Today is the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. This depiction of Mary never resonated to me until I entered the Jesuits. As a Jesuit novice, I had the privilege to go to Ecuador to visit the Jesuits who work in the country. An image was ubiquitous at the Jesuit apostolates I visited and around the country in general: an image of Our Lady of Sorrows or “La Madre Dolorosa” (see the image and story here). I asked an Ecuadorian Jesuit novice what was the story behind the image.
He told me that 3 students at San Gabriel, a Jesuit high school in Quito, were eating in the school’s dining room over Holy Week break. In the dining room, the painting of La Madre Dolorosa hung in the room for the edification of students. Three students were surprised to see the eyes of the Virgin moving, as if she was alive but trapped within the painting. The first three students thought they were hallucinating, but one exclaimed, “Look at the Virgin!” The rest of the 35 students in the dining room saw the Virgin moving her eyelids too. The event became known as the miracle of Our Lady of Sorrows (el milagro de la Madre Dolorosa). The Ecuadorian novice let me know that we would be going to the school later in the week where the image is housed, which had since moved from its location in the heart of the capital, Quito.
The Jesuit president of the high school gave us a tour of the building. When he showed us the image, he paused to explain the miracle of the image. He continued onto say something I have not forgotten. The real miracle was not that Our Lady moved her eyes in the painting. Alumni continue to return to the school each year to see the image. They spend moments of quiet prayer in the Chapel to spend time with their Mother. To the Jesuit president, the real miracle was that the students and the people of Ecuador are reminded that Mary is their loving mother. With Mary, they can share as they would with any mother or mother figure we have had in our lives, and ask for her intercessory prayer. The Church reminds today that Mary is there for us, looking on with tender eyes, waiting to share in our joys and sorrows.
How has Mary figured into your prayer life? What does the image of Our Lady of Sorrows invoke in you?