A Pierced Heart, a Merciful Heart

Today’s meditation from Magnificat

by Father Bede Jarrett, O.P.


As though they could not conceive of any more beautiful idea in which to sum up the work of God’s maiden mother, the early Christians in one case represented her by the side of the Good Shepherd, feeding with her hands a crowd of fluttering birds; she, too, has the high and sacred office that comes to those who the

more nearly approach to Christ, of succoring the distressed. We, too, hail her under various titles that so proclaim her kindly privilege: she is Our Lady of Perpetual Help; above all, the Mother of Mercy.

She has an understanding of all distress. We speak of her as the Queen of Martyrs, the Mother of Sorrows, because we regard her as having touched the depths of all human anguish. The whole progress of her life was a progress in suffering from the moment of the birth of her Son, through the early anxieties that the massacre of the Innocents entailed, the words of Simeon, the losing of the Child, and his seemingly upbraiding words about his Father’s business. The shadow of the cross during all the thirty years of intimacy, the leave-taking, the plotting of the Pharisees, the detailed pains of those last days, and the terrors of his agony and death and burial have marked out her burden as above the burdens that have fallen to the lot of the children of Adam.


No one, then, can approach her without feeling that she will understand their own woe. And if she understands as none other can, will she not also desire to help as none other can, since she is the mother of him who was all love? If his saints are distinguished by love, caught from the fire of his heart, certainly she more than all the others must have in her nature the wide sympathy of Christ—the sympathy, and also the will to aid.

The love of God, which has worked great deeds of pity since the world began, cannot exist in her without effect; the kindness that she saw for thirty years on earth cannot have left her outlook on life untouched. Mother of Sorrow, she is also the mother of the pitiful heart. Not merely does she sympathize with sorrow, but she is filled with longing to ease and allay it—the consoler, we say, of the afflicted. Finally, she not only understands and desires to help, but she has far more than any other the power to show that in the fullest way.


The chroniclers tell us that when Edward III had made up his mind to destroy the burghers of Calais because of the harm they had wrought upon his subjects, and had refused to spare their lives even at the request of his best soldier and favorite knight, the Queen of England hurried from her court across the sea to add her petitions to the same cause. He could only answer: “I can deny nothing to the mother of my son.”


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