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Why A Seven Sorrows Rosary?

Seven Sorrows

In this blog post, I want to explain what led me to create A Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady.  I am certain that I was supposed to complete this task as the book is selling consistently without any advertising.  I hope Father Faber is pleased looking down from heaven as he and I both know that I could not have done this without his unique insights into the Blessed Mother’s sorrows.  He has been my teacher, and I want to use my training as a teacher, to share his lessons with you.

Throughout my journey as a Catholic, I was aware of Our Lady of Sorrows, however it wasn’t until a priest of mine did a sermon on Father Faber’s book, The Foot of the Cross, that I began to search out more information on this devotion.

My Own Loss

I too was a mother who had lost a child, a very young child, but I wasn’t quite ready to tackle Father Faber’s 450-page book. But I did find a pamphlet on the Seven Sorrows that I purchased because of a single statement on the first page. It said, “There is a word for a woman who loses her husband – a widow, and there is a word for a child who loses his or her parents – an orphan, but there is no word for a mother who loses her child.”  That jabbed at my heart!

I bought the pamphlet immediately being sure that this would contain the enlightened words that would help me make sense of the loss of our little boy Martín. Sadly, beyond that one line, the pamphlet held nothing for me and left me again, searching.

I mused on my own for a while and was able to take particular events from my son’s short life and align them to Our Lady’s sorrows. I could relate the shock of the moment when we were told our four-month-old baby boy had liver cancer to Simeon’s prophecy to the young mother Mary. I knew our bewildering nighttime drive from San Diego to the UCLA Medical Center to receive Martín’s first liver transplant fit with the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt. I too had cried all the way knowing that somewhere a mother was mourning that night so that my child could live. But I began to question whether or not I should be doing this. No matter how great my loss, nothing could be as great as losing God himself.  

Fortunately, the priest I had heard preached again on our Blessed Mother’s sorrows in which he quoted Father Faber again. That did it.  I finally bought the book and began to devour it- albeit not that quickly as every page was so deep, so dense, so multifaceted, that I would often read a paragraph or two and have to stop. Those few words could sometimes be enough to spark an extended time of fruitful meditation. Everything Father Faber wrote was so rich that I was afraid to read too much in one sitting for fear I wouldn’t be able to absorb and retain it all.

It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but I think it took me 3 years to get through the entire book and not because I was setting it aside, but because I was reading it that thoroughly. I highlighted probably a hundred “favorite” lines, made notes in the margins.  It was my constant companion at holy hour.

Coming to Terms

The book led me to come to terms with our son’s death, and ironically, to be able to look back over the four-year struggle and acknowledge God’s presence and support through it all.  My husband and I would “secretly” talk about the beauty of some events we shared with Martín, knowing full well that outside of devout Catholics, few people could understand.   I’ll relate more details about these spiritual milestones in later post.

Father Faber also introduced me to the martyrdom of Mary, which I will never fully grasp in this lifetime, but I do feel he gave me an opportunity to begin to understand it.  So, what then prompted me to try to compile this rosary meditation?

Overcoming Spiritual Blahs

During a time of prolonged spiritual dryness, I admitted to my confessor that I was just plain blah. I didn’t want to pray, I was too tired to pray, and I was worried because I knew it was one thing to be dry, but another to altogether give up on my daily prayer life. He counseled me to go back and read something that had uplifted my spirit and had really brought me into meditation, so I went back to The Foot of the Cross, of course forgetting that I am always “there.”

I picked it up and started reading impatiently.  I couldn’t even start back at page one. I went directly to the many dog-eared pages and highlighted lines desperate to quickly recapture my original experience of being in the desert or wanting to be with Magdalen gently receiving our Lord’s feet as He was brought down from the Cross, and of course next to Mary, as our Lord was laid in His crushed, but not broken, mother’s arms.

Making Father Faber Portable & Accessible

Father Faber, Portrait. 1814-1863
Father Faber 1814-1863

Then I realized that if I could carefully choose choice lines that bring the Sorrows to life and arrange them into a text-based rosary, The Foot of the Cross could easily be available to travel anywhere. This was not an easy task as there were so many favorite details of mine from each of the seven Dolors. It was so hard to choose, so hard to select only 7 lines per mystery!   I deliberately tried to pick the most emotionally impactful lines, the ones that I felt both told the story, and at the same time explained the spirituality of Our Lady’s Sorrows which is such a large part of Father Faber’s teaching.

If you have purchased the book, I hope the rosary and the daily meditation have supported you with whatever spiritual cross you are shouldering.   And if you haven’t yet purchased it, I hope you will.  For me, it was a game changer.

I hope you’ll check back soon for more reflections on the Seven Sorrows devotion so Our Lady can support you in your spiritual life.

Coincidence or Divine Providence?

I’m writing today because it is the anniversary of our son Martín’s death.  He died just shy of his 5th birthday from complications from his third liver transplant.  But this year the date is overshadowed by another tragic connection. 

