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 | By Father Stan Smolenski

The Sorrowful Mother Knows the Longings of Our Hearts

In September, we celebrate the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. During this month, it is important to meditate on the seven sorrows she endured:

  1. The prophecy of Simeon
  2. The flight into Egypt
  3. The loss of the child Jesus in the Temple
  4. The meeting of Mary and Jesus on the way to Calvary
  5. The crucifixion and death of Jesus
  6. The piercing of the side of Jesus and his descent from the cross
  7. The burial of Jesus

My own appreciation of our Sorrowful Mother increased during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land many years ago. Now, I cannot speak of the Holy Land without mentioning a benevolent experience from her.

I was very much attached to Our Lady of Sorrows, as portrayed in the image of her from Quito, Ecuador. Her bereaved eyes penetrated my heart, adding to the fact that my first pilgrimage to the Holy Land was not a pleasant one. We’d traveled during the Christmas vacation, and the weather was unusually cold and rainy every day. In fact, it snowed on New Year’s day. When we were leaving the chapel after commemorating the institution of the Eucharist with Mass, the snowflakes were so large that they made me think of manna falling from heaven. So, I promised myself another pilgrimage but during the summer.

What I wanted to do on the summer pilgrimage especially was to celebrate Mass at the 13th station of the cross on Calvary, where the Sorrowful Mother is commemorated. But I did not know that altars had to be reserved days in advance at the Franciscan Center in Jerusalem. To do this, I had to choose between missing Bethlehem or that Mass. I chose not to miss Bethlehem, since we were already scheduled for Mass at the 11th station, the nailing of Jesus to the cross.

I prepared by making the entire Stations of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa. When I arrived at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (where stations 10-14 are located), our group was already assembled at the Tomb of the Resurrection, which put me on the periphery of the crowd. Suddenly, I noticed the Catholic Arab guard coming through our group toward me. He startled me by asking if I would want to celebrate Mass at the 13th station.

Flabbergasted, I stuttered “Yes!” and followed him to the sacristy. He informed the sacristan of my being there, but the Franciscan brother told him it was already reserved by one of their friars. The guard told him who I was, then returned to tell me that the friar had relinquished his time for me. 

What I had my heart set on was providentially granted by the Sorrowful Mother, since no one but she knew of my longing. She must have arranged it all, and I have been ever grateful. Now, I celebrate the votive Mass of the commendation of Mary at the cross with special fervor.

Father Stanley Smolenski, spma, STL, MTh, is a canonical Baptistine hermit and the co-founder and director of the diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of South Carolina — Our Lady of Joyful Hope in Kingstree. Email him at