As I remember, my sister and I had a very loving mother. But when I was ten years old and my sister was thirteen, our mother passed away. Ovarian cancer. She was forty-four. It was a tragedy for my sister and me to lose our mother. And it was a tragedy for our father to lose his wife.
Our mother was the second of nine children. As time went on, our father remarried. He married one of our mother’s younger sisters, our Aunt Mary. Our aunt became our second mother. And from this second marriage came a new brother. He eventually married and blessed our family two beautiful children.
Our second mother was a woman with great faith and a loving heart. She helped my sister and me through adolescence and was a great help to us in our adult years. She lived to be ninety-three and left us with a lot of wonderful memories.
Looking back over that experience helps me understand what St. Paul tells us today. “We know that all things work for good for those who love God…” Our family loved God. And after great sadness God worked great good for us. The loss of a mother at age ten was a Calvary experience, but many Easter blessings followed.
I knew a woman who was born without any legs. A great hardship. She could not walk, run or dance, and do so many things that we healthy people take for granted. But she had a good mind, received a good education, and eventually became the registrar at our major seminary.
Over the years she became the unofficial counselor to many of us who were fortunate to know her. Her personal suffering led her to become a person of great wisdom, compassion and insight. Those of us with strong backs could lift her and her wheelchair up over curbs and stairs. And she helped us over emotional mountains in our lives. She loved God. And God worked great good through her. Again, from death came resurrection. She now gives thanks in heaven.
The Thirteenth Station. We see Mary holding the dead body of Jesus on her lap. Mater Dolorosa. That day on Calvary Mary must have cried and cried and cried…and then hoped. She knew in her heart what St. Paul was to later write to the Romans, that “all things work for good for those who love God.” Mary certainly loved God. She trusted. She waited. And Easter came.
Whenever we face pain and sorrow, Mary inspires us to trust and hope. The power of God who raised Jesus from the dead is at work in our lives too. Once we realize that, we will live each day with profound gratitude. I assure you that my sister (now in heaven), my younger brother and I continue to give thanks and praise.
Fr. Alan Phillip, C.P. is a member of the Passionist Community at Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California. http://www.alanphillipcp.com/