“Scripture on a string.” That’s how a priest once beautifully described the rosary to me. Each bead that slips through our fingers commemorates a verse of scripture, and we weave these beads together to create the embroidery of Mary’s mantle—a mantle that covers us, her children, and comforts us with the words “do whatever He tells you.”
This image is especially true for the rosary of Our Lady of Sorrows. In the 14th century, Our Lady appeared to St. Bridget of Sweden and requested that a special rosary be recited in remembrance of her dolors, or sorrows; it consists of seven groups of seven Hail Marys, with each group commemorating a specific sorrow. These sorrows are the Prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:34-35), the Flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13-14), the Loss of the Child Jesus (Luke 2:43-45), the Way of the Cross (Luke 23:27), the Crucifixion (John 19:26-27), the Taking Down of the Body of Jesus (Mark 43-46), and the Burial of Jesus (John 19:41-42). Taken as a whole, these verses illustrate Mary’s incredible compassion. Significantly, the word “compassion” stems from the Latin roots “to suffer with,” and Mary not only suffers with her Son during His passion, but with us as well during our own hardships. By consoling our Blessed Mother through her sorrowful rosary, we receive consolation during the trials of our own lives, for Mary never ceases to lead us to the foot of the cross, where she again entreats us to “do whatever He tells you.”
In her compassion for us, Mary promises seven graces to those who honor her as Our Lady of Sorrows, and each of these graces provides consolation for those who suffer, whether physically or spiritually. According to St. John Paul II, “Mary Most Holy goes on being the loving consoler of those touched by the many physical and moral sorrows which afflict and torment humanity,” and the second and fifth graces especially reveal her compassionate concern for our welfare. In the former, Mary promises that “I will console them in their pains, and I will accompany them in their work.” Through this grace, Mary assures us that we are never alone in our sufferings and daily tasks; rather, she will always remain beside us to share our burdens and lessen our pain. Similarly, in the fifth grace, Mary promises that “I will defend them in their spiritual battles against the infernal enemy, and I will protect them at every instant of their lives.” This promise provides us with a powerful protectress during our temptations and shields us from unexpected dangers. Although we will experience many sufferings throughout our life, Our Blessed Mother will never abandon us, and she strengthens us with many graces when we meditate on her seven sorrows.
During her revelations to St. Bridget, Mary asked that we imitate these sorrows and her grief as much as we can. In a world that emphasizes luxury, this is not an easy thing to do; we are constantly surrounded by a pressure to avoid pain and indulge in pleasure as much as possible. But just as Our Blessed Mother lovingly suffers with us as Our Lady of Sorrows, we should strive to be her sons and daughters by accepting our trials and suffering with her. Only then will we learn to take up our crosses and suffer contra mundum.