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Our Lady of Sorrows

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History of the Devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows

The seven founders of the Servite Order, in 1239, five years after they established themselves on Monte Senario, took up the sorrows of Mary, standing under the Cross, as the principal devotion of their order. The feast originate by a provincial synod of Cologne (1413) to expiate the crimes of the iconoclast Hussites; it was to be kept on the Friday after the third Sunday after Easter under the title: "Commemoratio angustix et doloris B. Marix V". Its object was exclusively the sorrow of Mary during the Crucifixion and Death of Christ. Before the sixteenth century this feast was limited to the dioceses of North Germany, Scandinavia, and Scotland. Being termed "Compassio" or "Transfixio", Commendatio, Lamentatio B.M.V.", it was kept at a great variety of dates, mostly during Eastertide or shortly after Pentecost, or on some fixed day of a month. Dreves and Blume (Analecta hymnica) have published a large number of rhythmical offices, sequences and hymns for the feast of the Compassion, which show that from the end of the fifteenth century in several dioceses the scope of this feast was widened to commemorate either five dolours (sorrows), from the imprisonment to the burial of Christ, or seven dolours, extending over the entire life of Mary.

Towards the end of the end of the sixteenth century the feast spread over part of the south of Europe; in 1506 it was granted to the nuns of the Annunciation under the title "Spasmi B.M.V.", Monday after Passion Sunday; in 1600 to the Servite nuns of Valencia, "B.M.V. sub pede Crucis", Friday before Palm Sunday. After 1600 it became popular in France and was termed "Dominx N. de Pietate", Friday before Palm Sunday. To this latter date the feast was assigned for the whole German Empire (1674). By a Decree of April 22, 1727, Benedict XIII extended it to the entire Latin Church, under the title "Septem dolorum B.M.V.", although the Office and Mass retain the original character of the feast, the Compassion of Mary at the foot of the Cross. At both Mass and Office the "Stabat Mater" of Giacopone da Todi (1306) is sung (see words in Latin and English below).

A second feast was granted to the Servites, June 9 and September 15, 1668. Its object of the seven dolours of Mary (according to the responsories of Matins).

The sorrows:

* at the prophecy of Simeon;
* at the flight into Egypt;
* having lost the Holy Child at Jerusalem;
* meeting Jesus on his way to Calvary;
* standing at the foot of the Cross;
* Jesus being taken from the Cross;
* at the burial of Christ.

This feast was extended to Spain (1735); to Tuscany (1807). After his return from his exile in France Pius VII extended the feast to the Latin Church (September 18, 1814). A feast, "B.M.V. de pietate", with a beautiful medieval office, is kept in honor of the sorrowful mother at Goa in India and Braga in Portugal, on the third Sunday of October; in the ecclesiastical province of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, last Sunday of May, etc. A special form of devotion is practiced in Spanish-speaking countries under the term of "N.S. de la Soledad", to commemorate the solitude of Mary on Holy Saturday. Its origin goes back to Queen Juana, lamenting the early death of her husband Philip I, King of Spain (1506).

(Principal source - Catholic Encyclopedia - 1913 edition)


Promises to Those Who Say this Rosary

The Dolors, or Seven Sorrows of Mary, is a beautiful devotion to Our Lady. Those who recite 7 Hail Marys daily while meditating on each of the 7 Sorrows of Our Lady are promised the following: Four Special Graces Promised to those Devoted to the Dolors of Our Lady According to St. Alphonsus Liguori, Our Lord revealed to St. Elizabeth of Hungary four special graces that are given to those who are devoted to the dolors of His holy Mother.

1. That those who before death invoke the Blessed Mother in the name of her sorrows should obtain true repentance of all their sins.

2. That He would protect in their tribulations all who remember this devotion, and that He would protect them especially at the hour of death.

3. That He would impress upon their minds the remembrance of His Passion, and that they should have their reward for it in Heaven.

4. That He would commit such devout clients to the hands of Mary, so that she might obtain for these souls all the graces she wanted to lavish upon them.

