The Church celebrates the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows today. I can only imagine the anguish Mary must have felt as she watched her Son get betrayed, tortured, and crucified. The pain for her must have been immense. Reflecting upon this scene conjures up many thoughts in my mind. It is painfully clear to me that I have known quite a number of parents who have buried their children. They hold a common bond with Mary in that regard.
Many years ago when I was participating in a support group for families coping with life-threatening illnesses, I came to know many young people suffering from serious illnesses. Unfortunately, some of these battles were lost to the illness. Several people in their 20's did not make it. I celebrated my 26th birthday in the hospital, but eventually tests showed that I was cancer-free. I was one of the fortunate ones who survived.
Looking back, I can recall the anguish I saw in the eyes of my parents as they sat next to me in the hospital day after day (for 52 days--but who was counting?). It did not occur to me until years later that my parents were probably pondering whether or not they would be burying a second child. I had an older brother that I never met. He lived seven days and died on my mom's birthday. While that had happened many years earlier, I am certain that watching me go through surgery and months of chemotherapy treatments had to be difficult for them. Would they lose two of their four sons due to illness?
In ministry, I have walked with parents who have lost a child in a variety of ways. This has included deaths due to car accidents, illness, suicide, and even a homicide. Each tragedy brings waves of emotions. The heartache is deep and long-lasting.
Today's Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows reminds us that we do not suffer and grieve alone. The journey of life can sometimes be harsh and bring an immense amount of pain and grief. The age-old question resonates with me, "Why do good people suffer?" I don't know the answer to that question, but I try to keep walking in faith, hope, and love. It is clearly not easy to do that all the time. In my own pilgrimage of life, I have struggled day-by-day and even minute-by-minute seeking God's strength to endure the trials and tribulations of life. As I look at Mary's faith and trust in God, I am strengthened to continue on in my own journey of faith.
Due to living in South Carolina I could not make a trip to the Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows in Starkenburg, Missouri today. However, I encourage my Missouri readers to do that sometime. It is a quiet place to reflect and pray. If you make a trip to the Hermann area for any of the many events held there, it is worth taking a little side trip to Starkenburg (Rhineland) on the way.
My photos today are not from a shrine. They were taken during my walk at Jarvis Creek Park on Hilton Head Island. This was my first visit to the park. The 0.85 mile paved path around the lake was beautiful. Although signs were posted in numerous locations directing visitors not to feed the alligators, I did not see any alligators. I did watch carefully just in case. I don't want to make the news because I encountered an alligator too abruptly.