The feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows is observed on September 15. The occasion is a time for reflection on Mary’s sorrows as the Mother of Christ and her example of perseverance through suffering.
The Seven Sorrows
Mary experienced many trials throughout her life, beginning with the prophecy of Simeon shortly after the birth of Jesus. The Holy Family then had to flee to Egypt to escape Herod’s clutches. The most significant of her sorrows, however, was undoubtedly the crucifixion of her son.
Altogether, there are seven traditional sorrows of Mary:
- 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 (Luke 23:50-54; John 19:31-37)
- The burial of Jesus (Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42; Mark 15:40-47)
Pope Benedict XVI on Our Lady of Sorrows
Pope Benedict XVI remarked on the occasion of Our Lady of Sorrows:
At the foot of the Cross, the prophecy of Simeon is fulfilled: her mother’s heart is pierced through (cf. Lk 2:35) by the torment inflicted on the Innocent One born of her flesh. Just as Jesus cried (cf. Jn 11:35), so too Mary certainly cried over the tortured body of her Son…
In the liturgical sequence of this feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, Mary is honored with the title of Fons amoris, “fount of love.” From Mary’s heart, there springs up a gratuitous love which calls forth a response of filial love, called to ever greater refinement. Like every mother, and better than every mother, Mary is the teacher of love…
May your own devotion be strengthened by Mary’s perseverance through these trials. Through her example of steadfastness and love, let us draw near to Christ in the midst of our sufferings.
Our Mother of Sorrows at the Basilica
The Chapel of Our Mother of Sorrows is located in the Great Upper Church of the Basilica. The chapel prominently features a life-size marble sculpture of the Pietà, depicting the sixth of the Seven Sorrows: Mary holding Jesus as he is taken from the Cross. The other sorrows are sculpted in bronze and flank the Pietà. The chapel is a gift of the Slovak Union of the United States and Canada. Inscribed in Slovak above the altar is, “Our Mother of Sorrows, Virgin Mary, Patroness of the Slovak People, Pray for Us.”