I am compelled to share it because there were so many little synchronicities surrounding Martín’s life and even now, sixteen years after his death, they continue.

Two days ago, we went to a going away party for a young couple who were leaving California and moving to Virginia.  The gathering was relatively small and mostly people from our parish.  However, they had invited one woman whom they knew through their involvement in rescuing and fostering cats and kittens.  I was introduced to the woman because we are both teachers.  Little did I know that our lives were far more intimately connected.

K. as I will call her, was a special education pre-school teacher at an elementary school not far from us.  Martín was supposed to have gone to that school when he was 3, but he could not attend because he was immune suppressed and several students there had not been vaccinated.  So, the school district had assigned one of the teachers, M.B., to come and homeschool our son at home in the afternoons after her regular teaching day.

So naturally when I heard where K. taught, I asked her if she knew M.B.  Turns out they worked so closely that K. said they were teaching partners.  I asked if Miss M. had retired yet and how she was doing.  K. stunned me when she said Miss M. had died a few years earlier.  Turns out she had been struck by a car and killed! 

The news through me and I became emotional as you can imagine.  So instead of asking for specifics other than how long ago, I began pouring out details about how wonderful Miss M. had been for both our sons – reminiscing about how she had created a full-on preschool experience right there in our kitchen.  As I gave the details, K. realized that she remembered both our sons because Miss M. had talked about them so much.  She told me that Martín and Tomas had been very special to Miss M.

It was important for me that K. know how special Miss M. had been to us.  After all, they had been close friends and colleagues.  I explained to K. that Miss M. had been the hardest phone call to make after Martín died.  I remembered that we were driving past Camp Pendleton on our way home after three and half months at the university medical center when I got up the courage to call.  Miss M. had started screaming.  I couldn’t console her. 

Miss M. had missed the funeral but showed up near the end of the burial service with a dozen white balloons.  Everyone else was leaving to give our small family some private time before they lowered Martín’s small white rose-covered casket, but we kept Miss M. at our side.  When we were alone, we took turns kissing each balloon and then releasing them into the sky – a tradition that continued for every birthday and anniversary at the cemetery for at least the next 10 years.

Martín had been the first medically fragile student Miss M. had worked with after school, but she had continued from then on taking on all kinds of other kiddos who were too sick to go to school.  It was a difficult addition to her teaching life because often her students didn’t make it.  K. shared that she too had started to homeschool these extra special little ones.  So even Martín had touched her life.

When my husband and I got home that evening after the party, we broke the news to our son Tomas.  He also had many fond memories of Miss M like doing spin art with paints and such.

It made me recall the time I had bought multi-colored goldfish crackers across the street from the hospital and worried that Martín wouldn’t eat them because they were different.  But when he saw them, he said, “Oh, just like Miss M.” and happily popped them into his mouth.  I had shared that story with Miss M. on the phone all those years ago trying to demonstrate how she had touched Martín.

the crunchy snack that smiles back | AllieKF | Flickr

Yesterday I couldn’t get Miss M. off my mind as I prayed for her. I was bothered too by the similarity to another death related to Martín. 

We had adopted Martín at birth from a homeless couple.  His bio dad was an alcoholic and had walked in front of a car just a few months after Martín was born.  R.K. had died a few months later in the hospital.  I kept thinking about Miss M. also being hit by a car.  People just don’t walk that much in our metropolitan area and where Miss M. lived everyone drives.  So, I searched the internet.

Sure enough, an article popped up.  Miss M. had been hit around 9PM on a mid autumn evening nearly four years ago.  The man said she had stepped out in front of his car and he didn’t have time to stop.  It apparently was across from a mobile home park.  There was no indication that drugs or alcohol were involved.  The medical examiner believed she was transient. I broke down.  Poor Miss M.! 

When I had last seen her, she was living in a beautiful home and driving a Jaguar.  I did recall her being single with no family to speak of and she had had some financial problems when she first started coming to our home.  But the purchase of the Jaguar had made me assume that that situation had turned around. 

The questions!!!!   What was Miss M. doing there?  Did she live at the mobile home park?  She would have had a healthy teacher’s pension so . . .   I know that stretch of road.  It would have been dark – there would have been headlights!

I don’t even want to give voice to the fears I have. 

Was meeting K. and learning of Miss M’s untimely death a mere coincidence or Divine Providence?

I have this strong sense that Martín and Our Sorrowful Mother wanted me to know all this because they know I will faithfully pray for this beautiful loving soul who was apparently so alone at the end. 

When we go to the cemetery later today, I think we will take two balloons.  One for Martín and one for Miss M.  May she rest in peace!

What about the Seven Sorrows devotion for men?

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.  

Surprising Connection

The morning after I uploaded my first blog post I was shocked to see an email that said someone was following my blog. How could that possibly be?  I’m a new author.

What was even more surprising was that it was a man that I think was Chinese. I immediately realized that it was unlikely that this man was following me because he had a devotion to Our Sorrowful Mother.  I suspect he has some way of receiving notifications whenever somebody posts a new blog.  I believe he most likely followed me so that I would click on his name and look at his writing. He was right. My curiosity got the better of me.

