By Prof. Michael Ogunu –
In the Middle Ages, Catholic theology concentrated mostly on Christ’s Passion. At the side of the Man of Sorrows, however, was the Sorrowful Mother, sharing His suffering. The Gospel of John 19:25 says: “Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala.” Devotion to the Crucified Christ and to Our Lady of Sorrows grew side by side. On September 15, the day following the ancient feast of the Holy Cross, the Church celebrates the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.
The Seven Sorrows of Our Lady are taken from Scripture events. The devotion has a long history, although it was not officially promulgated by the Church until the early nineteenth century. Before Pope Pius VII’s formal approval, the Servite Order had permission in 1668 to celebrate the feast of the Seven Sorrows, because the Order was instrumental in popularizing the Seven Sorrows devotion.
The purpose of the devotion of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady is to promote union with the sufferings of Christ through union with the special sufferings that Our Lady endured for the sake of her Son and our salvation.
The seven sorrows are:
- The prophecy of Simeon (Lk 2:34-35)
- The flight into Egypt (Mt 2:13-14)
- The loss of the Child Jesus in the temple (Lk 3:43-45)
- The meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross
- The Crucifixion
- The taking down of the body of Jesus from the Cross
- the Burial of Jesus
Because of these seven sorrows, which pierced her maternal heart, the Mother of God is often represented either as standing beneath the Cross, or as holding the lifeless body of Jesus on her lap, her heart transfixed by seven swords, as foretold in the prophecy of Simeon at the Presentation: “And thy own soul a sword shall pierce” (Lk 2:35).
Devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows consists essentially in recalling and meditating on each of the seven sorrows and saying the Hail Mary prayer seven times, one for each sorrow.
The Blessed Virgin Mary grants seven graces to the souls who honor her daily by meditating on her sorrows and saying seven Hail Mary’s. The devotion was passed on by St. Bridget.
The seven graces are:
- I will grant peace to their families.
- They will be enlightened about the divine mysteries.
- I will console them in their pains and I will accompany them in their work.
- I will give them as much as they ask for as long as it does not oppose the adorable will of my divine Son or the sanctification of their souls.
- I will defend them in their spiritual battles with the infernal enemy and I will protect them at every instant of their lives.
- I will visibly help them at the moment of their death; they will see the face of their mother.
- I have obtained from my divine Son, that those who propagate this devotion to my tears and sorrows, will be taken directly from this earthly life to eternal happiness since all their sins will be forgiven and my Son and I will be their eternal consolation and joy.
The Mother of God once said to St. Bridget, “I gaze upon the children of men to see whether anyone feels compassion for me, and alas, I see but few! If many forget me, at least you, my daughter, do not forget me. Consider how much I have suffered”.
The Church calls Mary the Queen of Martyrs because her martyrdom surpassed that of all others. Although her body was not bruised by torturers, her heart was pierced by the sword of compassion for her Divine Son – a sorrow sufficiently great to inflict a thousand-fold death. St. Bernardine of Siena says the sorrow of Mary was so great that if it had been equally divided among all men, they would have died immediately. As great as was her love for Jesus – and it was unspeakably great – so great also was the sorrow of Mary at His Passion. Hence we can say with truth that Mary suffered more than if she had been martyred a thousand times, for she loved Jesus more than her own life and would have sacrificed her life a thousand times with the greatest joy if, without offending God, she could have rescued her Son from sufferings and death. St. Basil says: “As the sun surpasses all the stars in luster, so the sorrows of Mary surpass all the tortures of the martyrs.”
Mary was an eyewitness to the sufferings of her Divine Son. She saw Him bound to the pillar; she heard the lashing of the scourges; she saw His delicate virginal flesh writhe and quiver under the lacerating blows. She was present at the Ecce Homo scene, on the way to Calvary, and at the Crucifixion. And her anguish was further increased by the fact that she could offer no relief to her dear Son in His excruciating pains. As she stood beneath the Cross, she saw the blood trickling from His thorn-crowned head into His eyes, but could not reach His sacred face to wipe the drops away. She saw His lips parched with thirst, pale and bloodless, but was unable to give Him a refreshing drink. His head had no pillow to rest upon, yet she was prevented from supporting it or letting it repose upon her bosom. Who can comprehend the anguish endured by her motherly heart during those three endless hours of dreadful helplessness!
