To what shall I compare you? Or to what shall I liken you, O daughter of Jerusalem?...for great as the sea is your destruction; who shall heal you? (Lam 2:13)
No one can measure the intensity of Our Mother's sorrows. Cardinal Hugo tries to with these words: "O Blessed Virgin Mary, as the sea is more bitter than anything else, so is your sorrow more bitter than any other sorrow." St. Anselm adds: "If God had not by a special miracle preserved the life of Mary at each moment of her life, her sorrow would have been such as to cause her death." Saint Bernardine goes a step further: "The grief of Mary was so great that, if it were divided among all men, it would be sufficient to cause their death immediately." Our Sorrowful Mother testifies to this herself in her church approved apparition at La Salette: "No matter how well you pray in the future, no matter how well you act, you will never be able to make up to me what I have endured for your sake."
Sober indeed are these words of Our Lady and the saints who testify on her behalf. We, as sinners who are hardened by our worldliness and concupiscience, can never even begin to understand the suffering and sorrow that took place in Mary's Immaculate Heart. Remember, she was for all time preserved by a special grace from all stain of sin - therefore her suffering is more intense for this, not less as if often wrongly assumed.
So why was Mary's martyrdom more intense than that of all others? Mary's martyrdom was spiritual rather than physical, as St. Simeon prophesied: "And your own soul a sword shall pierce (Lk 2:35). St. Alphonsus de Ligouri expounds on this passage thus: "O most Blessed Virgin, the bodies of other martyrs will be torn with hooks of iron, but you will be transfixed and martyred not in body but in soul by the Passion of your Son." Jesus, speaking on His holy mother's suffering to St. Catherine of Siena: "There is no comparison between the sufferings of the soul and those of the body." Therefore it is well accepted by Holy Mother Church that spiritual martyrdom is worse, more severe and longer in length than physical martyrdom.
Other marytrs suffered by sacrificing thier lives, the Virgin Mary suffered by sacrificing her son's life, a life dearer than her own. She endured in spirit all that her Son suffered in body. It is generally well known that when children suffer thier mothers suffer even more - how much more is this true for Mary and Jesus? More than we can imagine. Saint Lawrence Giustiniani says: "The heart of Mary became, as it were, a mirror of the Passion of her Son, in which one could see, faithfully reflected, the thorns, the blows, the wounds, and all that Jesus suffered."
More on the intensity of Mary's martyrdom in the next post...
(Source: The Glories of Mary by St. Alphonsus de Ligouri)
O sorrowful Mother! You wept bitterly over your son who died for my salvation; but what good will all those tears do me if I am lost? By the merits of your sorrows, obtain for me true contrition for my sins and a genuine amendment of my life, together with a constant and tender compassion for the sufferings of Jesus and your own sorrows. Since Jesus and you, innocent as you both are, have suffered so much for love of me, help me, who am deserving of hell, to suffer something for love of you. Amen+