This past Friday we celebrated the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows and the Church dedicates the entire month of September to the devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows. There are Seven Sorrows of Mary, seven events in Her life that demonstrate the sorrow and suffering that She underwent throughout Her life. These sorrows have been put into a special Chaplet that can be prayed especially on Tuesdays and Fridays in order to obtain the favor of repentance and also for the conversion of sinners. There is a special rosary used for it that contains seven decades instead of the usual five. Each decade is begun with an Our Father just as in a normal rosary and there are seven Hail Mary’s in each decade. The Seven Sorrows of Mary are the prophecy of Simeon, the flight into Egypt, the loss of the Child Jesus in the temple, Mary meeting Jesus on the road to Calvary, Mary standing at the foot of the Cross, Mary receiving the Body of Jesus, and the burial of Jesus.
1. The Prophecy of Simeon. Reading: Luke 2:25-35. We reflect on Mary’s feelings when Simeon prophesied to Her that a sword would pierce Her soul. What did She feel realizing that the same Child Who brought Her so much joy would also bring Her so much suffering? How did She get the strength to accept this and persevere knowing that so much hardship was coming?
2. The flight into Egypt. Reading: Matthew 2:13-15. We reflect on the emotions and sorrow Mary felt knowing that Her Son was in danger and that they had to flee to a country that was dangerous and that they did not know. Did She miss their home and life that they had had before? How scary was it knowing Her own Son’s life was in danger? Parents can ask for Her intercession when their children are going through trials of their own.
3. The loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple. Reading: Luke 2:41-50. We reflect on Mary and Joseph losing the Child Jesus in the temple for three days and the emotions and sorrow Mary experienced. Did She feel like She had let God down by losing His Son? She must have feared never seeing Him again. Despite this sorrow, what did She learn in the end about trusting in God even when you can’t see the final outcome?
4. Mary meeting Jesus on the road to Calvary. Reading: Luke 23: 27-29. Mary’s sorrow begins to reach absolute excruciating levels as She meets Her Son on the way to His Death. What feelings were going through Her mind as She looked into Jesus’s eyes and saw His face all bloody and torn? This was not the face of the Child She used to kiss and cuddle and it must have torn Her up inside.
5. Mary standing at the foot of the Cross. Reading: John 19:25-30. Imagine having to stand there while your child dies and not being able to hold them or do anything to comfort them. This is what Mary experienced and the sorrow and pain that it caused Her is why She is known as Queen of Martyrs, even though She didn’t actually die one. How did clinging to Her faith and relationship with God aid Her in those hours?
6. Mary receiving the Body of Jesus. Reading: Psalm 130. Mary holds the lifeless Body of Her Son. This was the Child that She had given birth to and raised, played with and comforted, and now She is holding on to His dead Body. The memory of how His Death occurred is still fresh in Her mind and the sorrow and grief that She feels losing Him and seeing the evil of mankind courses through Her. How can we offer our love to comfort Mary and how can the example of Her faith and perseverance help us when we encounter death in our lives?
7. The Burial of Jesus. Reading: Luke 23:50-56. Jesus is laid in the tomb and the violence of Good Friday is over. But Mary’s sorrow continues even though She must have certainly known that He would rise. The Resurrection does not take away the pain of witnessing His brutal execution, just as the hope of heaven does not mean that we don’t grieve our loved ones who have died. What was Mary thinking as Jesus was laid in the tomb? How can we ask her to help us when we are grieving someone who has died?
Reflecting on these sorrows of Mary and drawing from Her example, particularly during this month, will help us grow in our spiritual life and in our trust in God in the midst of trials and our own sorrows.