In honor of Our Lady of Sorrows, whose feast we celebrate on September 15. She is our Sorrowful Mother, who suffered all with her Son, Jesus,
and continues to suffer with all of her children
When Sofia was first diagnosed, at the age of 4, with pervasive developmental disorder, it was a terrifying time for me. We were living in a town where we had no extended family and no friends; it was the only place where Charles had been able, at that time, to find a job. And he was in denial about the serious developmental problems of our younger daughter. So I felt painfully alone. One day, as I was walking to our local supermarket with Sofia, I glanced to the right and for a split second saw Jesus walking in the same direction. Without saying a word to me, the Lord clearly communicated: “Do not be afraid; you are not alone; I am with you. We are walking together in the same direction.”
When Sofia was very young, it was very difficult for me to take her to Mass, but I knew the Lord wanted me to do that. She could not sit still and could not be quiet, even though she could not communicate much with language. The Lord has given her the beautiful gift of a very lovely voice, and she can very quickly learn the melody of any song, and she loved to sing at Mass: “Jingle Bells,” “Puff the Magic Dragon,” or whatever else “the Spirit moved her” to sing. For a while I would take her to the “cry room,” but it seemed like she was even too distracting for people in there.
So I began taking her outside and walking the beautiful grounds, and we would take turns singing to each other, and I would talk to her about Jesus and Mary when we would visit the lovely statues on the church grounds. I will never forget the day that she climbed up to where she could see the Baby Jesus in Mother Mary’s arms, and she exclaimed with more awe than I have ever heard from anyone before or since: “Baby Jesus!” We would always go back in the church in time for me to receive Holy Communion, and for Sofia to receive a blessing from the priest.
One Sunday Sofia was sick, and so I left her with her Dad and went to Mass with my older daughter. A friend of mine said, “You are really going to enjoy this Mass,” and, half-heartedly (because I was missing Sofia) I said, “Yes,” and I really hoped that I would enjoy the Mass more. But I didn’t. The surprising thing was that I was not only missing Sofia; I realized that I was not experiencing the same intense closeness to Jesus that I experienced when I was with Sofia; I was missing the powerful presence of the Lord that I experienced with Sofia.
A few nights after that, I had a dream of kneeling behind Sofia, and I hugged her to myself with great love, saying, “I love You, Jesus; I love You, Jesus…” over and over again. This is the first time that the Lord showed me so clearly that, in lovingly caring for Sofia, I was loving and serving Him. And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me” (Mt 25:40).
When Sofia was about 8 years old, we were members of a parish where the priest was really bothered by Sofia’s constant motion and noise. One Sunday, when I entered the church with both of my daughters (Sofia making her usual “noise”), the pastor did not even greet us. He waved us to the cry room. My heart was painfully pierced, knowing that my beloved daughter was not welcome with her “noise.” I took Sofia to the cry room, and I was the one who cried. Tears streamed down my face, as I silently cried about all of the times Sofia had been excluded and rejected. It hurt more than ever to have our pastor exclude us. But I knew why we were there. I knew we had come to honor Jesus, not the pastor, and so I said to Him, as I cried: “We are here for You, Lord, and He immediately responded to me, “You (both of my daughters and I) are welcome in My Heart.” I was immediately consoled by the Lord’s love.
Soon after that the Lord directed me to attend the church where every member of my family was welcomed and warmly loved. That is the parish where Sofia made her First Communion. At a Mass celebrated especially for her, she shone as the Lord’s Beloved as He came to her in His Most Holy Sacrament. She was also loved by all who helped to make her day so special. She had been prepared for the sacrament by a very kind lady—who remains our dear friend—who always warmly welcomed her into her house, greeting her by calling her “My Angel.” At her special Mass my hyperactive child calmly and reverently received Our Lord. After the First Communion Mass, the prayer group who had organized it gave Sofia a beautiful reception, where she received many very special gifts.
Thirteen years later, Sofia is still a little child, developmentally. Her life is still very much a challenge for her, and for my husband and me. Several weeks ago my husband was working all night, and so Sofia and I were alone at our house. At 4:30 in the morning I woke up to Sofia’s scream, and I went immediately to her bed, where she was whining loudly. Without knowing what the problem was, since she cannot tell me, I tried to calm her by speaking to her soothingly. She screamed again and hit me. I think she may have had a nightmare.
And so, I sat next to her and prayed for her. After a little while I began praying the Divine Mercy chaplet. This is my “urgent need” prayer, because Jesus told St. Faustina that we can obtain anything that is God’s will through praying this chaplet, if we trust in Him as we pray it. I was meditating on the sorrowful mysteries as I prayed it, and when I got to the fourth mystery—Jesus carries His Cross—a powerful image came to me, and I experienced the Lord’s presence through that image.
In that image Jesus was sitting on the ground underneath His Cross, too tired to get up, and I was sitting next to Him, feeling the same way. In the image Jesus and I rested our heads against each other’s, and I felt one with Him in our suffering. I cannot describe to you the consolation that I felt through that experience. As I was experiencing this, Sofia became totally calm, and we were both able to go back to sleep.
“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” (Isaiah 53:4)
I have been pondering that image ever since. It occurred to me that I only saw one Cross in the image, and I wondered why I didn’t see my cross and Sofia’s cross. The Lord has given me the understanding that, when we share our suffering with Him, there is only one cross: the Cross of Jesus Christ.