Seven Swords Pierced the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Fresco of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin, by Tempesta and Circignani, Santo Stefano Rotondo, Rome.
Fresco of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin, by Tempesta and Circignani, Santo Stefano Rotondo, Rome. (photo: Register Files)

On September 14, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross, in commemoration of our Lord’s Passion and Crucifixion and in gratitude for the gift of our salvation attained by our Lord’s suffering.

It’s only right, then, that the day after – September 15 – we celebrate the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, during which we honor Mary for the terrible suffering she endured in witnessing her Son’s brutal murder.

This feast day is like a “mini-Lent” for me, and I observe it is such. During Lent of the Liturgical Year, we fast, pray, and do good works as means of repentance and sorrow for the suffering that we caused our Lord by our sinfulness.

Well, our sinfulness caused Mary suffering, too.

Ask any mother who has had a sick or injured child what it’s like to have to watch him endure suffering. I can almost bet that she’ll tell you that she’d much rather it be her suffering that her child.

I know I would.

In fact, I have. With three of our four children having been born prematurely, I cried every single time I entered the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I pleaded with God to allow me to suffer the needle pokes, ventilator, restraints, and procedures instead of my child.

When my children grew older, I begged God that he allow me to suffer all of the trials and tribulations, all the heartbreaks and uncertainties, of moving from childhood, through adolescence, and into adulthood.

Watching a child suffer is pure agony.

Christ’s suffering was far worse than any suffering any of my children have had to go through, and our Blessed Mother went through it right along with him.

Mary’s was a spiritual martyrdom.

It was an intense, indescribably painful suffering that was and is as instrumental in our salvation as Christ’s dying on the Cross, albeit differently effected.

The Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows dates back to the twelfth century, and by the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, it was widely celebrated throughout the Church and had been added to the Missal under the title, “Our Lady of Compassion.”

How fitting.

In the seventeenth century, the feast was added to the Roman Calendar by Pope Benedict  XIII and aptly named, “The Seven Dolors,” referring to the seven swords that pierced Mary’s heart as had been prophesied by Simeon.

That really hits home for me.

It’s one thing to think of Mary as the Sorrowful Mother.

When someone is sorrowful, they are grief-stricken, and Mary was definitely that over Jesus death.

But, to have your heart pierced – not once, but seven times – with a sword is an entirely different story. Once is bad enough, but seven times?

Yet, Mary did not complain, nor did she in any way fight God’s will even in these dire circumstances. The “yes” that she gave it the Annunciation held true throughout her life, and even at the foot of the Cross.

What’s more, Mary suffered not only as our Lord’s Mother, but as his co-redeemer.

Her suffering, her dolors, remind us of the abominable evil of sin.

Along with Christ’s suffering, Mary’s tears helped to wash clean the stain of sin that would otherwise have kept us from heaven.

Is it not right then, that Mary be honored for the suffering she endured for our sakes?

Here are the Seven Sorrows of Mary – the seven swords that pierced her Immaculate Heart. Read through them, meditate on them, and realize that she endured all of them for you. Then spend your day doing something – anything – for her in return.

  1. The prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:25-35)
  2. The flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15)
  3. Loss of the Child Jesus for three days (Luke 2:41-50) 
  4. Mary meets Jesus on his way to Calvary (Luke 23:27-31; John 19:17)
  5. Crucifixion and Death of Jesus (John 19:25-30)
  6. The body of Jesus taken from the Cross (Psalm 130; Luke 23:50-54; John 19:31-37)
  7. The burial of Jesus (Isaiah 53:8; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42; Mark 15:40-47)