Why has the Catholic Church traditionally dedicated the month of September to Our Lady of Sorrows? The answer is simple: The Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows falls right in the middle of the month, on September 15. But how was that date chosen? Because the day before, September 14, is the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross.
Like many of the lesser-known Marian feasts, the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows is tied to an event in the life of her Son. On September 14, we celebrate the instrument of Christ’s victory over death; and the next day, we remember the suffering of Mary as she stood at the foot of the Cross and witnessed the torture and death of her Son. We are also reminded of Simeon’s words to Mary (Luke 2:34-35) at the Presentation of the Lord—that a sword would pierce her soul.
Through these prayers for September, we can unite ourselves to Mary in her sorrow, in the hope that we will one day also share her joy in the triumph of her Son.
In Honor of the Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary
O most holy and afflicted Virgin! Queen of Martyrs! thou who didst stand motionless beneath the Cross, witnessing the agony of thy expiring Son–through the unceasing sufferings of thy life of sorrow, and the bliss which now more than amply repays thee for thy past trials, look down with a mother’s tenderness and pity on me, who kneel before thee to venerate thy dolors, and place my requests, with filial confidence, in the sanctuary of thy wounded heart; present them, I beseech thee, on my behalf, to Jesus Christ, through the merits of His own most sacred death and passion, together with thy sufferings at the foot of the cross, and through the united efficacy of both obtain the grant of my present petition. To whom shall I resort in my wants and miseries if not to thee, O Mother of Mercy, who, having so deeply drunk of the chalice of thy Son, canst compassionate the woes of those who still sigh in the land of exile? Offer for me to my Savior one drop of the Blood which flowed from His sacred veins, one of the tears which trickled from His divine eyes, one of the sighs which rent His adorable Heart. O refuge of the universe and hope of the whole world, do not reject my humble prayer, but graciously obtain the grant of my petition.
In this lengthy but beautiful prayer in honor of the sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we present our own sorrows and ask Mary to intercede for us with her Son, so that our request may be granted.
The word dolors come from the Latin, and simply means “sorrows”; and filial (also from the Latin) means “of a son or daughter.” So we, as Christians, approach Our Lady of Sorrows with the confidence that we would approach our own mother.
To the Mother of Sorrows
Most holy Virgin and Mother, whose soul was pierced by a sword of sorrow in the Passion of thy divine Son, and who in His glorious Resurrection wast filled with never-ending joy at His triumph; obtain for us who call upon thee, so to be partakers in the adversities of Holy Church and the sorrows of the Sovereign Pontiff, as to be found worthy to rejoice with them in the consolation for which we pray, in the charity and peace of the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
In this prayer to the Mother of Sorrows, we ask Mary to pray for us, so that we may look forward to the joy that comes from remaining faithful witnesses to Christ.
Virgin Most Sorrowful
Virgin most sorrowful, pray for us.
In this short prayer or aspiration, we unite our sorrows to those of Our Lady of Sorrows—Mary, the Virgin Most Sorrowful.
Mary Most Sorrowful
Mary most sorrowful, Mother of Christians, pray for us.
This short prayer or aspiration addresses the Blessed Virgin Mary under two important titles: Our Lady of Sorrows, the mother who saw her own Son derided, tortured, and crucified, and Mary, Mother of Christians, because, as the Mother of Christ, she is our spiritual mother, too.
To Our Lady of Sorrows
Our Lady of Sorrows, or Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, is a name used for the Virgin Mary—a title used out of deference to the many painful events in her life. Practices aimed at the Seven Sorrows of Mary are very popular devotions for Catholics, and many prayers and rituals are dedicated to Mary in this form.
The seven sorrows refer to seven momentous events in the life of Mary:
- Simeone, the Holy Man, forecasting the pain that Mary would suffer because Jesus was the Savior
- Joseph and Mary fleeing with the infant Jesus in order to escape Herod the King’s threat to the child
- Mary and Joseph losing the 12-year-old Jesus for three days until finding him in the temple
- Mary witnessing Jesus carrying the cross to Calvary
- Mary witnessing the crucifixion of Jesus
- Mary receiving the body of Jesus when it is removed from the cross
- Mary witnessing the burial of Jesus.
The various devotional practices and prayers dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows focuses on the example that Mary sets for maintaining steadfast faith and devotion in the face of almost indescribable heartache and pain. The modern church now celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows every September 15.
In this prayer to Our Lady of Sorrows, believers call to mind the pain endured both by Christ on the Cross and by Mary as she watched her Son be crucified. In reciting the prayer, we ask for the grace to join in that sorrow, so that we may awaken to what is truly important—not the passing joys of this life, but the lasting joy of eternal life in Heaven.
