Friday, September 14 was the Feast Day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and Saturday, September 15, the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. For most of the first 300 years of its existence, the Church was persecuted by the Roman Empire, among others, but that all ended in the year 313 AD with the Edict of Milan. The newly named Roman Emperor attributed his victory over his competitor to the help of Jesus Christ and legalized the practice of Christianity.
Historians disagree about the genuineness of Emperor Constantine’s faith, but few doubt the faith of his mother, St. Helena. St. Helena was the one who journeyed to the Holy Land to build Churches over the holy sites, such as the place where Jesus was born in Bethlehem and the site of the crucifixion. She recovered the relics of the true Cross from where it had been hidden and it was venerated in Jerusalem for over 300 years. In the 600s AD, when the Cross was taken from its place by the Persians, Emperor Heraclius recovered the Cross and had it brought to Rome. The Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross was established to commemorate that event.
The Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows follows the next day because Our Blessed Mother was united to Christ in His life on earth, in His sufferings on the Cross, and is now with Him in heaven. These two feast days teach us the lesson of the Cross. This is a lesson of faith, hope, and charity. We must have faith because everyone suffers in this life. There is no way to completely avoid suffering. We must try to imitate the faith of Mary and unite our suffering to the suffering of Christ. In that way we are lifted up with Him, so that, as St. Paul says in his letter to the Romans, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us” (Rm 8:18). Faith leads to hope, because we know that Christ overcame the sufferings of the Cross in His Resurrection on the third day, and, “if we be dead with Him, we shall also rise with Him” (2 Tim 2:11).
Faith and Hope lead to charity, because we know that Christ died for us, and, as He said to His apostles after He washed their feet, “For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you do also” (Jn 13:15). As Christ had compassion on us and came to free us from sin and death, so let us have compassion on one another and try to relieve their suffering.
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Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.