Martyrdom of Solitude…

Luke 2:19 Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.

I was praying a rosary recently using a published meditation guide. In the Fourth Glorious Mystery, one meditation leaped out at me, even though I had read it many times before. The meditation gave thanks to God for all the graces Our Blessed Mother won for the Church during the inexpressible “martyrdom of solitude” that she suffered after Jesus’ ascension. As I pondered Our Lady’s “martyrdom of solitude”, I felt it take on a greater meaning for the Church today, as well as a distinct calling to the faithful in these turbulent days.

Some experiences I have had recently have underscored how we, especially as penitents, are being called to enter into Mary’s martyrdom of solitude, a solitude where the presence of Jesus in the world is not only not felt, but rarely sought. I know you feel it too. It pierces.

On Christmas Eve I arrived early for the latest Mass, thinking there would be carols or the rosary before Mass. There wasn’t. With four Masses that night and two the next day, with only one priest and a small liturgical team in the parish, I can’t say I was surprised. There were only a few people in the church, so I thought I would sit near the front and at least meditate on the rosary before Mass on this Holy Night.

In the front pew just across the aisle, sat a family with adult children. I was alarmed and seriously distracted when a couple of the young women started taking selfies of themselves, chatting in normal tones about all manner of things. I had seen people chat before Mass before, but this I found quite disturbing. I moved to the other side of the church in front of the nativity scene and offered reparation.

I was into the second decade when another large, extended family moved in a few rows behind me. I could smell the alcohol on their breath, as they chatted and laughed even louder than the first group. I started to pray my rosary out loud. While I don’t think anyone in these two groups could hear me, I’m hoping the Holy Family was in some way consoled. Lord have mercy!

A couple of days later in a group gathering someone made a joke about priests abusing altar boys. I felt as if I was the only one who didn’t find it funny. Don’t get me wrong–I am in no way excusing the guilty. Anyone who is guilty of abusing children should be found and penalized. I just don’t think there’s anything funny about it. I was pierced by how it hurt Jesus to have his Bride so tarnished, not to mention the horrific damage being inflicted upon his innocent children. I couldn’t even speak. I could only pray.

Upon reflection it occurred to me that all faithful Catholics today carry in their own spirits these modern-day piercings of Christ. We are being called to enter into Mary’s martyrdom of solitude, and it is bound to become worse before her Immaculate Heart triumphs and makes everything infinitely better. Fiat!

On top of these piercings, I feel comforts being removed. It seems we are being stripped of all that is not Christ.

But let us not become discouraged. As penitents, we know how to offer up our piercings, and strippings only serve to separate us from our attachments, until we cling only to Him. Our Mama shows us that in every circumstance, even in the piercing of our hearts, we are called to give praise to God, keep our eyes on Christ, and proclaim our never-ending Fiat!

The evil one thinks he is winning. But the Church’s martyrdom of solitude, her Fiat under the banner of Our Lady will prove to be an invincible weapon, just as it was in the early Church. Our Lady was an unsung hero in the early days of the Church. She re-lived the silence of Nazareth, bereft of the comfort of the physical presence of her Beloved Son. Her every act, perfectly conformed to the Divine Will, won graces and favors for the fledgling Church. Her holiness was the milk that fed it, just as her wisdom and knowledge guided the Apostles and disciples in their first steps. 

So let us continue to do whatever God asks of us, in silence and prayer, for as long as He requires it, embracing whatever comes as a cross-shaped gift from our Beloved. The Divine Will is indeed our joy and our hope, the tomb in which we await His glorious resurrection.

O holy Mother of God, Full of Grace, grant to us, your little children grace upon grace, that our martyrdom of solitude, linked to yours, will be an invincible weapon in your hand, leading to the glorious triumph of the Bride of Christ. St. Francis and St. Clare, all you holy angels and saints, pray for us. Amen. Fiat!

17 responses

  1. Thank you very much for this timely post. It’s easy to give lip service to embracing the Divine Will when all is well, but when the cross actively makes itself felt in my life I’m so quick to forget my previous act of surrender and instead to complain and rebel against the suffering. Praise God for his infinite mercy. Blessed Mother intercede for us!

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  2. Hello Janet-
    A beautiful phrase: “The Martyrdom of Solitude” and reflection. The Spirit is moving in us all.
    For the Christmas Eve Vigil mass, I saw the same types of cell phone altar photos and watched the priest reluctantly pose for with a large family in front of the altar, his smile rather forced.
    So many of us Catholics are wholly ignorant of the mass, of the meaning of the incarnation, death and resurrection…of the immensity of the mystery. That priest silently participated in the ‘martyrdom of solitude’ for he knows we must be met where we are.

    My husband and I have begun to attend the Tridentine mass- it has taken me a while for I am not a cradle Catholic but I after a few months, I have learned to follow the magnificent liturgy, to wear my mantilla lovingly and to revel in the fact that everyone there is present for one reason: Adore God. There is no talking, no socializing just worship.
    Since I love have studied the ‘why’ of the mantilla I now wear it even when I am at a regular mass because I feel naked without it.

