Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows – 15 September – also known as:• Beata Maria Virgo Perdolens• Beata Vergine Addolorata• Dolorosa• Maria Santissima Addolorata• Mater Dolorosa• Mother of Sorrows• Our Lady of the Seven Dolours• Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows• Sorrowful Mother. Patronages – Archconfraternity of Christian Mothers, Congregation of the Holy Cross, Slovakia, Mississippi, USA, 13 cities. Attributes – • heart surrounded by a wreath of roses and transfixed by a sword• heart with seven swords, emblematic of the Seven Sorrows. This feast is dedicated to the spiritual martyrdom of Mary, Mother of God, and her compassion with the sufferings of her Divine Son, Jesus. In her suffering as co-redeemer, she reminds us of the tremendous evil of sin and shows us the way of true repentance. May the numerous tears of the Mother of God be condusive to our salvation; with which tears Thou, O God, art able to wash away the sins of the whole world. This feast dates back to the 12th century. It was especially promoted by the Cistercians and the Servites, so much so that in the 14th and 15th centuries it was widely celebrated throughout the Catholic Church. In 1482 the feast was added to the Missal under the title of “Our Lady of Compassion.” Pope Benedict XIII added it to the Roman Calendar in 1727 on the Friday before Palm Sunday. In 1913, Pope Pius X fixed the date on September 15. The title “Our Lady of Sorrows” focuses on Mary’s intense suffering during the passion and death of Christ. “The Seven Dolors,” the title by which it was celebrated in the 17th century, referred to the seven swords that pierced the Heart of Mary. The feast is an octave for the birthday of Our Lady on September 8th.
The Seven Sorrows:
• The Prophecy of Simeon over the Infant Jesus (Luke 2:34)
• The Flight into Egypt of the Holy Family (Matthew 2:13)
• The Loss of the Child Jesus for Three Days (Luke 2:43)
• The Meeting of Jesus and Mary along the Way of the Cross (Luke 23:26)
• The Crucifixion, where Mary stands at the foot of the cross (John 19:25)
• The Descent from the Cross, where Mary receives the dead body of Jesus in her arms (Matthew 27:57)
• The Burial of Jesus (John 19:40)
The day after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Holy Mother Church has us look at Christ’s Mother beneath the Cross. The voice of the liturgy invites us to consider her sorrow: “Ó all ye who pass by the way, attend and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow.” Above all, this solemn day shows us Mary on Calvary and reminds us of that supreme sorrow among all the sorrows that ran through the life of Our Lady. The Church gave this feast the title of Seven Sorrows because this number (seven) expresses the idea of totality and universality.
As the octave of the Nativity of Our Lady ends, the consideration of her suffering would not normally come to the mind of the faithful. But if someone would ask about the future of this child, we would recall that before being proclaimed blessed by all nations, Mary would suffer with her Son for the salvation of the world.
The sorrow of Our Lady is a work of God. He was the One who destined her to be the Mother of His Son. Therefore, He indissolubly united her to the Person, life, mysteries and sufferings of Jesus in order to make her His faithful companion in the work of Redemption. Suffering has to be a great gift, because God gave it to His Son and to the creature He loves more than any other after Him, Our Lady. He gave it as a most precious gift.
For Mary the suffering did not start at Calvary, but with Jesus, “that incommodious child,” as Bossuet called Him, because wherever He went, He entered with His Cross and with His thorns which He distributes to those He loves.
The prophecy of the aged Simeon, the flight into Egypt, the loss of the Divine Child in Jerusalem, to see her Son carrying the Cross, His Crucifixion, the taking down from the Cross, and the burial of Jesus: these are the seven mysteries into which are grouped the almost infinite sufferings which made Our Lady the Queen of Martyrs, the first and loveliest rose in the garden of the Spouse.
To understand the extent and intensity of the suffering of Our Lady, we need to understand the extent and intensity of her love for Jesus because her love increased her suffering. Nature and grace concurred to produce in Mary’s heart profound impressions. Nothing is stronger by nature than the love a mother has for her son, and by grace the love one has for God.
St. Bernard ((1090-1153)) wrote, “Truly, O Blessed Mother, a sword has pierced your heart…. He died in body through a love greater than anyone had known. She died in spirit through a love unlike any other since His”. (De duodecim praerogatativs BVM).
Focusing on the compassion of our Blessed Mother, St Pope John Paul II, reminded the faithful, “Mary Most Holy goes on being the loving consoler of those touched by the many physical and moral sorrows which afflict and torment humanity. She knows our sorrows and our pains because she too suffered, from Bethlehem to Calvary. ‘And they soul too a sword shall pierce.’ Mary is our Spiritual Mother and the mother always understands her children and consoles them in their troubles. Then, she has that specific mission to love us, received from Jesus on the Cross, to love us only and always, so as to save us! Mary consoles us above all by pointing out the Crucified One and Paradise to us!” (1980).
Therefore, as we honour our Blessed Mother, our Lady of Sorrows, we honour her as the faithful disciple and exemplar of faith. Let us pray as we do in the opening prayer of the Mass for this feast day: Father, as your Son was raised on the cross, His Mother Mary stood by Him, sharing His sufferings. May your Church be united with Christ in His suffering and death and so come to share in His rising to new life. Looking to the example of Mary, may we too unite our sufferings to our Lord, facing them with courage, love and trust.