“Christ in Gethsemane,” Heinrich Hofmann, 1890. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
“Christ in Gethsemane,” Heinrich Hofmann, 1890. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
"  Jesus’ Passion is where he shows us how much he loves us. It’s easy to understand God in his majesty and power; but in the humility he took on in suffering and dying for us – that makes us feel his love for us … Meditating on Jesus’ suffering helps us to bear our suffering better. "

One item stood out among the many religious items of my Grandma Alma's bedroom as I let my still-short child’s legs dangle from my perch on her bedspread: a painting of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. On his knees at a boulder underneath a tree, his eyes searched Heaven for God the Father against a blackened sky, begging Him for reprieve.

I stared at this painting many times, knowing that the scene depicted the Agony in the Garden – the first of the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary – and I found myself drawn into the raw emotion of moment. Realizing that Jesus, Son of the Creator of the Universe, could experience acute anxiety, sorrow and fear, spoke to my young heart.

As I prayed the Rosary over the years, images would pop into my head at the announcement of each Mystery – and the painting in my grandmother’s room always featured at the beginning of the Sorrowful Mysteries. Rather than avoiding those five recollections of sadness and pain, I found myself drawn to them even more when I myself experienced personal agony.

I know I’m not alone in my need for a model of suffering well. Two women visited with me recently about their personal experience with the Sorrowful Mysteries. Our husbands all attend the same diaconate classes for the Diocese of Trenton, and both women have found these scenes in the life of Jesus and Mary a comfort and signpost for their faith.

Barbara Turro has made it a point to pray the Rosary every day since she joined Sacred Heart Parish’s Rosary Altar Society in 2017; she and her husband Jim are longtime members of the Bay Head parish.

“I’ve visited the Garden of Gethsemane,” she said. “We had Mass around that rock where Jesus is said to have prayed. Every time I pray the Sorrowful Mysteries, it brings me back to that rock.”

Our trials are an opportunity to enter into that suffering of Christ and the Blessed Mother, Turro noted. “When praying the Sorrowful Mysteries, [you can see] from her perspective how she witnesses as a mother – how strong Mary had to be, even though she was ‘full of grace,’ and how she gets it when we’re suffering or struggling.”

A member of St. Mary Parish, Colts Neck, with her husband Rich, Mary Gerbino has made it a point to pray the Rosary daily.


“I love to pray the Sorrowful Mysteries,” she said. “Jesus’ Passion is where he shows us how much he loves us. It’s easy to understand God in his majesty and power; but in the humility he took on in suffering and dying for us – that makes us feel his love for us … Meditating on Jesus’ suffering helps us to bear our suffering better.”

As for my own experience, praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary felt as if I was given permission by Jesus and Our Lady to grieve and to acknowledge suffering. After all, if the Mother of God and the Redeemer could weep and cry out, could be heartbroken and discouraged, could feel abandoned and alone, then so could I. Both Jesus and Our Lady could identify and empathize with my pain, because they experienced it firsthand – which meant that they could offer me consolation from a place of complete understanding.