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Why is Mary called Our Lady of Sorrows?

We celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows on September 15th. It commemorates the profound union of heart that existed between the Mother of the Redeemer and the Savior, through which she experienced many interior sorrows as a consequence of His Mission, but particularly during His Passion and Death.


From the early days of Jesus’ life, Mary suffered through these maternal pains and anxieties. With Simeon’s prophecy, Mary knew that a sword would pierce her own soul. Soon thereafter, the Holy Family was forced to flee to Egypt in order to save Jesus from King Herod (Matthew 2:13-23).

OUR LADY OF SORROWS

Why is Mary called Our Lady of Sorrows? (cont'd)

Also, the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph suffered the pain of Jesus remaining behind in the Temple for three days. With her Son entering upon His Mission the opposition of so many to Him, as recounted in the Gospels, must have been a tremendous sorrow for her. All of this culminated at the Cross. The title “Our Lady of Sorrows,” therefore, honors the trials that the Mother of the “Suffering Servant” (Isaiah 52:13-53:12) faced, and, therefore, this feast follows immediately after the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.


Why do we celebrate a feast of Our Lady of Sorrows?

Like all feast days, this feast gives glory to God for the salvific work that He accomplished in one of His creatures, in this case His greatest creaturely work, Mary. For Mary herself, her earthly maternal union of heart and soul with Her Son, in which she experienced both joys and sorrows, is now perfectly consummated in Heaven. However, her maternal love and union extends to us still here on Earth! As the Mother of Christ she is also the Mother of the Mystical Christ, the Church, and of we, the members of Her Son as individuals (see Revelation 12:17). St. Louis de Montfort said, “If you put all the love of all the mothers into one heart, it still would not equal the love of the heart of Mary for her children.” This means that she suffers for us as well, and we can turn to her as we would turn to our biological mothers, in both joys and sorrows.

“This poor Mother had to suffer the grief of seeing that amiable and beloved Son unjustly snatched from her in the flower of His age by a barbarous death…. This great torment, then, which Mary endured for us—a torment which was more than a thousand deaths deserves both our compassion and our gratitude.” - Saint Alphonsus Liguori

What was the prophecy of Simeon?

God has never left His people without prophets, individuals like the old man Simeon, whose prophecy regarding Mary is recounted in Luke’s Gospel. Luke 2:25-35 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel.” And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.”


Why does Mary have a sword in her heart?

Simeon told the Blessed Mother that “a sword will pierce through your own soul” (Luke 2:35). This indicates the sorrows that Mary would experience accompanying her Son in His redemptive mission. What are the seven swords that pierced Mary's heart?

  1. The prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:25-35)

  2. The flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15)

  3. Loss of the Child Jesus for three days (Luke 2:41-50)

  4. Mary meets Jesus on His way to Calvary (Luke 23:27-31; John 19:17)

  5. Crucifixion and Death of Jesus (John 19:25-30)

  6. The body of Jesus taken from the Cross (Psalm 130; Luke 23:50-54; John 19:31-37)

  7. The burial of Jesus (Isaiah 53:8; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42; Mark 15:40-47)

“And how she bore [the sorrows], how she bore them well, with strength, with tears: it was not a false distress, it was just the heart destroyed by grief.” - Pope Francis

What is the Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows of Mary?

Also known as the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows or the Servite Rosary, this chaplet includes seven sets of seven beads, as well as seven medals that depict the Sorrows of Mary. In 1239, the newly formed Order of the Servants of the Blessed Virgin Mary decided to devote their order to the Sorrows of Mary, meditating especially on her seven sorrows, a number that indicates fullness. The Servites particularly promoted this chaplet during the Black Death in the 14th-century. During the Rwandan genocide of the 1980s, Our Lady of Kibeho, in an apparition recognized by the Church, greatly recommended the Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows during her appearances to three teenage girls. This practice could be a model for ourselves in times of personal and corporate trial.