The Ten Evangelical Virtues of Mary

Tenth Virtue: Sorrow

True Sorrow Helps Us to be Compassionate

by John Foster

The tenth and final virtue of the Virgin Mary — sorrow or compassion — is also called the grace of the Cross.

In the Rule of the Ten Evangelical Virtues, we are told that in this virtue "consists the perfection of our souls." The grace is not found in a "carefree life" but "only while we live in the valley of sorrows" — as Mary did at the death of her Son. The Rule of the Ten Evangelical Virtues tells us that God uses sorrow in our lives to give us grace and strengthen our compassion for others.

I am reminded of a story told to me by Father Joseph, MIC:

"Once I was in a church in a small town in Italy. It's funny, but I don't remember the name of either the town or the church. What I do remember is that behind a wrought iron gate was a painting of our Blessed Mother. She was kneeling, looking up to heaven with the most compassionate look on her face I have ever seen."

"Her heart was pierced with seven swords. In that moment I was spellbound by Our Lady's compassion. Her compassion penetrated my entire being. I stood at the gate crying, knowing — on a more heartfelt level than I had ever known before — that it is the suffering that we experience that deepens our love and compassion for others".

Pablo Casals, the French cellist and composer once said, "I feel the capacity to care is the thing that gives life its deepest significance."

A woman that I know has grown as a caring person through suffering. Throughout her entire life she has prayed the Rosary and honored Mary, the Mother of God, seeking guidance and understanding. Now, in a time of need and sorrow, she prays. Her aging husband and the father of her children is in declining health and his mind is clouded and confused with the advancing effects of Alzheimer's disease. It hurts her so to see him in his present condition. Many of the loving memories they have shared, he no longer possesses. In losing his memory, he is losing his self, and it fills her with sorrow.

She knows better than anyone the man he once was. She is also keenly aware of the man he is becoming and the anguish that he feels. But her pain is greater than his. In quiet moments, she prays to Mary. The care that she gives him day after day and the stories that she tells him to gently remind him of their long life together are loving acts of mercy. Sometimes he remembers the stories and he smiles or laughs, and sometimes he thrills her with his own remembrances. But as those times become fewer and fewer, it fills her with sorrow.

This woman and her family pray through the intercession of Mary. They know that Mary, too, shared the grace of sorrow — the grace that she received at the foot of the Cross.

Through Mary's intercession, the sorrow each family member experiences deepens the love and compassion they feel for one another.

In this family's time of sorrow, Mary's example of true sorrow and compassion inspires and lifts them and fills them with strength.