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Even the Joyful Mysteries Have Sorrows

Catholic Apologetics #63

Our Blessed Mother provides us such an ample amount of meditations. We could focus on Her many virtues, on the unique privileges She was granted by God, or Her constant fidelity to the Lord. She is today our Heavenly advocate and Her apparitions[1] in Fatima, Lourdes, Quito, La Salette, Knock, and around the globe provide us proof that She and all the saints are truly alive in Christ.[2]

Her Rosary is the weapon for our times. She repeatedly called for the Rosary to be prayed at Fatima, and She asked specifically that it be prayed daily. These requests from only 100 years ago are scarcely being met today. We live in an age where so few people keep the Lord’s Day, observe the Lenten fast, pray the Rosary, or do any penance at all. There is no wonder then why so many sicknesses, disasters, and wars overwhelm us. “Penance, penance, penance!” was the message of Our Lady.

For those who regularly pray the Rosary, the Joyful Mysteries often serve – as their name implies – as a source of joy. We see in them the birth of Our Lord, His finding in the temple, and the beginning of our salvation in the Annunciation.

But beyond a mere surface level understanding, we see that even the Joyful Mysteries all contain sorrows, as if to tell us that our joys in this world will always be colored – at least in part – with sorrow. It is only in the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary that we find true, lasting, and complete joy. And we can expect such a blessed life in Heaven only if we keep the Commandments and do penance. As Our Lord has said, “Unless you do penance, you shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).

The next time you pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary, reflect on these sorrows which even our Immaculate Queen experienced. And if She experienced such sorrows amid the joys, should we not expect likewise?

The Annunciation: Our Blessed Mother, while still a young girl, receives a message from an angel. Despite Her total virginal consecration to God, She is to be the Mother of the Savior. Never in human history had a virgin given birth before (and never since). What was Joseph to think? What would happen? What calumnies would She suffer? Within marriage, She was called to maintain a perfect purity and perfect fidelity to God along with obedience to Her husband.

Although Our Lady did not know the future, She knew the Scriptures extremely well. Undoubtedly She knew the Messias had to suffer greatly, as would all those who loved Him, and in proportion to their love for Him. Despite all these uncertainties, She heroically abandoned Herself to Divine Providence. Her fiat began our redemption.

The Visitation: After receiving the news that She was to give birth to Our Lord while also learning of Her cousin Elizabeth’s pregnancy, Mary does not ask for Her own help but She sets out on a three-day journey that was to take Her more than 80 miles away. Despite the joy of helping Her cousin and seeing the birth of St. John the Baptist, She experiences the hardships of Her journey and the self-less sacrifice of serving others while silently bearing the trials of Her own pregnancy.

Consider as well the angst many of us experience when learning that a loved one is in a difficult pregnancy. Surely a woman well beyond child-bearing years classifies as such. In addition, Our Lady knew that it was the birth of Her own Son which would lead to the Massacre of the Holy Innocents, the fleeing of St. Elizabeth with her son into the desert to escape Herod’s soldiers, and the death of St. Zachary, who would give his life protecting the whereabouts of his wife and son.

The Nativity of the Lord: As with the Visitation, the Blessed Mother experienced difficulties and discomforts on Her journey to Bethlehem. Just imagine being nine months pregnant and having to walk or ride a donkey ninety miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem! But rather than finding a welcome home at the end of this arduous journey, St. Joseph and Our Lady find that none of their relatives will provide hospitality, and even the inns state they have no room to spare. An even greater pain Our Lady suffers is seeing Her noble husband frustrated by his inability to provide adequately for his family.

The Creator of the world is born in a feeding trough for animals in a cave. How would we feel if the best we could do was lay our newborn on a ‘plate’ used by animals? How would we suffer if the greatest warmth we could provide our newborn was the breath of an ox? In the piercing cold of night, Mary welcomes the Savior into the world with St. Joseph although no one in Bethlehem welcomes them into their homes.

The Presentation of the Lord: “And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed” (Luke 2:35). With these words, St. Simeon addresses to our Blessed Mother the truth that Her soul shall be pierced. And this prophecy is fulfilled on Mount Calvary. Interestingly, even though the Presentation of the Lord is the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, this prophecy of Simeon is the first of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady.[3]

This mystery also affords us with the opportunity to meditate upon the Circumcision of Our Lord, when He first shed His Precious Blood. What agony that must have caused Our Lady, to have His most perfect flesh cut! We can also ponder the Holy Family’s sudden and rushed flight into Egypt. In the middle of the night, Our Lady had to gather the Family’s few belonging and, carrying Her Son, follow St. Joseph into a foreign land filled with idols and demons.

The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple: Like the previous Joyful Mystery, the final Joyful Mystery of the Rosary is one of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Have you ever been in a park or store and not been able to find your child? Fear and anguish instantly grip a parent’s soul. Can you imagine if your child never came home, if you did not know where your young son or daughter was for an entire night? Our Lady and St. Joseph suffered that for three days!

Yet the Blessed Mother had lost the very Redeemer of the world! Despite the anguish from this loss, She searches for Him unceasingly and finally finds Him in the temple. He then speaks to Her in a baffling manner, explaining that He has been obedient all along. Well do we follow Our Lady’s example, who, despite human confusion, trustfully surrenders to God’s will and intensely ponders all of these things in Her heart.

CONCLUSION

May we find that even amid the sorrows that accompany our lives as Catholics – the disasters, the illnesses, the deaths, the uncertainties, and more – that we have a model in our Blessed Mother. Only after we leave this vale of tears can we hope for a glorious ending. And we expect this only if we die in the state of grace. So, guard your souls, stay in the state of grace, frequent the Sacraments (especially Confession), pray the daily Rosary, and be willing to perform penance.


[1] For more information on some of Our Lady’s apparitions, especially as regards a ‘connecting thread’ of Divine Providence amongst them, we invite you to view Our Lady and Her Fatima Message in History (or listen to the podcast of that talk) and/or to request The Fatima Center’s 2020 Calendar.

[2] It’s always important to realize that we do not pray to the saints as a superstition. They can and do hear us by the power of God. See: https://fatima.org/news-views/catholic-apologetics-41/

[3] Devotion to the Seven Sorrows was approved by Pope Pius VII. This devotion should not be foreign to any Catholic home, especially on Fridays and during Lent. Pray the devotion online at http://www.catholictradition.org/Mary/7sorrows.htm

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