I will admit the Sorrowful Mysteries are the most difficult for me to pray. I must contemplate my own sinfulness and meditate upon loss in my own life in order to really benefit from the Rosary on Tuesdays and Fridays. No one really enjoys approaching these topics, but it is so essential to acknowledge our faults and failures, because it sweetens Christ’s resurrection for us and makes us truly appreciate His sacrifice.
The First Sorrowful Mystery: THE AGONY IN THE GARDEN
Picture Jesus with His friends; they have fallen asleep and he is praying so fervently that his sweat becomes drops of blood. The stress of being betrayed and being abandoned is so unbearable, even for Jesus, since he too is human. I contemplate this and my own feelings of betrayal and abandonment by “friends.” I have cried for days and days, making myself sick, unable to eat or sleep, unable to see the good in other people. The difference between my pain and Jesus’ is that he instantly forgives, and I am not quite so good at that one. Therefore, I join my pain with Christ’s at this very moment. I have to believe that He, if no one else, understands my agony—the suffering that comes from realizing those I love, do not love me enough— because he suffered it too.
The Second Sorrowful Mystery: THE SCOURGING AT THE PILLAR
Jesus suffers unjustly; there is no human justice for Him, just as there are times when trials I go through do not end fairly. When I watched the movie “The Passion,” this was one of the most difficult scenes for me to watch. I found myself saying out loud, “STOP!” in realization of the fact that every time I sin, I add to His suffering. So upon this meditation, I tie my suffering with His yet again—the difference being: I deserve it; He doesn’t.
The Third Sorrowful Mystery: THE CROWNING WITH THORNS
I spoke to a few of my students the other day—smart kids, who are good and true—and they revealed how other kids had bullied them in the past, ridiculing them for being smart, being responsible, and standing up for others. I remember being made fun of myself as a child, for some of these same reasons. The scars of bullying are not healed easily; I still have animosity towards those who made feel less than what God made me— that forgiveness thing again. This scene, to me, is the image of bullying at its worst. Jesus is ridiculed for His goodness; He is taunted and made to feel small and insignificant, ironically so. He is stripped of His clothes, tortured and scorned for being the true King, with a painful mock crown. Again, I join my suffering with his, as He suffered emotionally and physically for me.
The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery: THE CARRYING OF THE CROSS
To “carry one’s cross” is an idiomatic expression that holds deep meaning for Catholics and other Christians. We use this expression to explain the day to day burdens and even the extraordinary burdens we deal with everyday. As Christ literally carries His cross, He also figuratively carries our burdens and pain. When I think of Christ carrying that cross up the hill, already weakened and battered, my troubles do not seem too unbearable. The difficult people with whom I have to deal, the circumstances beyond my control, daily wearying and monotonous tasks, health or other physical issues: these are all means by which we carry a cross. Christ assumes most of the load and I am ever grateful when I contemplate this mystery.
The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery: THE CRUCIFIXION
This is the ultimate of self-sacrifice. When I imagine just what it was that Jesus did for me, I am truly humbled. The crucifixion is the culmination of the blood, sweat, and tears that Christ shed for the sins of the world. There are few people I would absolutely die for; I would like to imagine I would die for any one my fellow men, but in truth, I don’t think I could for those who hurt me or those I love. That is what makes Jesus, as human, so extraordinary. He utters to the Father, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” I guess what I learn in this mystery is the mystery of forgiveness, but it is absolutely a mystery to me. As I contemplate the earlier mysteries and struggle with forgiveness, the crucifixion confirms the imperative to forgive those who hurt me. If Christ is willing to forgive me of those sins that torture and kill him, I must forgive those who do the same to me. I am tortured by bitterness that is instilled in me through offenses I suffer at the hands of others; Christ’s ultimate sacrifice enables me to forgive; in fact, it demands it.
I contemplate my own sinfulness and my struggle with forgiveness as I contemplate the suffering and death of our Lord. These are the hardest mysteries to embrace because they humble me; they are also the most important because they strengthen me. Christ removes my burdens, unites my suffering with His and makes me want to be worthy of what He has done for me.
Charla is a life-long Catholic, married since 1995. She has three children who attend Catholic school and university. Charla has been teaching high school English literature at the same Catholic high school she attended for over 15 years. She has Bachelor of Arts degrees in English, Latin American Studies, and Secondary Education, as well as a Masters degree in Education. Charla has served as a lector and Eucharistic minister at her parish and school. She enjoys reading, cooking, running, and all activities involving her children. Her special devotions are to the Blessed Mother, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Catherine of Alexandria, and the Holy Rosary.