Why Is Our Lady Full of Sorrow?

“As we are under great obligations to Jesus for His Passion endured for our love, so also are we under great obligations to Mary for the martyrdom which She voluntarily suffered for our salvation in the death of Her Son.”

Our Lady of Sorrows

These words were spoken by St. Albert the Great and sum up why we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. From the moment Mary accepted her chosen role of being the mother of “the Son of the Most High,” She knew how much her son would suffer for the sins of mankind. Although she grieved as she witnessed her son being put to death for crimes He didn’t commit, she trusted God’s plan and never questioned Him. As she told the angel Gabriel, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” The feast of Our Lady of Sorrows is celebrated on September 15 and is dedicated to honoring the spiritual martyrdom of Mary.

Unlike martyrs who endured physical torments, Mary suffered torment in her soul. It is Mary’s selfless act of letting her son be sacrificed for our salvation that makes her the Queen of martyrs. Why should we stop and reflect on Mary this September 15? St. Alphonsus de Liguori said it best: “at least let us give a few moments this day to consider the greatness of the sufferings by which Mary became the Queen of martyrs; The Blessed Virgin Mary, for the love She bore us, was willing to see Her Son sacrificed to Divine Justice by the barbarity of men. This great torment, then, which Mary endured for us—a torment that was more than a thousand deaths—deserves both our compassion and our gratitude.

History of the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows

The feast of Our Lady of Sorrows has been celebrated in the Catholic Church since the 12th century under various names. During the 15th century it was known as Our Lady of Compassion. By the 17th century it became known as the feast of the Seven Dolors, meaning seven sufferings, and refers to the seven moments in Blessed Mary’s life that she suffered the most. In 1913 Pope Pius X declared September 15 to be the official feast day and it would be known as Our Lady of Sorrows. This September 15, let us take the time to reflect on Blessed Mary’s Seven Sorrows. By doing so, we unite ourselves with the Passion of Christ and His holy Mother’s suffering.

The Seven Sorrows of Mary

The First Sorrow of Mary: The Prophecy of Simeon at the Presentation in the Temple

The First Sorrow of MaryIn keeping with tradition, after Jesus’ birth, Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to be presented to the Lord. As was written in the Law of the Lord, “Every first-born male must be consecrated to the Lord.” It was there that a holy man named Simeon prophesized that this Child would be a sign (of God) which shall be contradicted by men. “Behold this Child is set…for a sign which shall be contradicted. And Thy own soul a sword shall pierce.”

The Second Sorrow of Mary: The Flight into Egypt

The Second Sorrow of MaryAfter the birth of Jesus, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream warning, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Joseph and Mary fled as was instructed; after King Herod died, the angel appeared once again to Joseph in a dream letting him know that he can return to the land of Israel with Mary and Jesus.

The Third Sorrow of Mary: The Loss of Jesus in the Temple

The Third Sorrow of MaryWhen Jesus was 12-years-old, He traveled to Jerusalem with Mary and Joseph as was customary to celebrate the feast of Passover. On their journey home, Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but His parents didn’t know it. When they realized He was missing, they searched for Him among the caravan of travelers, without success. They ultimately returned to Jerusalem where they found Him on the third day in a temple sitting among the teachers. Mary asked Jesus, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.” He said to them, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

The Fourth Sorrow of Mary: Mary Encounters Jesus on the Way of the Cross

The Fourth Sorrow of MaryImage the anguish that Blessed Mary endured as she encountered her son on the way to His death. Mary expressed her immense sorrow to St. Bridget of Sweden telling her, “By the footsteps of my Son, I knew where He had passed, for along the way the ground was marked with blood.”

The Fifth Sorrow of Mary: Jesus Dies on the Cross

The Fifth Sorrow of MaryBlessed Mary stood at the foot of the cross and watched as Jesus breathed His last breath. She was there suffering alongside her son. “Anyone who had been present then on Mount Calvary, would have seen two altars on which two great sacrifices were being offered: the one in the body of Jesus—the other in the heart of Mary.” (St. John Chrysostom)

The Sixth Sorrow of Mary: Jesus Is Taken Down From the Cross

The Sixth Sorrow of MaryThe Pietà—Michelangelo’s sculptural masterpiece of Blessed Mary holding the lifeless body of her crucified son—is one of the most profound visual illustrations of the ultimate sorrow felt by Blessed Mary.

The Seventh Sorrow of Mary: Jesus is Laid in the Tomb

The Seventh Sorrow of MaryAs Jesus’ body is wrapped in cloth and prepared for burial, Blessed Mary must leave Jesus’ body at His final resting place.

Inspired by Mary’s Seven Sorrows

After reflecting on Mary’s Seven Sorrows, we should be moved to no longer torment our sorrowful Mother with our actions on earth. As she once told St. Bridget, “I look around at all who are on earth, to see if by chance there are any who pity Me, and meditate upon My Sorrows; and I find that there are very few. Therefore, My daughter, though I am forgotten by many, at least do you not forget Me; consider My anguish, and imitate, as far as you can, My grief.”

Don’t let St. Bridget be one of the only few remembering Blessed Mary’s Sorrows. This September 15 and every year, let us reflect on her sorrows, and most importantly, if we have saddened her in the past by our sins, let us repent.

Ways to Celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows

In addition to attending mass on September 15, you and your family can take part in the following activities in honor of Our Lady:
Assign a “Sorrow of Mary” to each member of your family. Have each one read their sorrow out loud and discuss what it teaches us about Mary and about our life.

  1. Print out coloring pages of Our Lady of Sorrows for younger children to color as you explain the meaning of the feast.
  2. Make a heart-shaped cake for dessert, decorated with seven swords piercing the heart.
  3. Hang a visual reminder such as the Sorrowful Mary Framed Print in your home.

Sorrowful Mary Framed Print

Sorrowful Mary Framed PrintAs the Mother of Jesus, Mary endured great suffering from the prophecy of Simeon to the body of Jesus being placed in his tomb. We reflect and use these seven sorrows in our meditation and prayers and this beautify print elegantly portrays our Holy Mother in a saddened pose and emotional state.
These lovely Catholic images are available in a quality frame and set under glass. Please note that all of these frames have an 8″ x 10″ print.
Frame # 115, Antique Gold measures 12.5″ x 14.5″.
Frame # 122, Natural Tiger Cherry measures 10.25″ x 12.25″.
Frame # 124, Art Deco measures 11.25″ x 13.25″.
Frame # 126, Detailed Cherry with Gold Dots measures 11.25″ x 13.25″.
Frame # 133, Dark Walnut with Gold Lop measures10.25″ x 12.25″.
Frame # 138, Gold Satin measures 11.5 x 13.5″.
Framed prints are shipping in a protective box. The prints are designed and produced in Italy.

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