Is Sorrow Always a Bad Thing?

Like a window in a room, sorrow opens new horizons to one’s soul. A windowless room is safe, secure, but also stuffy. Add a window to such a room and new horizons open up. A window mediates light, reveals beauty, and inspires wonder. Sorrow can do the same.

The sorrow that accompanies life’s sufferings mediates the light of God’s wisdom when it is united to the wisdom of the cross. It reveals beauty, that is, the beauty of true love, tested by the fires of trial and surrender. And yet sorrow also inspires wonder; wonder at the mystery and mercy of God’s love for man. Sorrow itself is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be a good thing if it is placed under the light of the Cross. Otherwise, it has no meaning.

Mary’s sorrow is the window through which we can peer into the depths of a perfect love of Jesus Christ. Never has there been such sorrow as her sorrow, for never has there been a love for Christ like her love for Christ.

In honoring her as Our Sorrowful Mother, today, we should not only take the opportunity in prayer and meditation to learn from her how to bear our sorrow and sufferings well, but also and more importantly how to love Christ more perfectly. Mary did not carry her sorrow in vain. She carried it with Christ.

Life’s sorrows—which we can also refer to as sufferings—are bound to sin. God allows us to suffer not only in punishment for our sins, but also as an opportunity for “rebuilding [the] goodness” lost by our sins.[1] Jesus and Mary were no exceptions. There is, however, an exception when it comes to Jesus and Mary’s suffering. They did not repent/repair on account of their own sins—Jesus being sinless on account of His Divinity and Mary on account of God’s special gift of grace—but account of our sins. Their suffering was truly redemptive suffering on account of their perfect love. In Mary’s case it was love for Christ that redeemed her sorrow. Her love for Him both drew her up into the mystery of suffering and gave meaning to its seemingly meaningless reality.

For as Saint John Paul II taught us, not only is God’s love “the definitive source of everything that exists”, but it is “also the fullest source of the answer to the question of the meaning of suffering.”[2] This is what we need to learn from Mary. This is how we must “marianize” the meaning of suffering and sorrow in our own life. We must root it in the love of Christ to give a Christian and Marian value to our suffering.

To help us do so, we can take as our model the Jesuit martyr Blessed Miguel Agustín Pro. He is a modern “marianizer”. Preserved among his writings is a prayer he wrote to Our Blessed Mother 10 days before his martyrdom. In that prayer he shows us how to love Jesus in Mary perfectly, by loving them even in the midst of sorrow. To love Jesus in Mary is easy when all is joy and bliss. True lovers are revealed by their willingness to love when everything is just the opposite: dry, bitter, trying, and bleak.

Pro writes,

My Mother, let me spend my days at your side,
accompanying you in your bitter loneliness and profound sorrow.
Let my soul feel your heart’s helplessness and the sad crying of your eyes.

In my life’s journey, I do not want to taste Bethlehem’s joys,
adoring the Child Jesus in your virginal arms;
I do not want to bask in the delight of Jesus’s lovable presence
In the little house of Nazareth;
I do not want to accompany you in your glorious Assumption among the choirs of Angels.

In my life, I want the ridicule and mockery of Calvary,
I want your Son’s slow agony,
the contempt, the ignominy, the infamy of the cross;

I want to stand at your side O Most Sorrowful Virgin,
strengthening my spirit with your tears,
consummating my sacrifice with your martyrdom,
bolstering my heart with your loneliness,
loving my God and your God with the immolation of my being.

Let us go forward today “marianizing” our lives according to the mystery of Her Sorrowful heart. Let us stand at her side, as she stands at the foot of the Cross.

[1] Saint John Paul II, Salvifici Doloris, 12.

[2] Ibid, 13.