Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Our Lady of Sorrows

I’m currently reading Cathy Adamkiewicz beautiful book Broken and Blessed. It tells the poignant and hopeful story of Cathy's baby Celeste, a child born to suffer, to die, and in doing so, to touch and transform the lives of countless people.

I’ve been highlighting some of my favorite passages and this one stood out in my mind:

I recalled that Jesus had given me His own mother at the foot of the cross. "Then He said to the disciple, 'Here is your mother.'" Jesus spoke not only to John, but to me, and Celeste. I left Celeste in Mary’s care, knowing that she was a better morther than I could ever hope to be.

Hopefully, most of us won’t have to watch an infant or any child of ours die, but we will all witness our children suffer. Our babies sometimes writhe in pain and cry uncontrollably despite being held closely in our arms. Our toddlers fall and get cuts and scrapes and other boo-boos that require a feel-better kiss. Older children get teased and hurt emotionally. They get rejected when they audition for plays or try out for sports teams. We’ll also likely see our kids suffer bigger pains like broken hearts, missed job opportunities, or even serious sicknesses.

I can still remember the time I lost the student council election for class president when I was in the eighth grade. I’d poured so much time and thought into my campaign. My supporters and I had passed out notecards with packages of Smarties Candies taped onto them that said, “Be a smarty and vote Kate for president.” I gave a speech that was broadcast to every classroom in the school where I opened with humor, borrowing a phrase from the first President Bush.

“Read my lips. No more homework,” I said and then admitted that while I couldn’t keep promises like that, I was going to stand for positive changes and improvements. (I was an idealist even back then. I can’t recall exactly what I thought I could do as an eigth grader to change the school, but I was sincere.) Lots of people told me I would win by a landslide, so imagine my shock when they announced the name of the middle school new president and it was not my own.

I did my best to fight back the tears and to be gracious to my competitor, but when my mom picked me up from school that day, I immediately fell into her arms and burst into tears. She gave me lots of hugs and encouragement that night. She allowed me to cry endlessly in her embrace. Later I would suffer greater sorrows and she was always there to hold me and to wipe away my tears.

Since I’ve become a mother, she has told me that seeing your children hurt is far worse than enduring your own pain. It is visceral. We have instincts to protect our babies and when we can't, it hurts. Badly.

I can’t imagine the pain Mary endured watching her son be tortured and nailed to a cross for a crime he didn’t commit. She is the Mother of Sorrows, but she's also the Mother of Consolation.

As Cathy reminded me in her book, she’s here for us not only when we are hurting but also when we have to helplessly watch our children suffer. Jesus gave his Mother to us when he died on the cross. We can release our children into her care and know that they are in very loving, faithful and healing arms.