Suffering is not hard to come by in this world, and sometimes it feels like it comes in droves these days. The saints were not immune to suffering. In fact, many of them seemed to suffer more than most. And yet somehow, the saints seem to turn suffering on its head. No one exemplifies this better than the Queen of Saints, Mary herself.
From the flight of the Holy Family to Egypt, to her son’s eventual death on the cross, Mary certainly had her share of suffering. Again and again, she shows not only what if feels like to suffer deeply, but also what it means to suffer well. In Mary, we catch a glimpse of the true purpose of suffering in our lives. Mary teaches through example the value of redemptive suffering and shows us how to truly love another: by entering into their suffering and bearing it by their side.
The crosses in our lives can be lonely and alienating . . . but they don’t have to be. When we experience sadness and suffering in our own lives, comfort can often be found in the company of someone who understands our pain. Who better to go to with our suffering than the arms of our Mother?
The month of September is dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows. This month is the perfect time to lean into the loving embrace of our Mother and to allow her tears to act as a balm for our souls.
“This child [Jesus] is destined to be the downfall and the rise of many in Israel, a sign that will be opposed. You yourself shall be pierced with a sword so that the thoughts of many hearts may be laid bare.”Luke 2:34-35
1. The Seven Sorrows Devotion
Prayer is a great way to join our suffering with the suffering of Mary. One of the simplest ways to honor Our Lady of Sorrows is through devotion to the Seven Sorrows. The devotion itself is an old one, and though simple, it is extremely powerful. It consists of praying a series of seven Hail Marys while meditating on each of the traditional Seven Sorrows of Our Lady.
- The Prophecy of Simeon
- The Flight into Egypt
- The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple
- Mary Meets Jesus on the Way of the Cross
- Mary Stands at the Foot of the Cross
- Jesus is Lowered From the Cross into His Mother’s Arms
- Jesus is Laid in the Tomb
2. The Seven Sorrows Chaplet
The Seven Sorrows Chaplet is sort of like a cross between a rosary and the seven sorrows devotion. This chaplet is prayed on a special rosary divided into seven “decades” of seven Hail Marys. Before each decade is an Our Father, just like a traditional Rosary. Instead of the usual Glorious, Luminous, Sorrowful, or Joyful mysteries, the Seven Sorrows of Mary are meditated upon.
3. The Our Lady of Sorrows Novena
Though it can be prayed at any time, the Our Lady of Sorrows Novena traditionally begins on September 7th and ends on the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows. The novena prayers are filled with beautiful language and imagery that call to mind Mary’s sufferings, and offer to join our own sufferings to hers. There are several versions of the novena, so look around and find one that speaks to you. One version can be found here, along with an email subscription link to receive daily novena reminders.
4. Celebrate Our Lady of Sorrows’s feast day
The Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows falls on September 15th each year, the day after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The feast day has been on the Roman Calendar since 1482, though it has changed dates several times.
The feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows is the perfect time to private meditations on Mary’s suffering and to reflect on how you can offer your own suffering to Christ.
5. Hang an image Our Lady of Sorrows
Next time you are considering a new piece of artwork for your home, consider an image of Our Lady of Sorrows. There are many different images to choose from, so take the time to find something that speaks to you. That way, next time you feel crushed under your own sorrows, you can gaze at an image of the Mother of Sorrows and join your pain to hers.
“Mary Most Holy goes on being the loving consoler of those touched by the many physical and moral sorrows which afflict and torment humanity. She knows our sorrows and our pains, because she too suffered, from Bethlehem to Calvary. Mary is our Spiritual Mother, and the mother always understands her children and consoles them in their troubles.”Pope Saint John Paul II
6. Learn about the Our Lady of Sorrows apparitions
Our Lady of Sorrows has appeared in numerous apparitions recognized by the Church. Learning about these apparitions is a great way to draw closer to the Sorrowful Heart of Mary. A good place to start would be Our Lady of Kibeho. Mary also appeared as Our Lady of Sorrows during one of the Fatima apparitions.
7. Make an altar for Our Lady of Sorrows
If you already have a prayer corner in your home, you may want to add a statue, such as the Pieta, or an image of Our Lady of Sorrows to help you honor her in prayer. You could also build a separate altar or shrine to Our Lady of Sorrows on a small shelf or tabletop. Visual aids like this are incredibly helpful in deepening prayer. They also act as a simple reminder of the devotion you are trying to cultivate.