In This Crisis, Unite Your Heart to Our Lady of Sorrows
“The sword would not have reached Jesus if it had not pierced Mary’s heart.” —St. Bernard
Six weeks after my conjoined infant twin girls died, I went to Confession, and told the priest I was sorry for being angry with God.
To this day, I am still not even sure who the priest was, but what he said changed the course of my life – perhaps in more ways than I can understand. He said, “I know it must be very, very hard, but you need to thank God you had the opportunity to be like Our Lady of Sorrows. Not many women in this world are ever given such an extraordinary grace.”
At that precise moment, a little rainbow shone over the flood of grief I bore in my crucified heart. I began to see that what I was going through had a mystical sort of purpose – a purpose that could sing of God's benevolence and omniscience – if I only let it. I felt a flash of anger come over me when I first heard the words of this priest, and I was transported back to the moment I held their hauntingly cold, lifeless bodies in my arms. However, thanks to God's great kindness, this anger left me, and over time I began to see that his words were a balm to heal my wounded soul.
I now realize that it was providential my twins began to die on Sept. 15, the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, and finally passed away the day thereafter. God can do truly extraordinary things with our sufferings, if we just let him. Our wringing angst, our bodily pains, our spiritual battles — all of these things can be transformed into victories by the love of the Crucified One. When we offer up our sufferings to Christ through the intercession of Our Lady of Sorrows, they become pure in God's sight, drawing down an abundant harvest of divine graces.
Devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows is often expressed in devotion to the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady. The purpose of the Devotion of the Seven Sorrows is to promote union with the sufferings of Christ through union with the intense suffering that Our Lady endured as the Mother of God. During Lent, the faithful often venerate the Seven Sorrows of Mary along with meditation on the Passion of Our Lord.
The Devotion of the Seven Sorrows is based on Scriptural events that surround the life of Our Blessed Mother and Our Lord. For example, it includes the contemplation of John 19:25, which says: “Near the Cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary, the wife of Cleopas, and Mary Magdalene.” It has a long, rich history, although it was not officially promulgated by the Church until the early 19th century. Before Pope Pius VII’s formal approval, the Servite Order had permission in 1668 to celebrate the Feast of the Seven Sorrows because their Order was instrumental in popularizing the Seven Sorrows Devotion.
In traditional Catholic imagery, the Virgin Mary is often portrayed in a sorrowful manner, with one or seven long knives or daggers piercing her heart, often bleeding. With magnanimous love for mankind, she prepared the victim for sacrifice and offered him on the altar of Calvary. Further, at Christ's request, Mary was proclaimed the universal Mother of mankind from the Cross. St. Ambrose said, "I read that she [the Blessed Mother] stood, but I do not read that she wept." When Mary gave us her Son, she willingly surrendered everything. Her example is beautiful and inspiring. We would be wise to follow in her footsteps, especially in this time of crisis in the Church and in the world. As Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said, “Accept what God gives, and give what God takes, with a big smile.”
The Seven Graces of the Devotion of the Seven Sorrows
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 and I will be their eternal consolation and joy.
Benefits of the Devotion to the Mother of Sorrows
1. To realize the value of a soul, worth the supreme Sacrifice on Calvary.
2. To work for souls, by evangelization, duty to life's duties, and
prayer for sinners.
3. To pray always, in a life of union with God; whoever has a heart similar to Jesus' and Mary's hearts, will work for the salvation of souls.
Prayer to Our Sorrowful Mother
O Mother of Sorrows, thou, who beneath the Cross of Jesus were given to us as our Mother, look down with pity on us, thy children, who weep and mourn in this valley of tears. By that sword of sorrow which pierced thy Heart when thou looked upon the Face of thy dead Son, obtain for us that comfort we so sorely need in our sufferings.
Thou were given to us our Mother in the hour of thy greatest grief that thou might be mindful of our frailty and the evils that press upon us. Without thy aid, O Sorrowful Mother, we cannot gain the victory in this struggle against flesh and blood. Therefore, we seek thy help, O Queen of Sorrows, lest we fall prey to the wiles of the enemy. We are orphans in need of the guiding hand of our Mother amid the dangers that threaten our destruction. Thou whose grief was boundless as the sea, grant us by the memory of those sorrows the strength to be victorious.
Intercede further, O Mother of Sorrows, for us and all who are near and dear to us, that we may ever do the Will of thy Son, and may direct all our actions to His honor, and to the furtherance of devotion to thy sorrows.
Virgin Most Sorrowful, pray for us.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be.