believers have been making reparation to the Immaculate Heart since Fatima. The Blessed Mother’s striking words about her heart that is pierced “at every moment” have such an impact. She goes on to say,
You at least try to console me, and say that I promise to assist at the hour of death, with the graces necessary for salvation, all those who on the first Saturday of five consecutive months, shall confess, receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary, and keep me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me. (53)
Granted, there are twenty mysteries now. Perhaps our trying times merit another five minutes with Our Lady. We see clearly from our Mother’s message that she is being motherly—she wants gratitude for what she has done for her children. She seeks peace in her family and seeks it with her whole heart. One may feel a great deal of shame before the words of the divine child in that message. Her heart is pierced with thorns by ungrateful men, and the child says, “and there is no one to make an act of reparation to remove them.” (54)
We are the gifts of thanks to the Blessed Mother for her suffering with the Lord at Calvary.
Now, through our acts of compassion, we make loving reparation to our Blessed Mother.
Father Frederick Faber explains: “We may venture to read in our Lord’s words a loving intent to have reparation made to Mary for her Compassion, just as her Compassion was the grand reparation of his Passion. By inspiring saints and religious orders with this devotion, and sending forth his mighty grace and efficacious blessing to accompany it, he repays her for the beautiful reparation of her Compassion” (55).
Faber goes on to say that, as the cause of Mary’s suffering, we are duty-bound to have devotion toward the sorrows of Mary, who suffered for our good and by our evil. “There is no expression of our love more fitting, and indeed more imperative upon us, than compassion with her Compassion” (56).
It seems that there is a massive obstacle: We must have ecumenism as a goal. Perhaps ecumenism itself isn’t the obstacle, but rather those who seek to diminish some truths in the hopes of finding common ground with non-Christians and other Christians. But we can no longer allow it to obscure the truths of Our Lady of Sorrows, who is pierced “at every moment.” It seems as if even many Catholics, because of concerns regarding ecumenism, have turned away from a relationship with their heavenly mother.
John Saward highlights a quote from Balthasar worth mentioning:
Without Mariology, Christianity threatens imperceptibly to become inhuman. The Church becomes functionalistic, soulless, a hectic enterprise without any point of rest, estranged from its true nature by the planners. And, because in this manly-masculine world, all that we have is one ideology replacing another, everything becomes polemical, critical, bitter, humorless, and ultimately boring, and people in their masses run away from such a Church. (57)
Christian culture thrives where devotion to the Blessed Mother thrives. When devotion dies, so, too, does culture. (58) This is very evident around the nation. Where Marian devotion thrives, art fills thriving churches, which echo with sacred music. Where the Mother has been forgotten, art and music depart from the sanctuary—and frequently, so too does the Son. “There can be no Christian culture without Christ. But without true devotion to the Mother, true faith in the Son soon withers.” (59) How could it be ecumenical to be aware of this danger and not present the Mother to our separated brethren?
We owe her proper recognition for what she has endured for our salvation. As she told Maximin and Melanie, no matter what, we will never be able to repay her for her gift. This is true of all motherhood. We can’t repay our human mothers for carrying us for nine months, bringing us forth in pain, raising us, sacrificing for us, disciplining us, and so forth. Mary’s universal motherhood is the same. When will our resistance to our loving Mother end? She intercedes constantly, yet there is no one to make an act of reparation to remove her thorns. How many more thorns are there now than in 1925?
One of the best models for this life of reparation may be found in Blessed Jacinta of Fatima. She ardently pursued opportunities to offer sacrifices for the conversion of sinners. Her thirst for making sacrifices was “insatiable.” Once, when the three children were thrown into prison in Portugal, Jacinta cried as tears flowed down her cheeks. She felt abandoned by her parents. After her brother Francisco suggested offering it up, she raised her eyes and hands and said, “O my Jesus, this is for love of you, and for the conversion of sinners. And also for the Holy Father, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” (60)
The mystical sufferings of Mary, confirmed many times throughout the visions and saints of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, bring a new awareness and urgency to our situation. Can it be so hard to make an act of reparation for she who loves us so much? We would do well to follow the example of Blessed Jacinta and the other Fatima children, who made their lives offerings of reparation and found countless little ways to console their God and their Mother.
The divine child reveals something that should disturb us all. We have forgotten the birth-pangs of our Mother. “If you only knew what I go through you would never sin again,” she says. Perhaps we should take her word for it.
(1) Eudes, St. John, The Admirable Heart of Mary (Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire: Loreto Publications, 2006), 106.
(2) Rev. 21:4.
(3) Rev. 21:1, 7.
(4) Miravalle, Dr. Mark M., Introduction to Mary: The Heart of Marian Doctrine and Devotion (Goleta, California: Queenship Publishing, 2006), 200.
