The Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows recalls the “spiritual martyrdom” of Mary she witnessed the sufferings of her son, Jesus. In a secondary sense, the feast recognizes all those who suffer vicariously because of their love or compassion for others who are suffering.
The Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows has its origins in the 13th century with the Order of the Servants of Mary (the Servites), who took as their primary devotion Mary standing at the foot of the cross of her son. The Servites promoted the devotion, which in following centuries was adopted by the universal Church.
Our Lady of Sorrows is typically portrayed as a sad, sometimes weeping, Mary; often, her heart is pierced by seven swords that represent the seven sorrows. The image is based in Simeon’s words to Mary in Luke 2:35: “…and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
The Seven Sorrows of Mary are:
- The prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:25-35)
- The flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15)
- Loss of the Child Jesus for three days (Luke 2:41-50)
- Mary meets Jesus on his way to Calvary (Luke 23:27-31; John 19:17)
- Crucifixion and Death of Jesus (John 19:25-30)
- The body of Jesus being taken from the Cross (Psalm 130; Luke 23:50-54; John 19:31-37)
- The burial of Jesus (Isaiah 53:8; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42; Mark 15:40-47)
Ideas for Celebrating the Feast
- Show your kids the image above. Can they find each of the seven sorrows depicted in the miniatures around the main figure of Mary?
- Without telling them the Seven Sorrows in advance, have your kids look up the Scripture references associated with the seven sorrows (above) to see whether they can list the Seven Sorrows on their own.
- Show them the picture of the mothers of the disappeared (above). What other types of people suffer in a way similar to Our Lady of Sorrows? Incorporate prayers for them into your Family Prayer Time.
- With older kids and teens, make a devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows part of your family prayer. Read each of the Scripture references associated with the feast; for each, say one Our Father and seven Hail Marys.
- For a more traditional devotion, pray the Chaplet of Our Lady of Sorrows (also known as the Rosary of Sorrows). You can find a good guide for praying the chaplet at the Kibeho Sanctuary website (scroll down to the middle of the page).
- Follow the tradition in many parts of Mexico by decorating your altar with an image of Our Lady of Sorrows, white candles, and pink flowers.
- Pray or listen to a musical setting of the Stabat Mater Dolorosa, a medieval hymn about Our Lady of Sorrows.