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Our Lady of Sorrows

Oscar’s Confirmation
By Cardinal Brandmuller

Abbé Raphael’s Confirmation
By Cardinal Brandmuller

Two of my sons, Oscar and Raphael, were confirmed in Gricigliano in Florence, Italy, at the seminary of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign priest in March of 2012.  There were eight of us there, my wife, six of our eight children, and I.  Abbé Raphael Lacken is now completing his third year of formation for the Catholic Priesthood with the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest. Please pray for his vocation.

One day in order to give my wife a break, I went out for a drive with the six children in the countryside around Florence.  We came across what looked like a little forest park trail and I pulled in and we decided to go for a walk.

At the top of the trail we came to a church and there was a plaque which identified the church as being the convent which was built by the Seven Founder Saints in 1234.  When I got home I looked them up and discovered that they were the founders of the Servite Order also known as ‘The Order of the Servants of Mary’.  The servites were responsible for spreading the devotion to the Seven Dolours of Our Lady throughout Europe.

The Church of the Seven-Founders, Florence, Italy

In the traditional liturgical calendar, the feast of the Seven sorrows of Our Lady is commemorated on the Friday after Passion Sunday. This year it was Friday 31st March. Simeon prophesied to Our Lady that a sword would pierce her heart and the traditional image of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows shows her heart with seven short swords piercing it.

The seven sorrows are

1.  The prophecy of Simeon
2.  The flight into Egypt
3.  The loss of the Child Jesus in the temple
4.  The meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross.
5.  The Crucifixion.
6.  The taking down of the Body of Jesus from the Cross.
7.  The burial of Jesus.

The image at the top of this post is the miraculous image of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows from Quito in Ecuador. The image was hung in the rectory of a boys school. On April 20th, in 1906, a miraculous event occurred. Charles Hermann, who was eleven at the time, relates what happened.

“We finished taking coffee, the Brother Alberdi came and told us about the earthquake in California and we began to speak about the Virgin. I said that the seven swords were driven in by our sins; and I looked at her, and she was moving her eyelids; and I thought that it was my imagination. The other boy looked afterwards and said to me, ‘Look at the Virgin,’ and we kept looking.

Seeing what was happening we knelt down; we prayed an Our Father and a Hail Mary. We were looking at what was happening; I called Peter Donoso saying: ‘Come and you will see this funny thing.’ I called him three times. She [the Virgin] was moving her eyes, the left one and afterwards the right one; the first time she was moving them a little more quickly. After a repetition of two or three times she was closing both.”

A book on this event was written by Paul M Kimball and is available to download from our website – Our Lady of Quito – Queen of Ecuador

A Powerful Devotion

I produced a booklet on the simple form of the devotion to Our Lady’s Seven Sorrows, which consists in saying seven Hail Marys a day whilst meditating on each of the sorrows. The cover of the booklet features a copy of the miraculous image of Our Lady of Sorrows from Quito in Equador, and on the back are listed the promises to St Bridget for those who would practice this devotion. The inside of the booklet contains seven beautiful Catholic images and seven short meditations on each of the seven sorrows. The booklet is still available from The Lumen Fidei Institute.

The Promises

The promises of Our Lady to St. Bridget of Sweden to those who honour her every day by meditating on her sorrows and entering into her grief are as follows

 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 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.

These are the meditations from the booklet.

The First Sorrow of Our Lady – The Prophecy of Simeon

And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.” (Luke 2: 34 – 35)

Consider this joyful day when Our Lady and St Joseph take the child Jesus to Jerusalem for His presentation in the temple. The prophet Simeon is sent by God to forewarn and to prepare our Lady for what is to come.

Thus it is for all followers of Christ. Our hearts will be pierced by many sorrows. The death of our parents and those we love, our children may lose the faith, we will be rejected by the world for our belief in Jesus Christ.

Yet Mary has gone before us, to lead us, to comfort us and to console us. Let us draw near to her, our Mother, as she contemplates the words of Simeon in her heart. Hail Mary…

The Second Sorrow of Our Lady – The Flight into Egypt

Mary takes the child Jesus and with St Joseph leaves Bethlehem for Egypt. Herod has given orders that her only child be killed. Other innocent children will die on account of this. This killing of innocent children continues to this very day with millions of innocent children, created in the image and likeness of God, being killed through abortion, through war and through hunger. Many other children, willed by God, will not come into existence on account of contraception.