    Usually, I am the only woman wearing one, but wearing the head covering makes me feel sheltered under the mantle of Our Lady and I am not bothered by the distractions…loud talking, laughter…I know the peace and serenity I am enshrouded in is Her.

    Perhaps this could be your experience as well if you decide to research the Latin mass and the why of head covering.
    A most blessed Epiphany season to you and thank you for writing this Janet.

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  3. Thank you Janet. No words really for what is happening. Ironically,our chapel….hardly a soul over last few days.seriously!! Same few stalwarts.sent my friend a text saying glad to see she has s around still ….a lone signature except for 2 others on the whole age! Without a sense of humour .. .worse!!!!

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  4. Dear Janet,
    Your reflection on The Martyrdom of Solitude has impacted me on two levels, in the obvious episodes of modern day piercings of Jesus’s church which seem to be everywhere today. But on a deeper level for me, my only son died 11 months ago, he committed suicide, he was a 36 year old high school teacher. The circumstances that preceded his death were indicative of the intense spiritual battles that are ensnaring Christians everywhere. The concept of The Martyrdom of Solitude that Our Blessed Mother experienced after Jesus ascended to Heaven is a martyrdom that feels familiar to me and that I live with every day. I do not say this to draw attention to myself, I do not say it to compare myself with Her in any fashion other than to say that the solitude after such a death is overwhelming, almost crushing. Since I have gone through this, my heart breaks for Our Heavenly Mother, I grieve for Her, I compassionate Her, I have awakened weeping for Her. Her pain and lonliness I am sure was exponentially more intense than mine, since Her Son was God. Our Lady is my personal hero, on a daily basis. I run to her, I beg her for the grace to be brave. I offer up at mass every day my son’s own passion and death in reparation for sinners, for the saving of souls, for greater sanctification of our priests, bishops, arch bishops, cardinals and the popes. Every day I ask her to make me more brave and to keep this suffering from breaking me, and that I can offer this all as my Fiat as She so willingly accepted the sufferings of her life as Her Fiat. I want to thank you for this reflection. It has touched me deeply. I love this statement~ “Our Mama shows us that in every circumstance, even in the piercing of our hearts, we are called to give praise to God, keep our eyes on Christ, and proclaim our never-ending Fiat!” Thank you … I strive to do this and will continue for the rest of my days. God Bless You.

    In the Love of Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
    Miriam

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    • Oh Miriam, what a heavy cross! I too lost a son, in 1985. He was 9 years old and died of a lengthy chronic illness. In time of great sorrow, “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” (Neh 8:10) I have felt it. Something I have also come to believe is that the grace and comfort we receive in times of great sorrow never leave us, so that, as St. Paul says in 2 Cor 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.” This verse took on new meaning as I lately endured the death of my husband, my father, and my 12-year-old grand-niece. I praise God that he used this blog post to give you comfort and hope. Bless you dear sister. Let us pray for one another and for all the unknown martyrs of solitude out there. I place them in the Flame of Love of Mary Immaculate. Fiat!

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      • I have followed you for quite some time and have always been inspired by your posts. God draws us to those with similar afflictions. My condolances to you on the loss of your precious son and all of your beloved, dear ones. The following has come to me as a great consolation: the words of Our Lord to St. Rose of LIma… I would like to share with you… it is what spurs me on.
        “Our Lord and Savior lifted up his voice and said with incomparable majesty: “Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Let them know that without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. Let them know that the gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase. Let men take care not to stray and be deceived. This is the only true stairway to paradise, and without the cross they can find no road to climb to heaven.”

        When I heard these words, a strong force came upon me and seemed to place me in the middle of a street, so that I might say in a loud voice to people of every age, sex and status: “Hear, O people; hear, O nations. I am warning you about the commandment of Christ by using words that came from his own lips: We cannot obtain grace unless we suffer afflictions.

        We must heap trouble upon trouble to attain a deep participation in the divine nature, the glory of the sons of God and perfect happiness of soul.”

        That same force strongly urged me to proclaim the beauty of divine grace. It pressed me so that my breath came slow and forced me to sweat and pant.

        I felt as if my soul could no longer be kept in the prison of the body, but that it had burst its chains and was free and alone and was going very swiftly through the whole world saying:
        “If only mortals would learn how great it is to possess divine grace, how beautiful, how noble, how precious. How many riches it hides within itself, how many joys and delights! Without doubt they would devote all their care and concern to winning for themselves pains and afflictions.

        All men throughout the world would seek trouble, infirmities and torments, instead of good fortune, in order to attain the unfathomable treasure of grace.

        This is the reward and the final gain of patience. No one would complain about his cross or about troubles that may happen to him, if he would come to know the scales on which they are weighed when they are distributed to men”.

        I have lost many dear ones….. over the years. Too many to count. We all must pray for one another. You are in my prayers for sure. God bless and Keep you always. Thank you for all that you do which brings love and comfort to your followers. The Holy Spirit is truly working in you. Bless you dear lady.
        In the Love of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
        Miriam

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  5. Amen sister! A beautiful reflection! I’m certain that when we get to heaven it will be our worst sufferings, linked to the cross, that we will be most grateful for, as we will see what they were able to purchase in Christ. Fiat!

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