Today I just wanted to put together some quick thoughts about why devotion to the Seven Sorrows of our Lady is helpful for men as well.
First, there were men supporting Our Lady at every single one of the sorrows. It follows that she would call men to continue to support her now as well. The world certainly feels like we’re preparing for battle, and men have always been on the front lines.
St Joseph of course, experienced the first three sorrows right along with Mary. Even before the first sorrow, it was Joseph’s responsibility to provide and protect Mary as they searched for lodging in Bethlehem. Then Joseph too heard the heavenly choirs praising the Baby Jesus and witnessed the humble adoration of the shepherds. While scripture directly states that Mary kept many things in her heart, it doesn’t take much to realize that much would have been going on in Joseph’s heart as well.
Being a holy man, Joseph must have been keenly aware of the divinity of the Babe and the sanctity of his wife. Such pressure to protect them. And then, on what should have been a joyous day, the presentation of the Babe in the temple is disturbingly overshadowed by Simeon’s dark prophecy.
Did Joseph feel a jolt when Mary was told that a sword would pierce her heart? Did he notice some outward sign of distress flash across her face? Even if she quickly collected herself, this would have caused him such distress to see her suffer. Is there much worse for a man than to feel helpless to alleviate the suffering of someone whom he loves?
Did Joseph feel an anxiety of anticipation? Would he be there when Our Lady’s heart would be pierced? Would he know what to do? Would he be able to minimize the pain? The feelings any husband or father would have hoping to spare their family and loved ones. Ah! The immense responsibility to care for Our Lady and Jesus was continually escalating!
In the second sorrow, when they already had the burden of the prophecy, Joseph was instructed by the angel to flee to a heathen land with his family. Father Faber explicitly details how it grieved Joseph to bring this additional sorrow to Mary. Imagine how it is today for a husband to come home to tell his wife that he’s lost his job, or they must move? Or maybe they receive terrible medical news about a child?
While Joseph had to take his holy family and physically flee to a foreign land, so many men today are forced “to flee” the culture with their families while still having to exist in it. How difficult it is to navigate the heathen land of corporations and workplaces that would like to sack them because they hold a biblical worldview. The struggle for men to balance how to provide for those around them in both temporal and spiritual ways cannot be understated.
Try to imagine in the third sorrow when Mary and Joseph suddenly lock eyes in realization that Jesus is gone! Poor Joseph. Again, he must have felt immense responsibility to solve the problem while trying to reassure Mary. As our world and culture continue to turn inside out and upside down, the pressure on men is immense to stay two steps ahead of the accelerating pitfalls that threatened to derail families.
Finally, in the 4th through 7th sorrows where St Joseph is no longer present, other men were called to step up and protect our Blessed Mother who in this case I believe also represents our church.
Even before our Lord officially instructed St John to take care of His mother as John’s own, he was the only apostle at her side throughout the entire Passion. He was the one that got her close enough to say a last goodbye to her Son. He supported her through the entire three hours of the Crucifixion.
Then, John, Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus saw what had to be done because of their faith in Christ. Likewise, holy men today are often called to care for more than just their immediate families. Faithful men everywhere are networking to support and nurture other men and protect the church. This may mean mentoring young men in the ways of righteousness.
So yes, this devotion draws us to consider and experience Our Blessed Mother’s sorrowful heart, but it reminds us that she was not alone. The men of the early church, as well as the current Christian soldiers, are crucial to this battle.