About the Feast

The Church has always had a profound sympathy for the sufferings of Mary during her Son's Passion. "Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene" (Jn 19:25). Even if we cannot fully comprehend the agonies of Christ, we can certainly identify with Mary's grief and sorrow.

But formal recognition of the sorrows of our Lady, in the form of a feast day, did not come until the twelfth century. Once the feast was instituted, and promoted by the Cisterians and Servites, the devotion spread quickly throughout the Church. In 1482, the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows was added to the Roman Missal under the title of "Our Lady of Compassion".

In 1727, Pope Benedict XIII placed the feast on the Roman Calendar, to be celebrated on the Friday before Palm Sunday. In 1913, Pope Pius X set the date as September 15.

In her sorrows, Mary suffered also for all of us—for parents who see their children's pain, for those in pain themselves, for the persecuted or oppressed, for the lonely, the lost, and the abandoned. We can turn to our Mother Mary for strength and comfort when our sorrows seem too much for our hearts to bear.
The Seven Sorrows of Our Lady

1. The prophecy of Simeon

2. The flight into Egypt

3. The losing of Jesus in the temple

4. Mary meets Jesus carrying the Cross

5. The Crucifixion

6. Mary receives the dead body of her Son

7. The burial of her Son and closing of the tomb

Celebrating the Feast

This feast occurs approximately six months after the midpoint of Lent, and may take the form of a mini-Lent. Just as Lent is a powerful teaching season for the family (it can open the way to dinnertime discussions of the value of sacrifice and suffering, for example), this feast can refresh our Lenten memories.

Rather than having a "feast" with dessert, we could share a simple meal in the midst of harvest plenty; and our appreciation for such a meal will be heightened.

Assign a "sorrow of Mary" to each member of your family a few days before the meal. Let each one consider the sorrow as it is described in Scripture, as it is similar to a personal experience, and be ready to discuss what it teaches us about Mary as an example for our lives. Even a young child of five or six can participate in this discussion. You may be surprised at the depth and wisdom of your children's contributions.
Mary's Flowers

Gladiolus The name comes from the Latin name for "sword". Its sword-shaped leaves symbolize the "piercing sorrows" that Mary endured. Red gladiolus symbolize martyrdom—as do palm branches, for the same reason. Palm branches are a symbol of victory and, as Christian symbols, represent the martyrs' victory over death.