A lovely gift idea for Lent

The Seven Sorrows reminds us of the anguish Mary bore in her heart (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

We are still in Lent, so in case readers would like to recharge their Lenten reading matter Gracewing has produced The Rosary of Our Lady of Sorrows by Anthony Jeremy (£2.50). The author, who teaches Canon Law at Cardiff University and who was received into the Church within the Ordinariate, is clearly knowledgeable about the history of this devotion and passionate about making it more widely known.

For those who have not encountered it before, the Seven Sorrows are: The prophecy of Simeon; the flight into Egypt; the loss of Jesus in the Temple; meeting Jesus on the way of the Cross; Jesus Dying on the Cross; Mary receiving the body of her Son; and Jesus is laid in the tomb. Well-known from the Gospels, these selected incidents remind us of the anguish that Mary bore in her heart. Cardinal Newman is quoted as commenting that “the pains of the soul may be as fierce as those of the body”. Indeed, as great novelists and dramatists show us, they might be worse.

Each Sorrow is structured with an opening sequence, prayers appropriate to the particular occasion, a closing prayer and a reflection. These reflections are mainly taken from Father Frederick William Faber’s classic, The Sorrows of Mary, first published in 1858. They contain many arresting insights, such as his reference to the spiritual trial of “falling prey to false inspirations [and] neglecting our obligation to pursue perfection.” Pre-20th century religious writers are tougher than modern ones.

At the fourth Sorrow, Father Faber reminds us that “For Mary, this was the Advent of the long dreaded evil that has been constantly with her. There is a peculiar pain in the arrival of long-expected suffering. We may try to prepare to anticipate it but when the blow falls it bears no relation to our expectation.” We can all relate to this.

At the fifth Sorrow, we are reminded that “Mary is at the [deathbeds] of believers and non-believers alike” and that our prayers matter for “those who are without faith who have a desperate need for miracles of grace to aid them.” As everyone has friends or family members who have lapsed from or who are outside the Faith, this is a consoling reminder that we are not helpless bystanders when they are facing their final hours.

Beautifully illustrated by the stained glass windows from the chapel at Nazareth House, Cardiff, and with Michelangelo’s Pieta on the front cover, this would make a lovely Lenten gift.