This past Saturday, September 15, the Catholic Church celebrated the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows in her liturgical calendar. Pope Pius VII gave this devotion from Sacred Tradition to the Church officially in the year 1814. As Our Lady of Sorrows, the Blessed Mother shares in her special role with her Son as he suffers through His Passion before the cross, and eventually His death on the Cross. As the women of Sorrows, the Blessed Mother displays for us the true meaning behind human suffering. She reminds us of the malice of sin and gives us ways on how we should repent from our sinful behavior.
When we turn to the Sacred Scriptures, we clearly see the suffering of Mary in the Gospel account of St. John. It is the only Gospel account that records Mary at the foot of the cross. Mary, like any mother would, suffered greatly with her Son on the cross. However, she suffers even more so, for she knows who her Son truly is – He is the Christ, the Word Made Flesh. It is here in John 19:25-27 that Our Lord entrusts his mother to the disciple whom he loved, St. John. She now becomes his mother and our Mother. It is here where Mary’s universal motherhood becomes concrete. From this point forward, she would be the mother of every believer. This is not a new theological concept, but derives from the Early Church Father, Origen.
This derives at the Wedding Feast of Cana in John 2. Jesus asks the question at the Wedding Feast (what does this have to do with me?) for the mere fact that once he performs this miracle, the road to Calvary, the road to the Cross – begins! As Co-Redemptrix (sacrificial motherhood), she walks with Jesus to the cross suffering as he would suffer. The Vatican II document, Lumen Gentium, states, with Mary at the foot of the Cross, “profoundly suffering with her Only-begotten, with a maternal heart associating herself in his sacrifice, lovingly consenting to the immolation of the victim who she had begotten” (n. 58).
Furthermore, in the March 11, 1985 edition of L’Osservatore Romano, Blessed John Paul II said in regards to Mary as Co-Redemptrix, “…Mary is the dawn of redemption…Crucified spiritually with her crucified Son (cf. Gal. 2:20), she contemplated with heroic love the death of her God…In fact, at Calvary she united herself with the sacrifice of her Son that led to the foundation of the Church; her maternal heart shared to the very depths the will of Christ “to gather into all the dispersed children of God” (Jn 11:52). Having suffered for the Church, Mary deserved to become the Mother of all the disciples of her Son, the Mother of their unity…” I would encourage you to also read my recent post on the Queenship of Mary that speaks of Mary’s suffering and her roles of Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix.
During Mass on this feast day, the Stabat Mater (Sorrows of Mary) can be recited or sang as the Sequence. It is a beautiful hymn that we should all read and pray. The above link will provide you with the prayer in both English and Latin. I leave you with the beginning words of this prayer – At the Cross her station keeping – Stood the mournful Mother weeping, Close to Jesus to the last. Through her heart, his sorrow sharing, All his bitter anguish bearing, Now at length the sword had passed.