Seven Promises to Those who Meditate on Our Lady's Tears and Dolors According to St. Bridget of Sweden (1303-1373), the Blessed Virgin grants seven graces to the souls who honor her daily by saying seven Hail Marys while meditating on her tears and dolors:

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 will be their eternal consolation and joy."

The Stabat Mater

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 pass'd.

Oh, how sad and sore distress'd
Was that Mother highly blest
Of the sole-begotten One !

Christ above in torment hangs;
She beneath beholds the pangs
Of her dying glorious Son.

Is there one who would not weep,
Whelm'd 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?

Bruis'd, derided, curs'd, defil'd,
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 thou Mother! fount of love!
Touch my spirit from above;
Make my heart with thine accord.

Make me feel as thou hast 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 thee His pain,
Who for all my sins was slain,
Who for me in torments died.

Let me mingle tears with thee,
Mourning Him who mourn'd for me,
All the days that I may live.

By the cross with thee to stay,
There with thee to weep and pray,
Is all I ask of thee to give.

Virgin of all virgins best,
Listen to my fond request
Let me share thy grief divine.

Let me, to my latest breath,
In my body bear the death
Of that dying Son of thine.

Wounded with His every wound,
Steep my soul till it hath swoon'd
In His very blood away.

Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
Lest in flames I burn and die,
In His awful Judgment day.

Christ, when Thou shalt call me hence,
Be Thy Mother my defense,
Be Thy cross my victory.

While my body here decays,
May my soul Thy goodness praise,
Safe in Paradise with Thee.


Historical Background

The "Stabat Mater" was written in the middle ages. It was well known in Europe by the end of the14th century and was included in several local Missals in the 15th century.

It was inserted into the Roman Missal and Breviary in 1727 (Feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary, celebrated on the Friday before Good Friday). Following changes by Pius XII, it now appears on the Feast of Our Lady's Sorrows celebrated on 15 September.

It is not known who wrote the hymn and several authors have been suggested. The hymn is usually ascribed to Jacopone da Todi (1228? - 1306). After the sudden death of his pious wife, Jacopone gave up his profession as a lawyer, became a Franciscan tertiary and lived as a poor wandering man for 10 years. He then became a Franciscan friar and suffered much for supporting the "Spiritual Franciscans". He wrote many
hymns in Italian dialect which were widely sung by the people.
However it seems more likely that the "Stabat Mater" was written by Pope Innocent III (1161 -1216).
Pope Innocent III was one of the greatest popes of the Middle Ages. Although best known for securing the independence of the Church against mediaeval rulers, he was a deeply pious man and a great preacher and writer.
[Adapted from the article "Stabat Mater" in The Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)]


The purpose of meditating upon the sorrows of our Lady is not only to join us, and our sufferings in her anguished sufferings but also to direct us to her Son and His loving act of salvation for mankind.

          O Mother, fount of love,
          Let me feel the strength of your sorrow,
          That I may grieve with you.
          Make my heart burn
          With love for Christ my God
          That I may be pleasing to Him.
          Holy Mother, grant that
          The wounds of the crucified
          Are scored deep into my heart
          Share with me the pains
          Of  your wounded Son.
Who designed to die for me.
Let me truly weep with thee
Mourning the crucified
So that I may live
By the Cross let me stand
Freely united with you
In lamentation.

Virgin of virgins most high
Be not bitter with me .
Let me weep with you
Let me hear the death of Christ
Let me share His Passion
And take the stripes upon me.

Let me suffer His wounds
To be inflamed by the cross
With love for your Son
Thus kindled and fired
May I be defended by you, O Virgin,
On the Day of Judgment.

Let me protected by the Cross
Fortified by the death of Christ
And refreshed by His grace
When my body dies,
Grant that my soul be given to
The glory of paradise.

          O dolorous Mother, take pity upon us who are cast about by the storm of our many sins, extend unto Christ the Lord thy hands that received God, plead our cause before His goodness, asking pardon of our sins, a devout and peaceful life, a happy Christian end and a good defence at His dread judgment seat; so that, saved through thy most effective prayers unto Him, we may inherit the bliss of Paradise and with all the saints sing the glory of the most honourable and majestic name of the Holy Trinity. Amen.


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