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Our Lady of Sorrows

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Our Lady of Sorrows
Seven Swords Piercing the Sorrowful Heart of Mary in the Church of the Holy Cross, Salamanca, Spain
Venerated inCatholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Church[1]
Feast15 September
Friday of Sorrows
AttributesBlessed Virgin Mary in mournful state, tears, bleeding heart pierced by seven daggers

Our Lady of Sorrows (Latin: Beata Maria Virgo Perdolens), Our Lady of Dolours, the Sorrowful Mother or Mother of Sorrows (Latin: Mater Dolorosa), and Our Lady of Piety, Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows or Our Lady of the Seven Dolours are names by which Mary, mother of Jesus, is referred to in relation to sorrows in life. As Mater Dolorosa, it is also a key subject for Marian art in the Catholic Church.

The Seven Sorrows of Mary are a popular religious theme and a Catholic devotion. In Catholic imagery, the Virgin Mary is portrayed sorrowful and in tears, with one or seven swords piercing her heart, iconography based on the prophecy of Simeon in Luke 2:34–35. Pious practices in reference to this title include the Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows, the Seven Principal Dolors of the Blessed Virgin, the Novena in Honor of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, and the Via Matris.

The feast of Our Lady of Sorrows is liturgically celebrated every 15 September, while a feast, the Friday of Sorrows is observed in some Catholic countries.

Seven Sorrows of Mary[edit]

The Seven Sorrows (or Dolors) are events in the life of Mary that are a popular devotion and are frequently depicted in art.[2]

These Seven Sorrows should not be confused with the five Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary.

Traditionally, the Seven Sorrows are:

  1. The Prophecy of Simeon in Luke 2;
  2. The Flight into Egypt in Matthew 2;
  3. The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, also in Luke 2;
  4. Mary meeting Jesus on the Via Dolorosa, the Fourth station of the Cross which is not found in the Bible;
  5. The Crucifixion of Jesus on Mount Calvary in Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and especially John 19;
  6. Jesus's Descent from the Cross in Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19;
  7. The Burial of Jesus by Joseph of Arimathea[3] also in Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19;

Devotions to the Seven Sorrows[edit]

Western Christianity[edit]

Mary surrounded by the Seven Sorrows

Earlier, in 1232, seven youths in Tuscany founded the Servite Order (also known as the "Servite Friars", or the "Order of the Servants of Mary"). Five years later, they took up the sorrows of Mary, standing under the Cross, as the principal devotion of their order.[4]

Over the centuries several devotions, and even orders, arose around meditation on Mary's Sorrows in particular. The Servites developed the three most common devotions to Our Lady's Sorrows, namely the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows, the Black Scapular of the Seven Dolours of Mary and the Novena to Our Sorrowful Mother. The rosary consists of a chaplet of seven septets of beads (upon which is said an Ave), separated by one bead (on which is prayed a Pater Noster. Meditations for each dolor were composed by Pope Pius VII in 1818.

The Black Scapular is a symbol of the Confraternity of Our Lady of Sorrows, which is associated with the Servite Order.[5] Most devotional scapulars have requirements regarding ornamentation or design. The devotion of the Black Scapular requires only that it be made of black woollen cloth.[6] From the National Shrine of Saint Peregrine spread the Sorrowful Mother Novena, the core of which is the Via Matris.[7] The core of the prayers in the novena is the Via Matris.[8]

Eastern Christianity[edit]

Our Lady who softens evil hearts, Russian icon, 19th century

On February 2, the same day as the Great Feast of the Meeting of the Lord, Orthodox Christians and Eastern Catholics commemorate a wonder-working icon of the Theotokos (Mother of God) known as "the Softening of Evil Hearts" or "Simeon's Prophecy".[9][10]

It depicts Mary at the moment that Simeon the Righteous says, "Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also...." (Luke 2:35). She stands with her hands upraised in prayer, and seven swords pierce her heart, indicative of the seven sorrows.[9] This is one of the few Orthodox icons of the Theotokos which do not depict the infant Jesus. The refrain "Rejoice, much-sorrowing Mother of God, turn our sorrows into joy and soften the hearts of evil men!" is also used.[10]

In the Western Rite Vicariate of the Antiochian Orthodox Church, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows is celebrated on 26 April and a separate feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary is celebrated on 14 September.[11]

Liturgical feast[edit]

Our Lady of Compassion[edit]

Mater Dolorosa

The Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows grew in popularity in the 12th century, although under various titles. Some writings would place its roots in the eleventh century, especially among the Benedictine monks.[12]

The feast of the Our Lady of Sorrows was originated by a provincial synod of Cologne in 1423. It was designated for the Friday after the third Sunday after Easter and had the title: Commemoratio angustiae et doloris B. Mariae V. Its object was 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.[4]

According to Fr. William Saunders, "in 1482, the feast was officially placed in the Roman Missal under the title of Our Lady of Compassion, highlighting the great love our Blessed Mother displayed in suffering with her Son. The word compassion derives from the Latin roots cum and patior which means "to suffer with".[12]

After 1600 it became popular in France and was set for the Friday before Palm Sunday. By a Decree of 22 April 1727, Pope Benedict XIII extended it to the entire Latin Church, under the title "Septem dolorum B.M.V.".[4] In 1954, it still held the rank of major double (slightly lower than the rank of the September feast) in the General Roman Calendar. Pope John XXIII's 1960 Code of Rubrics reduced it to the level of a commemoration.

The Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary[edit]

In 1668, a separate feast of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, celebrated on the third Sunday in September, was granted to the Servites.[4] Pope Innocent XII renamed it the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.[13] Pope Pius VII introduced it into the General Roman Calendar in 1814. In 1913, Pope Pius X, in view of his reform giving precedence to Sundays over ordinary feasts, moved this feast to September 15, the day after the Feast of the Cross.[14] It is still observed on that date.

Annual procession in honour of Our Lady of Sorrows in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn

Since there were thus two feasts with the same title, on each of which the Stabat Mater sequence was recited, the Passion Week celebration was removed from the General Roman Calendar in 1969 as a duplicate of the September feast.[15] Each of the two celebrations had been called a feast of "The Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary" (Latin: Septem Dolorum Beatae Mariae Virginis). Recitation of the Stabat Mater was made optional.

On the second Sunday of September, the congregation of Maria SS. Addolorata in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn, hold an annual procession with a statue of Our Lady of Sorrows. The tradition started in the 1940s with Italian immigrants from Mola di Bari celebrating the Feast of their hometown patroness, Our Lady of Sorrows.[16]


Our Lady of Sorrows is often depicted with either one or seven swords piercing her heart, the first a reference to the prophecy of Simeon, the second to the Seven Sorrows. The type dates from the latter part of the 15th century.[17]


Our Lady of Sorrows venerated in Dolores, Quezon, Philippines

Our Lady of Sorrows is the patron saint of:



Our Lady of Sorrows, depicted as "Mater Dolorosa" (Mother of Sorrows) has been the subject of some key works of Catholic Marian art. Mater Dolorosa is one of the three common artistic representations of a sorrowful Virgin Mary, the other two being Stabat Mater and the Pietà.[34]

In this iconography, Our Lady of Seven Sorrows is at times simply represented in a sad and anguished mode by herself, her expression being that of tears and sadness. In other representations the Virgin Mary is depicted with seven swords in her heart, a reference to the prophecy of Simeon at the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 26 April, Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate. https://www.orthodoxwest.com/kalendar
  2. ^ Ball, Ann (2003). "Seven Sorrows of Mary". Encyclopedia of Catholic Devotions and Practices. Huntington IN: Our Sunday Visitor. p. 525. ISBN 0-87973-910-X.
  3. ^ "Our Lady of Sorrows", Marian Library, University of Dayton
  4. ^ a b c d Holweck, Frederick. "Feasts of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 14 September 2021Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ Order of Friar Servants of Mary: The Confraternity of Our Lady of Sorrows Archived 2013-01-13 at archive.today - retrieved on 22-Mar-2009
  6. ^ Francis de Zulueta, 2008, Early Steps In The Fold, Miller Press, ISBN 978-1-4086-6003-4, p. 301
  7. ^ Kosloski, Philip (2018-02-17). "A powerful novena in honor of the Sorrowful Mother". Aleteia. Archived from the original on 2018-06-13. Retrieved 2018-12-25.
  8. ^ "The Via Matris". Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows. 2016. Archived from the original on 2018-12-25. Retrieved 2018-12-28.
  9. ^ a b Churchly joy: Orthodox devotions for the church year by Sergeĭ Nikolaevich Bulgakov, Boris Jakim 2008 ISBN 0-8028-4834-6 pages 10-11
  10. ^ a b Orthodox life, Volumes 54-55, Holy Trinity Monastery (Jordanville, N.Y.) page 7
  11. ^ 26 April and 14 September, Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate. https://www.orthodoxwest.com/kalendar
  12. ^ a b Saunders, William. "The Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows", Arlington Catholic Herald, 2000
  13. ^ "Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows", Vatican News
  14. ^ "Calendarium Romanum", Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1969, p. 103
  15. ^ Calendarium Romanum (Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis 1969). p.119
  16. ^ Jackson, Kenneth T.; Manbeck, John B., eds. (2004). The Neighborhoods of Brooklyn (2nd ed.). New Haven, Connecticut: Citizens for NYC and Yale University Press. pp. 54-57 ISBN 0-300-10310-7
  17. ^ Stracke, Richard. "Mater Dolorosa", Christian Iconography, Augusta University
  18. ^ Congregation of Holy Cross, US
  19. ^ "The Servites", The National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother
  20. ^ Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows
  21. ^ a b O'Kane, Lydia. "Pope in Slovakia: Devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows", Vatican News, 14 September 2021
  22. ^ "Festividad de la patrona de Granada | Turismo de Granada". www.granadatur.com. Retrieved 2020-09-15.
  23. ^ "The Women in Black". 2007-09-10. Archived from the original on 2019-10-06. Retrieved 2022-05-25.
  24. ^ Mater Dolorosa, Berlin-Lankwitz
  25. ^ Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica, chicago
  26. ^ "Poveiros celebram Nossa Senhora das Dores – P. Varzim" (in Portuguese). MetroNews.
  27. ^ St. Mary of Sorrows, Fairfax, VA
  28. ^ https://www.olswahiawa.org/
  29. ^ Our Lady of Sorrows Roman Catholic Church, Santa Barbara
  30. ^ Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows
  31. ^ Župa Blažene Djevice Marije Žalosne Špansko [Parish of Blessed Virgin Mary of Sorrows Špansko] Access date 17 September 2022.
  32. ^ Gospa Žalosna [Our Lady of Sorrows] Tourist Board of Kvarner. Access date 17 September 2022.
  33. ^ Basilica santuario di Maria Santissima Addolorata
  34. ^ Arthur de Bles, 2004 How to Distinguish the Saints in Art by Their Costumes, Symbols and Attributes ISBN 1-4179-0870-X page 35

Further reading[edit]

  • The Seven Sorrows of Mary, by Joel Giallanza, C.S.C. 2008, published by Ave Maria Press, ISBN 1-59471-176-3

External links[edit]