Why the Sorrowful Mother?  Why do Catholics honor Mary, the Mother of God with the title of “Sorrows”? Is it an honor to be called such? Some good questions, I think. Mark Miravalle answers the question this way:

Our Lady of Sorrows icon.jpeg

We could just as well ask St. Paul why he instructs all Christians to “make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of his body, which is the Church” (Colossians 1:24).

We Christians, too, will suffer and do suffer. Our suffering has the capacity to release a portion of the infinite graces merited by Jesus at Calvary, what theologians call “objective redemption.” But as these redemptive graces of Jesus must be personally received by the human heart, every Christian has a role in this mysterious release and reception of grace which theologians call “subjective redemption.”

Mary alone, as the “New Eve” with Jesus the “New Adam,” participates in both objective and subjective redemption: both in the historic acquisition of redemptive grace and in the providential release of redemptive grace. Blessed John Paul would teach of his mother and ours that Mary’s intensity of suffering at Calvary was a “contribution to the redemption of all” (Salvifici Doloris, 25).

This is why the Church, including popes, saints, mystics, and faithful alike, have traditionally referred to Mary as the Co-redemptrix. In the simplest of explanations, this title means that Mary helped Jesus save souls like no other. In the explanation of popes, it sounds more like this: “For this reason, we invoke her under the title of Co-redemptrix. She gave us the Savior, she accompanied him in the work of Redemption as far as the cross itself, sharing with him the sorrows of the agony and of the death in which Jesus consummated the Redemption of mankind” (Pius XI, O.R., 1 Dec. 1933).

We celebrate the Mother’s suffering because it is right to acknowledge her unique role with Jesus in redeeming the world. We also celebrate the Mother’s suffering because we crucially need the example of a human who does not have a divine nature, but who also offered every sorrow of mind, heart, and body for the salvation of others. As Pope Benedict instructed last year in Fatima, all Christians are called to become “redeemers in the Redeemer (May 13, 2010).”

Mark Miravalle