Every person has seven basic desires: to be affirmed, safe, chosen, touched, included, blessed, heard and understood.*
These desires begin in childhood, and their fulfillment contributes to our healthy development as adults. We might ask ourselves, how were these desires met when I was a child? Did I feel affirmed? Safe? Chosen? Included? Blessed? Heard and understood? Did I experience positive physical touch?
As parents, we can ask, how am I meeting these needs in my children?
An 800-year-old Scripture meditation on Mary's Seven Sorrows can deepen our understanding of these seven basic desires. In the words of St. Alphonsus Di Liguori: "As a general rule, the sufferings of children are also the sufferings of their mothers who are present at and witness their torments."
When we meditate on Mary's sorrow at different points in Jesus' life, it opens our hearts to a new perspective on Christ's revolutionary mission. Consider Mary's First Sorrow, The Prophecy of Simeon, in light of the basic human desire to be affirmed.
In Luke 2, Mary and Joseph bring baby Jesus to the temple for consecration. Mary knew she held a special baby; but what did that mean practically, for the future and for that moment? Were they making the right choices so far? Were they missing anything? What if they messed up?
How affirming it must have been to hear Simeon's prophecy, reassuring Mary and Joseph, yes, this is God's chosen one, "a light for revelation" (Luke 2:32). Yes, God is working in good ways in your life!
His prophecy was both comforting and disconcerting, as Simeon warned Mary: "You yourself a sword will pierce" (Luke 2:35). His words brought a foretaste of the sorrow Mary would experience at Jesus' Crucifixion.
I wonder if Simeon felt nervous as he stopped to talk with Mary and Joseph. Have you ever felt your heart stirred to share an encouraging word with someone? Have you hesitated for fear it wouldn't be well-received? What if it doesn't resonate with them? What if they think I'm crazy? Couldn't the Holy Spirit say this better through someone else?
We are affirmed when someone acknowledges the good in us and the good in our work. Simeon affirmed Mary's role as the mother of the Messiah. Mary affirmed Simeon's prophecy and received the truth that she would experience deep sorrow as Jesus' mother.
As we reflect on Mary's First Sorrow alongside the basic human desire to be affirmed, consider: How is this desire for positive affirmation met in my life? How can I meet this need in my child?
Next week, we'll contemplate Mary's Second Sorrow, The Flight to Egypt, and the basic human desire to be safe.
Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin,
fresco by Niccolò Circignani and Antonio Tempesta, c. 1580