Today is the feast of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady, and the traditional devotion is to say an Our Father and seven Hail Mary's for each of them, viz:
1.The Prophecy of Simeon. (Luke 2:34-35) or the Circumcision of Christ
2.The Flight into Egypt. (Matthew 2:13)
3.The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple. (Luke 2:43-45)
4.Mary Meets Jesus on the Way to Calvary.
5.Jesus Dies on the Cross. (John 19:25)
6.Mary Receives the Body of Jesus in Her Arms. (Matthew 27:57-59)
7.The Body of Jesus Is Placed in the Tomb. (John 19:40-42)
The way of the Cross
The life of Our Lady, though, is also a broader reminder that we are all called to the way of the Cross, and that God tests his friends most especially, that we might grow in grace and faith.
Consider, for example, how Our Lady must have felt when St Joseph, learning of her pregnancy, considered whether to denounce her for adultery, or have her quietly shuffled off to hide the circumstances (Mt 1:18-19).
And in the Office at the moment we have been reading the story of Job, who foreshadows the suffering of the just man, his suffering made worse by the admonitions of his so-called friends!
Living amongst sinners
These examples of faithfulness in the face of adversity are particularly important for us all to keep in mind as we constantly read of evil not just in the world, but particularly in the Church.
When secularists, Islamists or others persecute and harass us, we do at least expect it.
But it is surely more difficult to cope with when those who should stand as fathers, brothers and sisters to us instead of supporting us, act instead to subvert our faith and morals, to abuse us physically, mentally and spiritually, and to subvert the good works we attempt to do.
Yet the Church is bigger than the bishops, bigger than all of its priests, bigger than all the laity alive today.
We are part of a Church Militant that has a duty to aid the Church Suffering in purgatory, for they suffer far more than we, not matter the ills done to us.
And we must seek the aid of the Church Triumphant in heaven, for ultimately we know that truth and justice will triumph.
No matter the provocation, schism or defection to another ecclesial community is always a sin. So to is abandonment of our faith altogether.
Instead, we must do what we can to seek the grace that sustains us, for example through the saying of the Divine Office, the practice of lectio divina, and a rich devotional life.
Please pray for perseverance - and justice
In recent weeks two people have told me their stories, one a layman one a priest.
They are both horrifying stories of betrayal by those who should have stood as fathers to them. And though the original events in both cases happened long ago, the injustice flowing from those events has not been remedied, far from it.
They are both, however, also stories of heroic perseverance in the faith.
I would ask you to pray for these two people, that they may receive justice (preferably in the here and now!). Please pray also - and do what you can to support - all who have been treated unfairly within the Church for whatever reason.
Pray to, that all those who have fallen away from the faith because of things that have happened to them may yet recover their faith.
Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us.