When I clicked on his link and began to read his poetry which was written in English, I found it interesting and ironic.  He was lamenting not having access to the protections of democracy.  He would have had no idea that I am the daughter of a man who spent almost 2 years of hell in a communist Chinese prisoner of war camp. So, I take the whole threat of communism against democracy a little more personally.  

Not knowing this man’s religious background, I do hope that he’ll return to my blog and read this post because the Catholic Church, the Sorrowful Mother, and of course the Holy Rosary are among our greatest weapons against the destructive societal trends in the world today.

Interestingly, the Chinese pow camp where my father was detained was the same camp that housed Father Emil Kapaun, a Catholic priest and US army chaplain, Medal of Honor winner and possibly soon to be Catholic saint.  The horrors of this officers’ camp have been detailed in several books in order to document Father Kapaun’s heroic compassion, bravery and spiritual support for his brother prisoners under the ruthless inhumane communists.  His selflessness is the ultimate contrast to these demonic forces. A few of these books are linked below. 

I am of an age where I remember when communism was ALWAYS a negative word, a threatening word and something to be fought against – and not just because I was the daughter of a POW and heard about Camp 5.  It used to be routine and acceptable to document communist atrocities along with the societal and economic traumas inflicted by this empty utopian lie.

When Our Lady of Fatima appeared in 1917 to caution the world that Russia would spread her errors, I’m sure she was also there as the Sorrowful Mother – sorrowful because she could see that many people were going to become comfortable and complacent.  They would feel that they no longer needed God in the equation.

This comfort that we’ve gained over the last century has made us soft.  We take so much for granted – our faith, our families, our food supply.  Were all the millions of lives, sacrificed and damaged, fighting totalitarianism in the World Wars, the Korean conflict, and Vietnam worth only a lousy 100 years of improvement?

It’s profound that I can relate to this poet lamenting a lack of democracy.  Our Sorrowful Mother laments with us and the young Chinese man half a world away.  

Books on Father Emil Kapaun:

https://www.amazon.com/Miracle-Father-Kapaun-Priest-Soldier/dp/1621640655.

A Lesson from the 1st Sorrow of Our Lady

“. . . that out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.”

If you have read the introduction to my book, A Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady, I discussed a lesson on the First Sorrow that I learned from a sermon one Sunday at my church.  Then I heard the same point made in a talk given by Father Chad Ripperger that I found on the Internet.  This lesson really resonated with me.

The teaching explained that Simeon’s prophecy not only foretold the depth of pain that our Blessed Mother would endure throughout Jesus’s life, but as the spiritual mother of mankind, her pain would also allow her to assist us to know our sins.  “. . . that out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.”  These thoughts apparently are the things that we hide from ourselves, frequently sins of which we are not immediately aware.

Trouble with Examination of Conscience?

I’m guessing that I’m not alone in having trouble at times to do a thorough examination of conscience. I’m clear that if I am out of bed going about my day, I have probably sinned.  But what if something specific doesn’t jump out at me?  Blatant detraction, extreme impatience, anger?  This has often caused me to put off going to confession for far too long.

But if we take this concern to our Sorrowful Mother, she will help us to see ourselves more clearly.  Now that is not always comfortable.  But I must admit that the first time I really experienced her help with this, I felt consolation in the confidence that I was able to make a much better confession of my sins.   

For me, she really taught me to look at my thoughts.  I realized that while I may often control outward expressions of resentment, competition, impatience – my slate was not so clean on the inside.  Unfortunately, I had to face the sin of comparison! 

Now of course not all comparisons are sinful, but if my feelings are hurt, certain relationships aren’t where I want them, something isn’t going my way, I now know how easily I slip into comparison.  I even had the priest character in my next book quip, “Sometimes I wonder why comparison wasn’t the eighth capital sin!”  Now of course that isn’t necessary because God already had comparisons covered in pride, envy, and vanity!

“We can treat negative thoughts like intruders in the brain.”  

Now that Our Lady has shown me, oh how those comparisons can nip at me like nasty little demons!  This was a humbling lesson because it takes practice and determination to identify the root thought and then to not to let it fester.  “We can treat negative thoughts like intruders in the brain.”  That is a little tool I learned from “Mental Health through Will Training” by Dr. Abraham Low.  He was not a Catholic writer, but what could be more Catholic than trying to train your will? This is a tool I have to return to frequently.

For me, I’ve learned that I must monitor my emotions.  When I suddenly feel a sharp jab, I need to stop and ask why.  Am I feeling jealous, disrespected, dismissed, ignored?  Why?  I rarely like what I see, but it is the best way to see my sins and failings.  And if I own them, I have a chance of not repeating them.  Easier said than done, but it’s a start. 

I am truly thankful that I found help from Our Lady of Sorrows.  I hope you’ll consult with her the next time you are preparing for confession.

Have a blessed week!