O most holy Virgin, Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ: by the overwhelming grief you experienced when you witnessed the martyrdom, the crucifixion, and death of your divine Son, look upon me with eyes of compassion, and awaken in my heart a tender commiseration for those sufferings, as well as a sincere detestation of my sins, in order that being disengaged from all undue affection for the passing joys of this earth, I may sigh after the eternal Jerusalem, and that henceforward all my thoughts and all my actions may be directed towards this one most desirable object.
Honor, glory, and love to our divine Lord Jesus, and to the holy and immaculate Mother of God.
In this prayer to Our Lady of Sorrows, we call to mind the pain endured both by Christ on the Cross and Mary, as she watched her Son be crucified. We ask for the grace to join in that sorrow, so that we may awaken to what is truly important: Not the passing joys of this life, but the lasting joy of eternal life in Heaven.
To the Queen of Martyrs
Mary, most holy Virgin and Queen of Martyrs, accept the sincere homage of my filial affection. Into thy heart, pierced by so many swords, do thou welcome my poor soul. Receive it as the companion of thy sorrows at the foot of the Cross, on which Jesus died for the redemption of the world. With thee, O sorrowful Virgin, I will gladly suffer all the trials, contradictions, and infirmities which it shall please our Lord to send me. I offer them all to thee in memory of thy sorrows, so that every thought of my mind, and every beat of my heart may be an act of compassion and of love for thee. And do thou, sweet Mother, have pity on me, reconcile me to thy divine Son Jesus, keep me in His grace, and assist me in my last agony, so that I may be able to meet thee in heaven and sing thy glories.
In this prayer to Mary, the Queen of Martyrs, we recall the sorrow that she endured watching her only Son die on the Cross. We unite all of our sufferings every day to hers, asking for the grace and strength to endure them for the sake of Christ, as Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, did.
Filial comes from the Latin, and it means “of a son or daughter.” So the “filial affection” we offer Mary is our love for her not only as the Mother of God but as our mother, too.
Sorrowful Mother Novena
This traditional Sorrowful Mother Novena is both a meditation on the role that Mary played in our salvation and a plea for her intercession so that we may follow her example in following Christ her Son. Each verse of the novena recalls one event of sorrow in Mary’s life and asks for her intercession so that we may develop a particular virtue. Each verse, too, asks for a particular gift of the Holy Spirit; the seven verses cover all seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
V. O God, hasten to my aid.
R. O Lord, make haste to help me.
V. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost.
R. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
1. I grieve for thee, O Mary most sorrowful, in the affliction of thy tender heart at the prophecy of the holy and aged Simeon. Dear Mother, by thy heart so afflicted, obtain for me the virtue of humility and the Gift of the holy Fear of God.
2. I grieve for thee, O Mary most sorrowful, in the anguish of thy most affectionate heart during the flight into Egypt and thy sojourn there. Dear Mother, by thy heart so full of anguish, obtain for me the virtue of generosity, especially toward the poor, and the Gift of Piety.
3. I grieve for thee, O Mary most sorrowful, in those anxieties which tried thy troubled heart at the loss of thy dear Jesus in the Temple. Dear Mother, by thy heart so full of anguish, obtain for me the virtue of chastity and the Gift of Knowledge.
4. I grieve for thee, O Mary most sorrowful, in the consternation of thy heart at meeting Jesus as He carried His Cross. Dear Mother, by thy heart so troubled, obtain for me the virtue of patience and the Gift of Fortitude.
5. I grieve for thee, O Mary most sorrowful, in the martyrdom which thy generous heart endured in standing near Jesus in His agony on the Cross. Dear Mother, by thy afflicted heart, obtain for me the virtue of temperance and the Gift of Counsel.
6. I grieve for thee, O Mary most sorrowful, in the wounding of thy compassionate heart, when the side of Jesus was pierced by a lance before His Body was removed from the Cross. Dear Mother, by thy heart thus transfixed, obtain for me the virtue of fraternal charity and the Gift of Understanding.
7. I grieve for thee, O Mary most sorrowful, for the pangs that wrenched thy most loving heart at the burial of Jesus. Dear Mother, by thy heart sunk in the bitterness of desolation, obtain for me the virtue of diligence and the Gift of Wisdom.
Let us pray.
Let intercession be made for us, we beseech Thee, O Lord Jesus Christ, now and at the hour of our death, by the throne of Thy mercy, by the Blessed Virgin Mary, Thy Mother, whose most holy soul was pierced by a sword of sorrow in the hour of Thy bitter Passion, through Thee, O Jesus Christ, Savior of the world, Who with the Father and the Holy Ghost lives and reigns world without end.
This traditional Sorrowful Mother Novena is both a meditation on the role that Mary played in our salvation and a plea for her intercession so that we may follow her example in following Christ her Son.