In second grade, before we made our First Communion at Holy Cross in Euclid, Sister M. John Paul (Sister Carolyn Clines) taught us to say the rosary. I must not have been paying very good attention. For years I said it incorrectly, using the first bead of the set of 10 for the Our Father, and the remaining nine for Hail Marys and the big bead for the Glory Be. I trust that the Blessed Mother Mary smiled at this child’s slip-up. A few years later, I learned the “correct” way to pray the rosary.

Use of the rosary as a personal devotion has not always been consistent in my life. For a number of years it wasn’t on my daily list of vocal prayers. However, now it is securely part of my spiritual practice. As distracted and dry as it gets, I pray the rosary every day, either at home, outside for a walk, in a chapel, or even while driving my car. (I think the latter practice has made me a little more patient with other drivers.)

Recently I happened upon another devotion to Mary using Hail Marys and beads: The Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin. Somehow I stumbled upon a prayer card that listed the Sorrows and Mary’s promises to anyone who prays a Hail Mary with each one. Simple! This little devotion has become another part of my daily spiritual practice. It has brought me to realize the deep compassion that must be Mary’s. She suffered everything a mother can possibly suffer. Just imagine each one, and add an intention to each prayer. I humbly suggest some that I use:

The First Sorrow: The Prophecy of Simeon at the Presentation. (Luke 2:22-35) Mary heard words that could cause concern for her little child’s future. Pray for parents who worry about their children.

The Second Sorrow: The Flight into Egypt. (Matthew 2:13-15) Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were refugees who fled their homes for their lives. Pray for refugee families.

The Third Sorrow: The Loss of Jesus in the Jerusalem Temple. (Luke 2:41-52) Every parent can imagine the terror of losing a child or having a child snatched from sight. Pray for lost or missing children and their families.

The Fourth Sorrow: The Meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross. (Luke 23-26-32) How often does a mother feel helpless when witnessing the suffering of a child. Pray for parents who can only witness the suffering of their children.

The Fifth Sorrow: The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus. (John 19: 25-27) Is there any pain deeper than that of a parent losing a child? Imagine the pain of losing a son to a violent death. Pray for parents who witness the death of their child.

The Sixth Sorrow: The taking down of the body of Jesus from the Cross. (Matthew 27:57) The Pieta is the scene of Mary holding the body of her dead son. There are no words for such sorrow. Pray for parents of children lost and presumed dead. They have no consolation.

The Seventh Sorrow: the Burial of Jesus. (John 19:40) Pray for parents who must bury their children.

Mary, Our Lady of Compassion, Pray for Us.

Sister Elaine Berkopec