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The Mother of Christ, who bore inscrutable sorrow throughout her Son’s suffering and death, stands resolutely beside all of her adopted children in their times of greatest need.
“In Mary, the Church receives the gift of a mother’s love,” stated Bishop W. Shawn McKnight. “A mother who nurtures, intercedes for, and loves with an unconditional and unflinching love.”
Bishop McKnight offered the closing Mass for this year’s Fall Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows in Starkenburg.
The pilgrimage has been held annually since 1891on the Sunday closest to the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows.
The skies cleared after an early-morning rain, allowing several hundred people to take part in the day’s activities.
In his homily, Bishop McKnight pointed to the Christian understanding that suffering needn’t lack value, purpose or meaning.
“That is what makes us different as Christians: not that we are without the problems or sufferings of this life, but because of our faith, we can bear them differently — gently, with hope and without despair,” he said.
Jesus, aware that those who follow Him would endure difficulties and tribulations in this life, announced: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me,” (Luke 9:23).
“In our devotion to the Sorrowful Mother, we seek the assurances of grace so that we can bear life’s difficulties with hope in the resurrection of our Lord,” said Bishop McKnight.
Anyone who mourns the loss of a loved one is given the chance to exercise faith in Jesus Christ and His promise of eternal life.
“And being in touch with our own sorrows, without being consumed by them, motivates us to have care and concern for others who are suffering,” the bishop noted.
“As Christians, we are called to use our sorrows and sufferings for the spiritual benefit of all, especially those closest to us,” he said.
He pointed out that Mary, who was conceived without sin, suffered because of her own great love and her Son’s overwhelming passion for saving lost souls.
“From the Cross, Jesus, in His own terrible agony because of our sins, gave us His mother for our consolation,” said Bishop McKnight.
“The agony of Jesus was shared deeply in the heart of His mother, who suffered more than any other person of our race precisely because she was without sin and could love the most.”
“In time of suffering, our devotion to the Sorrowful Mother takes on a new resonance deep within our souls, as we contemplate the mystery of how someone so good could suffer so much,” he said.
The bishop pointed out that while God’s grace kept Mary safe from the stain of sin throughout her life, she was a human being, flesh and blood created by God.
“So we neither worship nor adore her,” he emphasized. “Instead, we celebrate and give great thanks for her, and honor, love and venerate her.”
Bishop McKnight called upon Mary’s powerful intercession in heaven to “help us to be more faithful and holy members of the Body of Christ by our acceptance of the sufferings of this life with patience and hope.”
“And may we be a consolation to others who suffer, by our works of charity and mercy,” he said.
Before Mass, pilgrims carried a replica of the “White Lady,” an image of the Blessed Mother that has been at the Shrine since 1852, in a Rosary procession through the Shrine grounds.
Bishop McKnight spoke in his homily of the fervent devotion the area’s Bavarian settlers had cultivated to Our Lady of Sorrows.
“Since the 19th century, many ordinary Catholics, like you and me, have found this shrine and its environs to be a sacred place to bring sorrows, troubles and sufferings of daily life,” he said.
“Today, we are keeping the promise of an annual pilgrimage made by our ancestors, who attributed to Our Lady many saving graces that averted floods, flus and famine.”