September holds two very special feasts to our Blessed Mother. Last week, on September 8, we celebrated her birthday. St. Peter’s went all out at Mass that day with hymns, flowers and even a cake and candles presented at the altar. It was a joyous occasion with the atmosphere of a family celebration. Exactly one week later, however, we turn from the celebration of a birthday to remembering her Seven Sorrows. The Church sets aside tomorrow, September 15 for the feast of the Sorrowful Mother. Joy to sorrow; celebration to suffering. That is the life of a mother!
Reflecting on the birthday, and then, sorrows of our Blessed Mother brings to mind my own daughter. Ironically, it was in September a year ago that, just four months after celebrating the birth of her firstborn daughter, Brooke heard a diagnosis of leukemia for her tiny baby Clara. She went from the joys of new birth and hopeful anticipation to overwhelming sorrow. She was about to walk a path hand in hand with the Sorrowful Mother. Clara did endure days in intensive care, chemotherapy, surgeries, needles, drugs and tube feedings and ultimately, a bone marrow transplant. Mom suffered by her side through months of sleep deprivation in the hospital, isolation from the outside world, medical emergencies and returns to the PICU, watching her child endure pain and suffering. As a mother, I know Brooke actually gave very little thought to her own suffering as her heart turned to the child she loves so deeply, just as our Lady stood by the cross willingly enduring the passion of her Son in her own Immaculate Heart. A mother’s heart is always for her child.
Today, one year later, little Clara is at home. She has just recently learned to walk and to eat on her own again. Her medication list is still tremendous but is shrinking weekly and she continues to be in remission thanks to the sacrifice of an anonymous 18 year-old blood marrow donor. Life holds great promise again and Brooke is beginning to look to the future with hope as Clara’s baby sister is due the day before Thanksgiving. Brooke couldn’t know how things would turn out when the doctors told her of Clara’s cancer last September, but I know she would have suffered by her side through anything regardless. That is what love does. I also know the Sorrowful Mother was standing alongside her daughter Brooke through it all as well.
Joy to sorrow to joy again. The heart of a mother has to be the most resilient treasure God places in a human being. Sorrowful Mary endured the Via Dolorosa with her Son all the way to Calvary. Her grief would turn to joy days later at the Resurrection. As Clara’s grandmother, I hold onto hope that we are viewing a resurrected Clara who will be with us for a long, long time. Christians are Resurrection People – we always have reason to hope in the midst of suffering.
Happy Birthday, Mary! Thank you, Sorrowful Mother!
The Seven Sorrows of Mary: http://www.7dolors.com/sevendolors.htm
Mary’s Way of the Cross: http://www.2heartsnetwork.org/MarysWay.htm