Already the prophecy of Simeon is coming true, “behold this child is set for the fall and for the resurrection of many in Israel… and thy own soul a sword shall pierce.”

Beloved Mother who greatly suffered, give us a courageous heart like yours. We accept all the sufferings as God so wishes, our own and that inflicted by others. You alone purify our suffering so that we may give glory to God and save our souls.

Hail Mary…

The Third Sorrow of Our Lady – The Loss of the Child Jesus in Jerusalem

His mother said to him, “Son, why hast thou done so to us? Behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.” And he said to them, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” And they understood not the word that He spoke unto them. (Luke 2:48-50)

Consider the sorrow of Our Lady on discovering that Jesus is not with St Joseph or with any of their relations on the journey back from Jerusalem. She knows who Jesus is, therefore her question to Jesus is not an admonition. She does not understand why He would leave her for three days without letting her know, and it causes her deep sorrow.

Jesus is teaching Mary the painful lesson of detachment from Him. She must know that His Father’s business takes precedence over everything else. The three days are also a preparation of her soul for the three days of His passion, death and entombment before the resurrection.

Hail Mary …

The Fourth Sorrow of Our Lady – Mary meets Jesus on the way to Calvary

V: Consider how the Son met his Mother on His way to Calvary. Jesus and Mary gazed at each other and their looks became as so many arrows to wound those hearts which loved each other so tenderly

R: My most loving Jesus, by the pain You suffered in this meeting grant me the grace of being truly devoted to Your most holy Mother. And You, my Queen, who was overwhelmed with sorrow, obtain for me by Your prayers a tender and a lasting remembrance of the passion of Your divine Son.

(St Alphonsus Liguori)

Our Lord’s sorrow is increased by the sorrow He sees in His Mother Mary’s eyes. Our Lady’s sorrow is increased when she sees that her own suffering causes her Son to suffer more. Yet both of them are freely resigned to the Father’s Will so that we may be freed from our sins and from the clutches of satan.

Hail Mary …

The Fifth Sorrow of Our Lady – Jesus dies of the Cross

“But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfil the scripture), “I thirst.” A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished”; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19: 25-30)

Our Lady stands by the cross of Jesus for the three hours of His agony. We can only imagine the sorrow of her heart at seeing her only Son treated so cruelly by those whom He dies for. “Father, forgive them…”

Hail Mary …

The Sixth Sorrow of Our Lady – Mary receives the dead body of Jesus

Mary holds the now dead body of Jesus in her arms. As she looks upon His bruised and wounded body, does her mind drift back to that night in Bethlehem when she first wrapped Him in swaddling clothes? Does she ponder in her heart her life with Jesus here on earth?

Yes Jesus is dead! He died for our sins and for the sins of all humanity. Let us contemplate this Holy Virgin who has given her all to Jesus and who has willingly accepted to unite herself in suffering with her Son so that we might be saved.

Let us approach her in humility and contrition of heart with deep sorrow for our own sins and for the sufferings we have caused to Jesus and Mary on account of those very sins. Let us reach deep into that sorrow and draw from it the resolve to turn away from our sins so that we may no longer offend God and His blessed Mother. Our Lady desires this of us and she is waiting to help us to become Holy.

Hail Mary …

The Seventh Sorrow of Our Lady – Jesus is laid in the Tomb

Our Lady returns home after the crucifixion to keep vigil for Our Lord. She alone keeps the faith throughout Holy Saturday. And yet her heart is sorrowful as, for the first time since His birth, she is alone in the world without the living presence of her Son. Jesus is dead!

Her life on earth will never be the same again. She has a great longing for heaven so as to be re-united once again with her Son. She also realises her role in keeping vigil for Christ and in strengthening the Apostles and preparing them for the descent of the Holy Spirit.

The tragedy of death and sin is engraved on her sorrowful heart and yet, this sorrowful heart is full of hope and that deep inner joy that comes from knowing Jesus intimately. She longs to share the secrets of holiness with us her children and to help us to carry our own crosses so that one day we too may be with Jesus and Mary in heaven.

Let us too reaffirm our committment to keeping the faith alive in our own lives and encouraging those we meet. Hail Mary …

I have written about the history of this booklet HERE

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