It is fitting that the day after we celebrate the Triumph of the Cross we honor Mary as Our Lady of Sorrows. She, who stood in the shadow of the cross, is remembered for the pain and sorrow that pierced her Immaculate Heart. This memorial dates back to the 13th century, when the Seven Founders of the Order of Servites devoted themselves to the suffering of Mary at the foot of the cross. This devotion was eventually extended to the entire Church in the 18th century by Pope Benedict XIII, under the name, "The Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary." The seven sorrows which we honor are:
The Prophecy of Simeon
The Flight into Egypt
The "Losing" in the Temple (before the "finding")
The Encounter with Jesus Carrying His Cross
The Deposition from the Cross
The Burial of Christ
Perhaps one insight we can glean from this memorial is a ray of hope in the face of suffering -- especially the suffering of watching others suffer. It can be very difficult to feel helpless in the face of a loved one's illness and suffering. We do not have a God who stands aloof and removed from our pain. When we are overcome with grief and pain, let us remember that we have a God who suffers with us. He suffers with us because he became one of us and suffered physical, emotional and spiritual torment in his earthly life. Mary stood at the foot of the cross and experienced the most unnatural grief of watching her child die. Let us entrust our sufferings to Mary, whose Immaculate Heart was wounded with great love for her son.
Of all the sermons of St. Francis de Sales, we have none on Our Lady of Sorrows since its devotion was not extended to the entire Church until after his death. Click here for a good website with music and words for the traditional Stabat Mater.