Friday, March 27, 2015

Feast of Our Lady's Seven Sorrows

There are actually two feasts that honor Our Blessed Mother's seven sorrows.  Today's feast, always falling on the Friday following Passion Sunday, one week before Good Friday, is a "major double" feast day. It was originally founded in 1413 during a provincial synod of Cologne  to counteract the crimes of the iconoclast Hussites.  The feast was originally observed in northern Germany, Scandinavia, and Scotland, but was extended throughout the universal Church in the early 18th century.

The second feast honoring the Seven Sorrows comes in September and was originally granted to the Servite Order in the 17th century (the Seven Dolores of Our Lady are the chief devotion of the Servite Order). This feast day was raised to the rank of a double second class and extended throughout the Church in 1908 (though the Servites celebrate the feast day as a major double).  If I understand the rankings properly,* then, it would seem that today's feast takes higher technical priority than the feast in September.   .  

I think I understand this distinction.  Or, well...  at least it seems appropriate, considering the timing that today's feast ranks highly.  Though the honor and sentiment are the same, today sets up the emotional backdrop for us prior to Holy Week in a special way.  We begin the most solemn ten days of the liturgical year by remembering what real sorrow is.  Granted, if we've understood the season of Lent properly, we've already been contemplating Our Lord's sacrifice since Ash Wednesday.  Theoretically, as we've suffered through our own Lenten sacrifices, we should have been meditating on the Passion, compassionating with Our Lord.  I hope we have.  I hope I have.  But I admit it's hard to persevere for forties days with the proper mindset.  Being human and all...  Well, it's just so easy to forget that I'm supposed to be uniting my voluntary penances, and all my little life inconveniences to the real agony suffered by Our Lord. I fail quite often.  But, to justify myself (pathetically, yes...), I think the most pious among us needs to be periodically reminded of what Lent is all about.  It so easily becomes just a countdown - to Sundays' freedom, ultimately to Easter, and the end of our sacrifices.  

But, if we're paying attention, today's feast day can take us out of ourselves and lead us to back to Christ.  Who better to re-direct our focus going into the last week of this penitential season than Our Blessed Mother?  How can we feel sorry for ourselves remembering the breaking of her tender mother's heart?  How can we be callous toward her Son, seeing  His suffering through her loving eyes?  How can we not be moved, remembering her walk alongside Our Lord up the cobblestone road to Calvary?  We can't love Jesus better than by walking with His Mother this coming week.

Prayer to the Sorrowful Mother

Mary, most holy Virgin and Queen of Martyrs, accept the sincere homage of my filial affection. Into thy Heart, pierced by so many swords, do thou welcome my poor soul. Receive it as the companion of thy sorrows at the foot of the Cross, on which Jesus died for the redemption of the world. With thee, O sorrowful Virgin, I will gladly suffer all the trials, contradictions, and infirmities which it shall please Our Lord to send me. I offer them all to thee in memory of thy sorrows, so that: every thought of my mind and every beat of my heart may be an act of compassion and of love for thee. And do thou, sweet Mother, have pity on me, reconcile me to thy Divine Son, Jesus; keep me in His grace and assist me in my last agony, so that I may be able to meet thee in Heaven and sing thy glories.

Most holy Virgin and Mother, whose soul was pierced by a sword of sorrow in the Passion of thy Divine Son, and who in His glorious Resurrection wast filled with never ending joy at His triumph, obtain for us who call upon thee, so to be partakers in the adversities of Holy Church and the Sorrows of the Sovereign Pontiff, as to be found worthy to rejoice with them in the consolations for which we pray, in the charity and peace of the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

* An explanation of the ranking of feast days forthcoming -- because I want to understand them, myself!  

The Seven Sorrows

1. The prophecy of Simeon.

2. The flight into Egypt.

3. The loss of the Child Jesus in the temple.

4. The meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross.

5. The Crucifixion.

6. The taking down of the Body of Jesus from the Cross.

7. The burial of Jesus.

Some Ways to Observe the Feast day

* Begin the day by saluting Our Blessed Mother under the title "Mother of Sorrows."  Pray one or more of the prayers in honor of her sorrow throughout the day.  Attend Mass if at all possible.  Pray the rosary.

* See if you have a purple veil to add to a family statue of the Blessed Mother, or a wreath of purple and black flowers, as a reminder that this is a day to compassionate with our Heavenly Mother.

* Catholic Icing has some nice craft ideas for the feast day, including a Seven Sorrows mobile that is simple for children to put together.  (We'll be doing this one, I think.)

*   Catholic Cuisine has shared numerous recipes and ideas for celebrating this feast day.

*  Observe, if possible, a hushed silence through the day, behaving as you would if you shared your rooms with someone grieving.  Omit sweets today if they haven't already been offered up for Lent.  Or perhaps add some other special sacrifice to the day to help everyone remain mindful.  Maybe drink nothing but water. If there are children at home, have them memorize the Seven Sorrows if they haven't already done so.  For an art lesson, they could illustrate one or several of them.  Alternatively, two coloring pages follow.  Just click and print:

*  Prayers and images from

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