OUR LADY of SORROWS – Reflection by Carol Thornton

FEAST DAY – SEPTEMBER 15TH

The title, Our Lady of Sorrows, given to our Blessed Mother focuses not only on her intense suffering and grief during the passion and death of our Lord but throughout his life. Traditionally, this suffering comprised the seven “dolors” or seven “sorrows” of Mary, which were foretold by the Priest Simeon who proclaimed to Mary, “This child (Jesus) is destined to be the downfall and the rise of many in Israel, a sign that will be opposed—and you yourself shall be pierced with a sword so that the thoughts of many hearts may be laid bare.” Luke 2:34‐35

These seven sorrows of our Blessed Mother include:

  • Presentation prophesy of Simeon
  • The flight of the Holy Family into Egypt
  • The loss and finding of the child Jesus in the Temple
  • Mary’s meeting of her son Jesus on His way to Calvary
  • Mary’s standing at the foot of the cross when our Lord was crucified
  • Mother Mary holding the body of Jesus when He was taken down from the cross
  • Mary at our Lord’s burial

 

The prophesy of Simeon, that a sword would pierce our Blessed Mother’s heart, was fulfilled in these events. For this reason, Mary is sometimes depicted with her heart exposed and with seven swords piercing it. More importantly, each new suffering was received with the courage, love, and trust that echoed her fiat, “let it be done unto me according to Thy word”, first uttered at the Annunciation.

This Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows grew in popularity and by the 15th century the feast and devotion were widespread throughout the Church. In 1482, the feast was officially placed in the Roman Missal under the title of Our Lady of Compassion, highlighting the great love our Blessed Mother displayed in suffering with her Son.

The word “compassion” derives from the Latin roots “cum” and “patios” which means to suffer with. The feast was inserted into the Roman calendar in 1814, and Pope Pius X fixed the permanent date of September 15 for the Feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary (now simply called the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows).

The Second Vatican Council in its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church wrote, “She stood in keeping with the divine plan, suffering grievously with her only‐begotten Son. There she united herself, with a maternal heart, to His sacrifice, and lovingly consented to the immolation of this Victim which she herself had brought forth” (#58)

Focusing on the compassion of our Blessed Mother, Saint Pope John Paul II reminded the faithful that, Mary goes on being the loving consoler of those touched by the many physical and moral sorrows which afflict humanity.

Therefore, as we honor Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, we honor 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.”