Seven Sorrows of Our Lady Mirror the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit
How does it relate to those affected by mental illness and their families and friends?
Meditations for the Chaplet to the Merciful Mother of the mentally ill prayed on Zoom every Sunday 7PM EST
1. Prophecy of Simeon- (Fear of the Lord)
"And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this Child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and a sign that will be contradicted; and you yourself a sword will pierce, so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" (Luke II: 34-35).
Mary was fluent in scripture and knew her babe was the Messiah. She also knew he was going to be sacrified but she remained in awe of the respect due to the majesty of God’s presence and the promise of salvation for humanity. She knew he was going to suffer, die and resurrect and willingly accepted it as an offering to God joining her son.
When a parent is faced with the initial diagnosis of mental illness in their child, they are faced with the realizaion that their hope for their child’s future-life is not going to be what they expected. Looking at Mary, Hope remains! We need Her strength and advocacy to help us understand the value of our own Redemptive Suffering. She will help us to trust God knowing that He is all good and we are his children. This gift that we receive is the Fear of the Lord. We take this on as a responsibility and we want to please God.
2. The Flight Into Egypt- (Piety)
* When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt,* and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” (Matthew II: 13-14 )
Mary was dutiful obedient towards her spouse St Joseph. Immediately after St Joseph’s dream by the apparion of the angel, she comforted St Joseph and prepared for the journey to travel to Egypt. Mary knew it was going to be a long difficult journey with St. Joseph and baby Jesus. They were out to save their son: baby Jesus from being murdered by Herod.
We need Mary’s prayers to help us have the strength along the journey of our own physical, emotional and mental suffering. When we see and experience mental illness in ourselves or our loved one, we pray and ask for the strength to be obedient to God’s will. This is true Piety and Justice and is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We pray that we have the strength to give God and our neighbor their due.
3. The Loss of the Child Jesus in Jerusalem- (Fortitude)
Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. (Luke II: 41- 45).
When Jesus was about twelve years old he left their presence; for three days Mary and Joseph searched for Jesus. Eventually they found Jesus in the Temple conversing and teaching the Jewish Elders.
The parents of Jesus persevered through much anxiety and bewilderment at the loss of their son while searching for him for three days in Jerusalem. This took Fortitude. We pray for this virtue and gift of the Holy Spirit to endure all of the losses, trials and anxieties in dealing with mental illness.
4. Mary Meets Jesus Face to Face Carrying the Cross- (Council)
A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children, (Luke XXIII: 27, 28).
When Mary meets Jesus on the Way of the Cross, her look of love and compassionate gaze offers strength and council to her son. Jesus receives renewed strength for the work ahead in his redempive mission.
God works through people; we need each other in the body of Christ. We pray to Jesus and Mary to guide us, strengthen us and be present in our relationships with those with mental illness. This is another gift of the Holy Spirit named Council. We ask for their advocacy.
5. The Crucifixion –(Knowledge)
There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle. Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. (John XIX: l8, 25-27).
Jesus offers his life for our salvation on the cross. Mary knew who she was and what her role was. She was the Co-Redemptrix and she was in union with her son and offered all for Jesus’ salvific mission to the Father.
We pray to become fully aware of who we are as members of the body of Christ. This Knowledge (another gift of the Holy Spirit) gives us strength and a purpose to our suffering. This helps us know what to do when we deal with mental illness. We ask Our Lord to help us offer our own crosses; to assist Him in the unification and salvation of the members of His body
6. Jesus’ Side is Pierced with a Lance and His Body is Taken Down and Placed in the Arms of Mary- (Wisdom)
When it was already evening, since it was the day of preparation, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a distinguished member of the council, who was himself awaiting the kingdom of God, came and courageously went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate was amazed that he was already dead. He summoned the centurion and asked him if Jesus had already died. And when he learned of it from the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. (Mark XV: 42-45).
The image of Jesus’ body in Mary’s arms is a powerful image. Many early Christians saw Christ as Wisdom incarnate; therefore, by holding him on her lap, Mary becomes the “seat” of Wisdom. Mary is the person who through her most intimate relationship is totally receptive to the Wisdom of God so that the Litany of Loreto can call her rightfully: Seat of Wisdom. (Fr. John Johann Roten, S.M.U. Udayton.edu)
When we consider mental illness and all that it encompasses, Wisdom is needed to sort out what needs to be done to help the person struggling. Mary is our perfect model to do so. She not only held the body of Jesus in her arms but was infused with Divine Wisdom in her soul. The gift of Wisdom enables us to offer hearts of compassion which means to suffer with that person saying: “This is what God’s will is for you so I must will that for you too”. This does not mean that we are not called to do all we must to offer proper treatment and support. On the contrary, we are to embrace the person and cooperate with God’s grace. We pray to Mary to assist us in attaining Wisdom to support and pray for our loved ones with mental illness.
7. Jesus’ Body is Placed in the Sepulcher – (Understanding)
Nicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices, according to the Jewish burial custom. Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried. So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; for the tomb was close by. (John XIX: 39-42)
When Mary experienced Jesus’ Body being placed in the Holy Tomb, she witnessed the Covenant between the Father and Son. Also, being the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, she understood their salvific work and cooperated with it as Co-Redemptrix.
We ask Mary to pray for us to have an understanding as St Paul says: I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church (Col 1:24). There is much suffering for those with mental illness, their family members and friends. We pray to offer all of this up by saying: Jesus I unite my suffering with your passion and dying, I offer it to the Father for the salvation of mankind.
Released September 3rd, 2023
by Timothy Duff, STM (Sacred Theology Masters), Cert. CHL(Catholic Healthcare Leadership), Certified in ERD’S (Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare) and Catholic Board Certified Chaplain
picture credits: Pictures were taken by author at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. in the Sorrowful Mother Chapel on August 6th 2023