Summary: At one time there were two feasts of Our Lady of Sorrows – one on the Friday before Palm Sunday and the other on this day. The former was suppressed in the revision of the Roman Calendar after Vatican II, the latter was retained. Processions with the statue dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows are still popular in Malta and in Spain.
The Servite Order
Although the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order in Florence are credited with starting devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows in 1239, its scriptural basis is found in the Gospel of John, especially where Jesus hands over Mary and John into each other’s care (Jn 19:25). Patrick Duffy takes up the story.
The devotion must also have been developed by the plaintive Latin hymn Stabat mater dolorosa, commonly attributed to Franciscan friar Jacopone da Todi (1230-1306):
Stabat mater dolorosa
iuxta crucem lacrimosa,
dum pendebat filius.
(At the cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful mother weeping,
close to Jesus to the last.)
The Seven Dolours
Different sorrows of Mary have been honored in the Church’s history, but since the 14th century these seven have commonly been regarded as the seven dolours (sorrows) of the Blessed Virgin Mary:
Consenting with love to his offering
In his Apostolic Exhortation Marialis cultus (1974) on the right ordering and development of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pope Paul VI writes of the faith and spirituality behind this devotion:
Mary, standing by the cross, suffered intensely with her only begotten Son and united herself as his mother to his sacrifice, consenting with love to the offering of the victim who was born of her, whom she offered to the eternal Father.
At the cross her station keeping
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to Jesus to the last;
Through her heart, his sorrow sharing,
all his bitter anguish bearing,
now at length the sword had passed.
Oh, how sad and sore distressed
was that Mother highly blessed
of the sole-begotten One.
Christ above in torments hangs;
she beneath beholds the pangs
of her dying glorious Son.
Is there one who would not weep
whelmed in miseries so deep,
Christ’s dear Mother to behold?
Can the human heart refrain
from partaking in her pain,
in that Mother’s pain untold?
Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled
she beheld her tender child
all with bloody scourges rent;
for the sins of his own nation
saw him hang in desolation,
till his spirit forth he sent.
O you Mother, fount of love!
Touch my spirit from above,
make my heart with yours accord:
make me feel as you have felt;
make my soul to glow and melt
with the love of Christ our Lord.
Holy Mother, pierce me through;
in my heart each wound renew
of my Saviour crucified:
Let me share with you his pain
who for all my sins was slain,
who for me in torments died.
Let me mingle tears with you,
mourning him who mourned for meall the days that I may live:
by the cross with you to stay,
there with you to weep and pray,
is all I ask of you to give.
Virgin of all virgins best,
listen to my fond request:
let me share your grief divine;
let me, to my latest breath,
in my body bear the death
of that dying Son of yours.
Wounded with his every wound,
steep my soul till it has swooned
in his very blood away;
be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
lest in flames I burn and die
in his awful judgement day.
Christ, when you shall call me hence,
be your Mother my defence,
be your cross my victory.
While my body here decays,
may my soul your goodness praise,
safe in paradise with you.