(5) Introduction to Mary, 200-201.
(6) Salvifici Doloris, John Paul II, February 11, 1984.
(7) Martin, Regis, Suffering of Love: Christ’s Descent into the Hell of Human Hopelessness (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 67.
(8) Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal, Behold the Pierced One (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 58.
(9) Ratzinger, 57.
(10) Dives in Misericordia, Pope John Paul II, November 30, 1980.
(11) Hos. 11:8
(12) Schönborn, O.P., Christoph Cardinal, God’s Human Face: The Christ-Icon (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994), 13.
(13) Schönborn, 14.
(14) Schönborn, 17.
(15) Galot, Fr. Jean, S.J., Abba Father: We Long to See Your Face: Theological Insights into the First Person of the Trinity (New York: Alba House, 1992), 138.
(16) Galot, 139.
(17) Galot, 142.
(18) Rom. 8:29
(19) Martin, 68.
(20) Von Balthasar, Hans Urs, A Theological Anthropology (New York: Sheed and Ward, Inc., 1967), 278.
(21) De Montfort, St. Louis-Marie Grignion, True Devotion to Mary (Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1941), 4.
(22) Mt. 25:31ff.
(23) Manelli, F.I., Fr. Stefano M., All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed: Biblical Mariology (New Bedford, Massachusetts: Academy of the Immaculate, 2005), 318-319.
(24) 1 Jn. 4:16.
(25) Catechism of the Catholic Church, 27.
(26) Jn. 12:32.
(27) Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI, December 25, 2005.
(28) Hos. 11:8-9
(29) Deus Caritas Est, 10.
(30) Mt. 25:1-13
(31) Kowalska, St. Maria Faustina, Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul (Stockbridge, Massachusetts: Marian Press, 2005), 497-498.
(32) Yasuda, O.S.V., Fr. Teiji, Akita: The Tears and Message of Mary (Asbury, New Jersey: 101 Foundation, Inc., 1989), 195-196.
(33) Miravalle, Dr. Mark M., The Message of Medjugorje: The Marian Message to the Modern World (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1986), 110-111.
(34) The Message of Medjugorje, 111.
(35) Sister Lucia of Fatima, “Calls” from the Message of Fatima (Still River, Massachusetts: The Ravengate Press, 2000), 110.
(36) “Calls” from the Message of Fatima, 114.
(37) Miravalle, Dr. Mark M., Introduction to Medjugorje (Goleta, California: Queenship
Publishing, 2004), 150.
(38) Kennedy, Msgr. John S., “The Lady in Tears,” Delaney, John J., Ed., A Woman Clothed with the Sun: Eight Great Appearances of Our Lady in Modern Times (Garden City, New York: Image Books, 1960), 90-94.
(39) O’Reilly, M.S., James P., The Story of La Salette: Mary’s Apparition, Its History and Sequels (Chicago: J.S. Paluch Co., Inc., 1953), 26.
(40) The Message of Medjugorje, 105.
(41) Kowalska, 15.
(42) Kowalska, 281-282.
(43) Kunzli, Josef, Ed., The Messages of the Lady of All Nations (Santa Barbara, California: Queenship Publishing, 1996), 19.
(44) Kunzli, 44-47, 50, 55.
(45) Akita: The Tears and Message of Mary, 130.
(46) The Message of Medjugorje, 123 (emphasis mine).
(47) The Message of Medjugorje, 123 (emphasis mine).
(48) Yasuda, S.V.D., Fr. Thomas Teiji., “The Message of Mary Coredemptrix at Akita and its Complementarity with the Dogma Movement,” Miravalle, Dr. Mark M. Ed., Contemporary Insights on a Fifth Marian Dogma: Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate: Theological Foundations III (Goleta, California: Queenship Publishing, 2000), 246.
(49) According to World Health Organization data from 2002. That is nearly 90 abortions every minute.
(50) Manelli, 367.
(51) Lumen Gentium, 61.
(52) Lumen Gentium, 62.
(53) Introduction to Mary, 200-201.
(54) Introduction to Mary, 200.
(55) Faber, D.D., Frederick William, The Foot of the Cross: or the Sorrows of Mary (Philadelphia: The Peter Reilly Co., 1956), 395.
(56) Faber, 399.
(57) Saward, John, The Beauty of Holiness and the Holiness of Beauty: Art, Sanctity and the Truth of Catholicism (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997), 150.
(58) Saward, 144.
(59) Saward, 144.
(60) Sister Lucia of Fatima, “I Want to Suffer for the Conversion of Sinners”: The Life of Blessed Jacinta, Saturday, 24 March, 2007 (http://motherofallpeoples.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id =698&Itemid=82&limit=1&limitstart=1).