Dear Friends in Christ,
The season of Lent is upon us. The Church, in her wisdom, sets aside 40 days to draw our attention back to the purpose of our lives here on earth. Prayer, fasting, and alms giving are the antidotes to our many faults and failings, to those aspects of our lives that need to be cleansed in the Lord's grace.
Prayer draws us into a deeper conversion and renewal of heart, which helps us to live more fully the promises made at our baptism. Fasting strengthens our skills of self denial. Giving alms, either materially or in the form of acts of kindness and compassion are tools used to spread the light of Christ to others.
Lent is that fresh encounter with the Lord where we recall His great mercy and love for each and everyone of us, that God sent His only begotten Son, born of the Virgin, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to save us from our sins. It was for mankind that Christ walked up the hill to Calvary and embraced the cross. St. Louis deMontfort tells us that "in the bosom of His Father" Christ chose the cross, and He renewed this choice "in Mary's womb".... "all his pursuits, all his desires were directed toward the cross." (LEW 170)
In the mysteries of Christ, Mary is always present; "together with the Father, the Son has chosen her, entrusting her eternally to the Spirit of holiness" (Pope John Paul II, RM 8) Then on the Cross, Christ gave her to us in the person of St. John: "Woman, behold your son!" (Jn 19:26) thus revealing her mission and maternal vocation.
Mary, through the goodness of God, is "the inseparable companion of the Holy Spirit in all the works of grace" (TD 90) "When the Holy Spirit ...finds Mary in a soul, He hastens there." (TD 36) Contemplating Mary's seven sorrows, we can see the fruits of the Holy Spirit lived out in her cooperation with Christ for our salvation. Therein we can find ample fruit for our Lenten journey.
Mary's Sorrows and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit
First Sorrow: The Prophecy of Simeon corresponding to the gift of Fear of the Lord. Fear of the Lord is a reverential obedience performed out of love and because of love. Mary in this sorrow is reminded of her sorrowful vocation: "a sword shall pierce thy heart". Although she did not know exactly what that entailed, she nevertheless, embraced the will of God out of her love for the Lord, knowing that she was His handmaid, and had freely given her consent. This gift of the Holy Spirit sees her through the difficulties that lay ahead.
The Second Sorrow: The Flight into Egypt corresponding to the gift of Piety. Piety is meekness, a profound confidence in God, a tenderness toward God expressed in prayer. Mary exercised this gift of the Holy Spirit by fulfilling her duties toward Joseph and Jesus in a foreign land, trusting in the providence of our Almighty Father.
The Third Sorrow: The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple corresponding to the gift of Knowledge. This gift helps us to know the value of creatures in relation to the Creator. To see in all things the manifestations of the Truth, Beauty, and Infinite Goodness of God. Mary keenly felt sorrow when Christ remained behind in the temple, because she had knowledge of His identity as the Son of God.
The Fourth Sorrow: Mary Meets Jesus on the Way to Calvary corresponding to the gift of Fortitude. This gift is a supernatural impulse giving strength to the soul; not only in cases like martyrdom, but in the normal difficulties of life as well. It enables us to stand strong and decisive on the path of truth. Mary found strength in this gift of the Spirit to meet, console and stand steadfast with her Son as He walked the sorrowful way of the Cross.
The Fifth Sorrow: Jesus Dies on the Cross corresponding to the gift of Counsel. Counsel is the gift of the Holy Spirit that enlightens our conscience in moral choices which are presented in our daily lives. Mary who stood courageously at the foot of the Cross is the spiritual guide and counselor for all who seek her crucified Son.
The Sixth Sorrow: Mary Receives the Body of Jesus in Her Arms corresponding to the gift of Understanding. This gift opens the heart to the joyous understanding of God's plan. As Mary holds the dead body of her Son, she perceives His coming resurrection.
The Seventh Sorrow: The Body of Jesus is Placed in the Tomb corresponding to Wisdom. Wisdom is the greatest of the gifts. It is a special sharing in that highest knowledge which is God Himself. To see as God sees, to understand as God understands. In this sorrow of Mary, Christ is hidden but her soul continues to see Christ and communicate with Him, because she is permeated with light from the Holy Spirit.