How praying the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of Mary helped me learn to forgive

Deep down,

isn’t this the grief we all share?

Having to witness the loss

of innocence,

up close …

and personal,

where we can feel it for ourselves …

In infinitely creative ways,

we’re called to realize

the excruciating death

of Christ.

We’re asked to stand for love,

while darkness twist minds and hearts

against it …

However deep into the mystery we travel,

Mary’s sorrow is our own.

We can never go further than she did,

along this aching road …

Her pierced heart is the key

to forgiveness

and the courage

to accept our losses,

when it would be easier to offload

our pain

onto someone else.

Isn’t this the mission we all share?

to transform darkness into the Light?

to be faithful in adversity

for the greater good?

Don’t we all fall short of doing it as beautifully as she did?

When we realize how wounded we are,

we can cry out to our Divine Mother

for forgiveness

and help –

it’s impossible to complete

this sacred task on our own.

From heaven, she can teach us to keep our hearts open,

to trade sorrows for graces,

to take the high road

again and again,

for as long as it takes.

As people of faith, we are called to forgive. Sometimes, this is easier said than done. When layer upon layer of hurt adds up over years and years, the struggle is real. At a time when a difficult personal relationship came to a head in my life, the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of Mary helped me forgive and find peace.

Though as a cradle Catholic I have been familiar with praying the Rosary since I was a little girl, I learned about the less known Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of Mary from Rwandan genocide survivor Immaculee Ilibigiza, whose powerful witness of faith and forgiveness impacted me deeply. Even though almost her entire family was murdered, she was able to forgive and move on with a miraculous abundant life of faith and a heart full of love and generosity, writing Left to Tell and several other books, which have brought Christ’s Light into countless people’s lives.

Immaculee’s story inspired me and increased my faith in God, but marveling at her ability to forgive far worse circumstances than I’ve been through did not really help me forgive. But, because she pointed to the power of praying the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, I knew where to turn when I went through my own deep struggles.

Immaculee herself is a far better teacher of this ancient devotion than I hope to be, and I encourage you to learn it on her website. Essentially, the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of Mary is a prayerful meditation on the heartache the Mother of God endured as part of her calling to bring Jesus into the world into the world. These include:

  1. The prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:25-35)
  2. The flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15)
  3. Loss of the Child Jesus for three days (Luke 2:41-50)
  4. Mary meets Jesus on his way to Calvary (Luke 23:27-31; John 19:17)
  5. Crucifixion and Death of Jesus (John 19:25-30)
  6. The body of Jesus being taken from the Cross (Psalm 130; Luke 23:50-54; John 19:31-37)
  7. The burial of Jesus (Isaiah 53:8; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42; Mark 15:40-47)

Because Mary was full of grace from God, she was able to endure these sorrows fully, while keeping her faith and impeccable loving behavior. She is a pure inspiration to us all!

When I prayed the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows and meditated on each of these trials Mary went through to bring Jesus into the world, I was able to make the connection between Mary’s sorrows and the sorrows the person, who I needed to forgive had gone through in her own life. God gave me the grace to realize on a deep level how those sorrows had crushed her spirit, causing her to lash out in hurtful ways toward me. She simply did not have the faith to handle her own sorrows perfectly like Mary did.

Isn’t that true for all of us? Without the grace of God, we can’t handle the sorrows of life either. To the degree we are able to handle the sorrows of our lives gracefully, we should thank God for giving us the strength to do so, rather than taking credit for ourselves and holding grudges towards others, who have not been given that same grace.

As I reflected on the difference between the grace-filled way Mary handled her struggles compared to the person I was struggling with, I could see how badly she needed God and was given the grace for a deeper level of compassion to realize that in our humanity, Jesus was right to say “forgive them Father they know not what they do.” So consumed with her own pain and not knowing how to process those feelings in prayer, she offloaded them into me as almost a survival instinct, thinking she was entitled to do so because sadly she’d never been taught another way and had a lot of pressure on her, which she was now putting on me.

Realizing that in spite of her joyful yes to God, Mary had her own sorrows also helped me realize it’s okay to have mine as well, rather than feeling like I should pretend to be okay about things that are hurtful to me. It would be absurd to think that even in her sinless perfection, Mary did not feel sad when Jesus died. Even if we are saying a joyful yes to God and trying to bring Him to earth in our own way like Mary did, we can expect to experience trials and sorrows of our own, when we witness the death of innocence in our own lives in all of our uniquely challenging circumstances.

Even though I am nowhere near Immaculee Ilibagiza’s (much less Mother Mary’s) level of faith, I am grateful to realize God is the answer to all of my problems including forgiving myself for all the ways I fall short on my faith journey.

I am grateful to the extent I am able to view life from a faithful perspective and hope my words can help others realize the power of praying the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, so more can receive the grace to forgive, along with countless other graces that flow into our hearts through prayer.

How have you witnessed the “death of innocence” in your own life, like Mary did when Jesus was crucified? What are your greatest sorrows? Can you see how they relate to the sorrows of Mary? Has prayer ever helped you forgive? Where are you struggling to forgive in your life right now? Comment below, and I’ll be delighted to keep you in my prayers.

God, give us the grace to truly forgive those, who have hurt us most. Help us to understand the pain of others, so we can see them with Your eyes of compassion, love and mercy. Help is to be humble and grateful, giving You credit for all the graces we receive. Give us the strength to endure the sorrows of our lives with dignity, like Mary did, so we can bring more of Your love and spirit into the world. In Jesus name, we pray. Amen.

Written by Nicky Gant for Unite in Prayer 5/11/2019

Leave a Reply