Weeping mothers: Mary, Birmingham, Chile

 At the cross her station keeping
stood the mournful mother weeping,
close to Jesus to the last.
Stabat Mater

Today is the feast of Our Mother of Sorrows.  From the time I was a child I remember singing   verses of the medieval hymn Stabat Mater during the Stations of the Cross. The hymn calls to mind the presence of Mary at the death of Jesus, her son, on the cross.

Today we might recall the role of Mary as the weeping compassionate mother, looking on as her son was brutally crucified. Because of this, St. Augustine spoke of her martyrdom in spirit.

Fifty years ago, on September 15, 1963, in a church in the highly segregated city of Birmingham, Alabama, black children were vesting for choir after having participated in Sunday school. A bomb took the lives of four of them, the martyred children of Birmingham. Their mothers and many others mourned their death.

The children of Birmingham should not just be seen as victims of racial violence. In May 1963 the black children of Birmingham had left their classes to try to talk with the mayor. They were jailed and after they were released they returned the next day. The protest ended after dogs and fire hoses were used on them. But they had nonviolently stood up against injustice.

Forty years ago, on September 15, 1973, Victor Jara, a famous Chilean folk singer and activist, was among the thousands imprisoned in the Santiago, Chile, National Stadium by the US-supported coup. On this day he was killed, after having been beaten. His hands which had been instruments of protest on his guitar were broken. But he sang out to those in the stadium with the song Venceremos – We will win. He was then shot to death.

Mary mourned the death of her son. She is the prime example of all those who mourn the deaths of their children, those killed unjustly, the victims of war, the tortured, and those who die because they do not have enough to eat or their parents don’t have money to pay for medicine.

Mary is present there.

As the martyred archbishop of San Salvador, Monseñor Oscar Romero, once said:

Even when all despaired, at the hour when Christ was dying on the cross, Mary, serene, awaited the hour of the resurrection. Mary is the symbol of the people who suffer oppression and injustice. Theirs is the calm suffering that awaits the resurrection. It is Christ suffering, the suffering of the Church, which does not accept the present injustices, but awaits without rancor the moment when the Risen One will return to give us the redemption we await.

So too we should be there, sitting in mourning with all the mothers of the world who cry out against pain and injustice.

Our prayer is heard by God. But will the powers of this world listen, unless we cry out unceasingly.

 

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