Another source of Mary’s unutterable grief was man’s ingratitude for Our Lord’s Passion, and the eternal perdition of so many souls for whom her Son’s Precious Blood would be shed in vain. She, the Queen of the Apostles, the Mother of the Church, saw passing before her eyes a vision of the heedlessness of mankind for sins forgiven, the relapses into mortal sin, the cold indifference, the disgust for divine things, the desecration of the holy sacraments, the rejection and abuse of grace on the part of so many souls – all consequences of the basest ingratitude.
For fifteen years after the death of her beloved Son, until her own happy departure, the Passion of Our Lord was renewed over and over again in the heart of the Blessed Virgin. It was revealed to Mary of Agreda that after the Ascension of her Son, Mary suffered inexpressibly every Friday, as do certain privileged souls who are favored with the stigmata. All these sufferings Mary endured for love of us.
Devotion to the sorrows of Mary is a source of great graces because it is so pleasing to our Divine Lord. Many holy writers say that through her sufferings Mary placed an obligation, as it were, upon her Son, which constrains Him to grant her whatever she asks of Him. As soon as we sympathize with the sorrows of His Mother, we draw our Savior to ourselves. “He is,” says St. Bernard, “at the disposal of those who devoutly meditate on the sufferings of His Mother.” Our Lord said to Bl. Veronica of Binasco: “My daughter, the tears which you shed in compassion for My sufferings are pleasing to Me, but bear in mind that on account of My excessive love for My Mother, the tears you shed in compassion for her sufferings are still more precious.”
There are, indeed, few devotions for which our Savior has made greater promises than for this one, and there are, few that are more pleasing to Him.
Professor Michael Ogunu is the coordinator of the World Apostolate of Fatima in Africa.
Thank you for writting such a beautiful article. And for reminding me & others about this devotion. I will begin saying it again after so many years that have gone by that I have forgot about it. God Bless You.
I’m living in Australia. In May, 2018, I prepared an article on the main apparitions of Our Lady: Fatima, Garabandal,Akita and Medjugorje. Since then, I felt that Mary would like the article translated into multiple languages to help spread her messages around the world.. As of now , I’ve given out 1,700 copies, mainly in English, and it has been translated into 49 languages, mainly by volunteers, including Catholic priests and nuns. I hope to have 10 more languages translated. This work for Mary is supported by 2 Archbishops.
Thank you for this beautiful expression of love for Our Lord and His Holy Mother! Their love for us is unimaginable in our humble limited minds. I have a son born the 27th of December who had several medical issues in his life and I have compared to some degree the love and sorrow Our Lady experienced for her Son and given my son to Her as I can do nothing in my power to help him. I feel Mary knows my heart and my pain and am thankful for Her motherly love.
Does one need to pray the chaplet every day to attain the 7 promises?
No, the request does not need to be daily. It is a private devotion that you are free to practice as you see fit.
My name is Antonieta Praise God our parish priest place the prayers and devotion of our lady of sorrows that I requested to promote in our parish Praise God as for anybody who pray to her she will grant many blessings and transfor your life
As She had one in my life in sorrow she will fill you of consolation and anything that aflict you She will give you the strength to everyone it as she has done to me and to anybody who seeks her help
.praise God you are interested to pray to Her.
I would encourage any body to go to church early before mass and say the rosary as for every sorrow she will grant a special help in serious events of anyone life remember her when a serious problem come
Say for the shirts sorrow I imploring your help is this need
I would like to encourage everyone if possible to take the devotion to pray the rosary of our lady of sorrows every day our Lady will transform your life
As we go to give our condolences to our friends and family when someone pass away.
In Mexico we embrace her love for us going to church on Saturday and we pray seven times 1 hail Mary for each one of her sorrows my aunty who is deep in religion told me if I do that she told me when you need a special favor from our lLady in an aflixtion for every sorrow you have prayer on Saturday giving your condolences To our Lady of sorrows she will help you to get through .
Invocatining the first sorrow saying for the sorrow I pray on the Saturday of your dearly beloved son Jesus I beg you to help me in this aflixtion ,if another aflixtion come you use the second sorrow and very humbly you repeat your request invocate the second sorrow
and for every big aflixtion you do the same. humbly asking to our Most Holy Virgin Mary of sorrows.
She has transferred it and grant me 3 miracles and puting people on my path who are helping me to restore my life.
I am for life in depth for her infinite blessing and through her help my faith is growing and when aflixtion come to my life her rosary of our lady of sorrows fill my heart with consolation and bring me back to life with the strength to carry my cross
Praise our Lady of Sorrows who is wanting for us to acknowledge her and remember she suffer the incomprehensible sorrow to see her son going through incomprehensible and extreme torture and kill by human hand and and Jesus giving his life to redeem us from the original sin.