Author’s Note: This article is the third in a five-part series examining the beauty and medication of the Most Holy Rosary. This series is dedicated to the memory of Fr. Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., whose love and dedication to the Rosary inspired its widespread use and understanding in our time.
The Sorrowful Mysteries
The Sorrowful Mysteries do much more than share the story of Christ’s Passion and Death. They teach us how to respond to the tragedy, injustice, and persecution of this life.
Jesus is our perfect example of a Son who follows the commands of His Father and trusts totally in His will. We need to do the same. Mary is our perfect example of total, selfless love, even in the face of ridicule, shame, and danger. We need to do the same.
Finally, in His final act of earthly love for us, Jesus gives us to His mother. Throughout our lives on earth, we never left alone, by Him or by her. Listen.
The First Sorrowful Mystery: Jesus’ Agony in the Garden
Each one of us has agonized in his or her garden of desperation. We have lain down before God, or whatever we hoped would be there at the time, and shaken in tears and fear. We have been at the end of our rope, at the bottom of the well, hit the wall, and have had nowhere else to turn.
This is when we must remember to turn to Him and to trust. Trust with everything that you have: all of the mistakes, the screw-ups, the hurt, the anger, the desperation. Understand that the word contrite literally means “crushed and broken.” That’s what we really are. Admit this to Him; then give it all to Him and say, “Lord, Thy will be done.” Repeat as needed.
If we focus everything in our life on Him and His will, we know that He will always carry us. St. Francis de Sales said that God will “either shield you from suffering, or give you unfailing strength to bear it.” But we must be contrite. We must not be afraid to admit our brokenness and our need for Him.
All pride goes out the door. Can we let go of our plans and allow God to guide our path? Do we really trust him? Remember, even after Jesus resurrected from the dead, He still carried His scars. He shows us His brokenness so that we can share ours totally with Him.
The Second Sorrowful Mystery: Jesus is Scourged at the Pillar
Scourging was an extremely painful punishment which the Romans had perfected. The leather cords were pierced with shards of glass, broken pottery, and heavy metal balls to add weight. One lash would pierce the skin in multiple places, and open it up in bloody streaks as the leather strips dragged across the body. Jesus had thirty-nine of these all around His body, and was literally dying well before He was crucified.
For all of us who suffer the deadly blows of life — the loss of a child, the murder of a family member, the suffering of disease — remember that He knows. He has suffered the mortifications of life, and is there to comfort us.
My Irish grandmother would tell us to laugh at funerals and cry at a births because “this world will break your heart.” It will do this more than once. But remember that His heart and body was broken so that we can find comfort in Him. Turn your tear-stained face to His, and allow His scourged arms to comfort you. He is there, waiting.
The Third Sorrowful Mystery: Jesus is Crowned with Thorns
Jesus is totally humiliated by the Romans and the Jewish leaders. Perhaps even more difficult than physical abuse is the emotional toll of humiliation, slander, or abandonment. Where were His disciples? Where were His friends? Where were all of the people whom He had healed?
Moral courage is required in this world more than ever. Standing up for what is right is even more difficult in the face of instant and pervasive social media and the overwhelming power of the secular world. Yet He shows us that we can share in His beautiful dignity, and be not afraid to face the world — unmoving, serene, sure in our God — in doing what is right by Him, with Him, in Him.
We can talk the talk, but do we walk the walk? The secular world will trash you, humiliate you, laugh at you, and leave you for dead if you challenge its notions of right and wrong. Remember Jesus, dripping with the blood of His scourging, standing half-dead with His cruel crown of thorns. Wear the crown that the world gives you, and keep standing strong. He is there with you.
The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery: Jesus Carries the Cross
Jesus not only is bleeding to death, but now is forced to carry the heavy cross of His ultimate persecution. It must have dug into His shoulders, right on those places that were still open wounds. It must have pressed those thorns more deeply into his head. It must have splintered his hands and arms. It must have made Him ask that God take Him, here and now. But He patiently continued to carry the heavy wood, and even stopped along the way to comfort others.
If we truly trust in our Lord, then we will be patient in all things. We will wait to hear His response to our prayers. We will believe that He will, in His time, answer us. We will know that, no matter how confusing the path may be, He will lead us.
But we must be patient. We must trust. And we must be ever thankful, even as we continue to carry the crosses of our lives, because He lives, works, and loves through us through all circumstances.
The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery: Jesus is Crucified
In the end, we must die to our mortal nature over and over again. We must give up the pride, the gluttony, the envy, the shallowness of this existence and persevere in being one with Him.
To the world, this seems completely crazy, just as crazy as a “king” who is hanging, nearly naked, from a cross between two criminals. We must reject, again and again, the world’s notions of success, of power, of beauty, and of love. We must exemplify instead the “success” of humility, the “power” of serving, the “beauty” of gratitude, and the “love” of selflessness, putting all others before ourselves.
Do not be afraid, for He has already conquered the world.
Next month: The Glorious Mysteries