The following is by Father Valentine Young, OFM, a faithful Catholic priest who died on 17 January 2020. It was delivered sometime between 2013 and 2020. To learn more about Father Valentine, please scroll to the bottom of the page.
Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary
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—Notice how the Sequence is optional in the Ordinary Form.
EPTEMBER FIFTEENTH is the Feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Mother. The Feast is not celebrated when it falls on a Sunday because Sundays are usually of a higher rank and are therefore celebrated instead of a lower ranking feast. (However the Feast is commemorated at Lauds in the Divine Office and at Mass in the Extraordinary Form.) In a recent discussion, the topic of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Mother came up. Someone asked: “How many Catholics nowadays even know about the seven Sorrows or what they are?” I might ask you: “Do you know what Our Lady’s Seven Sorrows are?” For the sake of those who may not remember, I will mention and briefly comment on them.
In general: The “Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Mother” are events in her life—or the life of our Lord—which caused her special suffering. The first one occurred forty days after Jesus was born. Mary and Joseph took Him to the temple in Jerusalem to offer Him to God (as prescribed by the Jewish law). On this occasion, they met an elderly, saintly man named Simeon. Being a good and devout Jew, Simeon knew the Scriptures and felt that the time for the arrival of the Messiah was near. God promised him that he would not die until he had actually seen and met the promised Redeemer. Simeon recognized Mary and Joseph with the Infant Jesus when they came to the temple. It was then that Simeon first prayed that canticle or hymn which we know as the “Nunc Dimittis.” Now you can dismiss your servant (i.e. “allow him to die”) because his eyes had witnessed the Salvation of the nations.
Simeon & Mary: Then Simeon said something rather strange to Mary, namely that this child would be the cause or reason for her heart to be pierced as it were by a sword of sorrow. This was the first instance of Mary having to suffer because of her role as the mother of the Savior. The second sorrow came later, when Joseph was told by an angel that he must take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt because the wicked King Herod wanted to kill the child. The third sorrow occurred when Jesus was twelve years old and stayed behind in the temple. For almost three days they had to go back and look for Him. Those must have been agonizing days for Mary and Joseph.
Fourth through Seventh: The 4th to the 7th sorrows are all contained in what we know as the Via Crucis (“Stations of the Cross”). The 4th sorrow was Jesus meeting His mother as He was carrying His Cross to Mount Calvary; the 5th is the actual crucifixion of Jesus; the 6th is Jesus being placed in Mary’s arms and lap when His dead body is taken down from the cross. The 7th sorrow is the burial of Jesus in the tomb. Just imagine how painful that walk from the tomb to where she was staying must have been for Mary.
Meditation: I didn’t spend much time in commenting or reflecting on the various sorrows. I feel you can do that for yourselves. But I think we will all agree that these must have been traumatic events in the life of the Blessed Mother.
Conclusion: During World War II, devotion to our mother of sorrows was very popular. Churches would be filled on Friday evenings for the Sorrowful Mother novena and Benediction. Back then people were praying especially for the safe return of their loved ones who had to fight in the war. The Church is certainly in a spiritual “war” now. Maybe the Blessed Mother wants us to pay more attention to the suffering she had to undergo as the mother of our Savior. It is perhaps unfortunate that sometimes devotions in the Church “come and go” like other fads. There’s nothing keeping us from renewing devotion to the Sorrowful Mother. It might be the answer to some of our present difficulties and problems in the Church.