I was recently asked what is the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows and why is it significant? I answered by reminding them that we all grow up knowing that Mary is the mother of Jesus. Many faith traditions honor Mary as not only the mother of Christ, but also as our mother. “Mother Mary” is a common cherished term of endearment for our holy mother. Catholics have long honored Mary in a special way, as the person God chose to bring our Savior into this world, and what a happy grace that is!
But did you know that September is traditionally dedicated to honoring Our Lady as the Sorrowful Mother? This month culminates in September 15th, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, which is the day after the feast of the Holy Cross, on September 14th. The feast of the Holy Cross, honors the cross that Christ was crucified on, when he died to redeem us from our sins. Well, the crucifixion is also one of seven sorrows of Mary, perhaps the roughest one of all of them for Mary as His mother.
The seven sorrows of Mary are:
- 1When Jesus is a tiny baby, Simeon prophesizes that a sword will pierce his mother’s heart
- 2Mary and Joseph must flee to Egypt, to avoid the persecution of Herod.
- 3Mary and Joseph discover that Jesus is missing! For three days they search for him in Jerusalem.
- 4Mary meets her bloodied son on the way to Calvary.
- 5She stands at the foot of the Cross in agony.
- 6Jesus is taken down from the Cross and placed in her arms.
- 7Her son is buried.
Why do we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows?
Mary shows us how to unite suffering to God, and how to bear suffering in the best way. She accepted God’s will, she trusted in God’s plan, and she remained present and faithful throughout all her sorrows.
The sixth sorrow of Mary has always been one of particular interest for many, including great artists through history. There are many beautiful works dedicated to it; surely none as famous as the famous sculpture by Michelangelo, Pieta, replicated with stunning Pieta statues. Pieta is an Italian word that means compassion, and it’s this compassion we see on Mary’s face as she lovingly gazes upon her recently sacrificed son as she holds him in her lap one last time. What pain she must have felt in that moment!
While we know the wonderful compassion that our mother Mary has for all of us, as well as her son, it’s this pain that reminds us that she is not just the mother of God, but also is quite human.
There’s another work I am particularly drawn to that expresses this truth. It’s a painting, also titled, Pieta, by William Adolphe Bouguereau. The profound holiness of the event is clear, Mary and Jesus are surrounded by adoring angels. But I’m always left stricken by the expression on Mary’s face. Such deep sadness and pain. I like to reflect on this image, and I’m left with two things when I do.
- 1As a sinner, I am responsible for the pain on Mary’s face, for her son Jesus came to die for the sins of the whole world, including mine.
- 2Even though I am a sinner, Mary, the Mother of Sorrows, and my mother too, still loves me!
During this month of September, as we remember our Sorrowful Mother, let’s unite our own sufferings to her, and ask Mother Mary for help. Mary, the Mother of Sorrows, pray for us!
For more detail on Our Lady of Sorrows take a look at our other blog post on this: