By Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR
In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary; call upon Mary. Let not her name depart from your lips; never suffer it to leave your heart…while she holds your hand, you cannot fail. ~St. Bernard of Clairvaux, (1090-1153)
Of all the blessings that a mother is for her children, clearly, the task of comforting them in their times of trouble and pain is central to her maternal role. Mary has become the pre-eminent model of a mother consoling her children, and there are many reasons why the Church assigns her the title of “Comforter of the Afflicted.” Before I explain further I wish to make mention of the fact that I have never turned to Mary in time of need or affliction where I have not been comforted in some very concrete and real way. In my sixty years of profession as a Franciscan and as a preacher I have always directed people to immediately run to her in times of trouble and sorrow, and I have full confidence that no one has ever been turned away from receiving the help they need. To this day I bring not only my own needs but the needs of so many other afflicted children to Mary, needs of those who otherwise would not have the consolation they need to get through the sorrows of life.
Mary is shown in the Gospels as standing at the foot of the Cross of Jesus, comforting Her Son in His time of greatest need. Imagine that scene for a moment if you will. She does not appear at his triumphal entry into Jerusalem the week before or at the Last Supper. She is not to be found in the Garden of Gethsemane (where He had an angel to console Him). Rather, she shows up at the place where virtually everyone else had abandoned Him: Calvary. She is powerless to stop the unjust killing of her beloved Son, but she is not there trying to alter what she knew by faith to be the Will of God. She is there in solidarity with the suffering Christ and to provide Him the last bit of earthly consolation that He would have. At that central moment of salvation history she is the Comforter of the Afflicted Christ.
Let us imagine further. On the next day, Holy Saturday, before Jesus is resurrected and the disciples were cowering in the Upper Room for fear of retaliation, she is there with them too, strengthening them in their loneliness, grief, and affliction. The Gospels give us the impression that she remained with them throughout the whole forty day period after Christ’s Resurrection, even up to the day of Pentecost, where the Acts of the Apostles tells us that she is still with them and strengthens them to receive the Holy Spirit which she knew they would need in the persecutions and martyrdoms that would follow. What Mary was to Jesus at Calvary, she continues to be in Jerusalem for the early church and for all generations of Christians to follow: she is the Comforter of the Afflicted.
The unceasing testimony of centuries of Christians bears witness that Mary exercises this most vital function of consolation and comfort for all who belong to her Son. We must never hesitate to turn to her in times of sorrow and distress, whatever its origin. When a mother sees the suffering of a child she does not ask its reason or inquire as to whether it was just or unjust. She only seeks to alleviate it and help the child derive some true benefit from it. Furthermore, Mary wants to be included in all our most trying moments because she has innumerable healing graces to bestow upon us if we will but turn to her and ask her to help us. In the apparitions of the Miraculous Medal St. Margaret Mary asked Mother Mary why some of the jewels that appeared on her hands were not radiant with light while many other jewels were. Mary replied that the jewels that did not give off light represented all the graces that the faithful did not ask for but which she so wished to provide for them. What a lesson that is for us!
If you are like me, I am sure you will know that our time on this earth is full of sorrows and afflictions, but how often do we go to Mary as St. Bernard says, “in dangers, in doubts, in difficulties”? When we admit that we really cannot handle all the challenges of life on our own, that is the moment that we find an avenue to address our problems. We need only turn to Our Lady, Comforter of the Afflicted, to receive help in all our afflictions, and, like the most loving of mothers, Mary will run to our aid.
Holy Mother, tender “Comforter of the Afflicted,” stand by us in all our sorrows and sufferings just as you stood by the Cross of Jesus. Unite our afflictions to His and bring us through them to the everlasting joys of heaven. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
[Excerpted from: Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Jesus and Mary: In Praise of their Glorious Names, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc.: Huntington, Indiana, 2012.]