Did you know that the Church calls Our Lady Queen of Martyrs?
St. Basil said of her:
“As the sun surpasses all the stars in lustre, so the sorrows of Mary surpass all the tortures of the martyrs.”
The Source and Depth of Our Lady’s Sorrow
Mary, mother of Jesus, was a mother more loving than all other mothers. She loved more than all mothers combined—even if their affections were united into one ineffable expression of love.
This is because both natural and supernatural love were united in the heart of Mary: she loved Jesus as her Son, and she loved Him as her God.
Since she was a perfect woman, not even the slightest self-love stained her Immaculate Heart. Therefore her capacity for love was (and is) astonishing.
This wellspring of love is intimately connected with her queenship among martyrs. Those with the greatest capacity for love also have the greatest capacity for suffering.
Our Blessed Mother’s entire life was a martyrdom for, according to Simeon’s prophecy, she was enlightened with regard to the intense sufferings of her Divine Son:
Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul, too.”Luke 2:34-35
Mary stood—she did not collapse in anguish—at the foot of the cross, and watched her Son suffer and die.
In her anguish, where could she turn her gaze for consolation as she stood beneath the Cross?
When we suffer, we can lift our eyes to Jesus, and find solace there.
Where did Mary look for consolation in those hours of excruciating pain?
It was precisely the sight of her Divine Son in anguish that caused her the most intense suffering.
In that moment, Jesus, the joy and consolation of martyrs, was the cause of His Mother’s greatest sufferings.
St. Bernardine of Siena says this sorrow of Mary was so great that, if it had been equally divided among all men, they would have died immediately.
No martyrdom has ever equaled hers.
Mary was a martyr, not by the sword of the executioner, but by bitter sorrow of heart.St. Bernard of Clairvaux
The Seven Sorrows of Mary
Devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows became a standard devotion in the Church around the 14th century. It was revealed to St. Bridget of Sweden (1303–1373) that devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Seven Sorrows would bring great signal graces.
The devotion consists in praying seven Hail Marys while meditating on the Seven Sorrows of Mary:
1) The Prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:34-35)
2) The Flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13-21)
3) The Loss of Jesus for Three Days (Luke 2:41-50)
4) The Carrying of the Cross (John 19:17)
5) The Crucifixion of Jesus (John 19:18-30)
6) Jesus Taken Down from the Cross (John 19:39-40)
7) Jesus Laid in the Tomb (John 19:39-42)
How to Honor Our Lady’s Sorrows
Our Lady once confided her sorrows to St. Bridget, asking that her suffering be remembered:
“I gaze upon the children of men to see whether anyone feels compassion for me, and alas, I see but few! …Do not forget me. Consider how much I have suffered.”Our Lady to St. Bridget
We can honor the Blessed Mother—and learn compassion for her heart and the pain that filled it during her life on earth— through devotion to her title “Our Lady of Sorrows.”
Indeed, Mary has given us seven specific sorrows to contemplate and meditate upon, for which she grants many graces in return.
The Seven Sorrows or “dolors” are particular events in the life of Mary that caused excessive sorrow in her Immaculate Heart, sorrows in which she was especially united to Jesus. We are encouraged to contemplate these events daily.
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.St. Albert the Great
The Seven Promises of the Seven Sorrows Devotion
1) “I will grant peace to their families.”
2) “They will be enlightened about the divine Mysteries.”
3) “I will console them in their pains and I will accompany them in their work.”
4) “I will give them as much as they ask for as long as it does not oppose the adorable will of my divine Son or the sanctification of their souls.”
5) “I will defend them in their spiritual battles with the infernal enemy and I will protect them at every instant of their lives.”
6) “I will visibly help them at the moment of their death—they will see the face of their mother.”
7) “I have obtained this grace from my divine Son, that those who propagate this devotion to my tears and dolors will be taken directly from this earthly life to eternal happiness, since all their sins will be forgiven and my Son will be their eternal consolation and joy.”
Prayers for the Seven Sorrows Devotion
Pope Pius VII approved a series of prayers in honor of the Seven Sorrows for daily meditation in 1815:
O God, come to my assistance; O Lord, make haste to help me.
Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
1. I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, in the affliction of your tender heart at the prophecy of the holy and aged Simeon. Dear Mother, by your heart so afflicted, obtain for me the virtue of humility and the gift of the holy fear of God. Hail Mary…
2. I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, in the anguish of your most affectionate heart during the flight into Egypt and your sojourn there. Dear Mother, by your heart so troubled, obtain for me the virtue of generosity, especially toward the poor, and the gift of piety. Hail Mary…
3. I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, in those anxieties which tried your troubled heart at the loss of your dear Jesus. Dear Mother, by your heart so full of anguish, obtain for me the virtue of chastity and the gift of knowledge. Hail Mary…
4. I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, in the consternation of your heart at meeting Jesus as He carried His Cross. Dear Mother, by your heart so troubled, obtain for me the virtue of patience and the gift of fortitude. Hail Mary…
5. I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, in the martyrdom which your generous heart endured in standing near Jesus in His agony. Dear Mother, by your afflicted heart obtain for me the virtue of temperance and the gift of counsel. Hail Mary…
6. I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, in the wounding of your compassionate heart, when the side of Jesus was struck by the lance before His Body was removed from the Cross. Dear Mother, by your heart thus transfixed, obtain for me the virtue of fraternal charity and the gift of understanding. Hail Mary…
7. I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, for the pangs that wrenched your most loving heart at the burial of Jesus. Dear Mother, by your heart sunk in the bitterness of desolation, obtain for me the virtue of diligence and the gift of wisdom. Hail Mary…
Let Us Pray:
Let intercession be made for us, we beseech You, O Lord Jesus Christ, now and at the hour of our death, before the throne of Your mercy, by the Blessed Virgin Mary, Your Mother, whose most holy soul was pierced by a sword of sorrow in the hour of Your bitter Passion. Through You, O Jesus Christ, Savior of the world, Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns world without end. Amen.
How familiar were you with this devotion?
Has devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows been a part of your spiritual life in some way?
What is your personal favorite Marian devotion?
Give us your thoughts in the comment section below!