“I’ll pray the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of Mary for you,” I assured a friend who had just revealed some upsetting news. “It seems appropriate.”
I had never prayed the Rosary of Seven Sorrows before and didn’t know anything about the devotion to our Lady of Sorrows but I had recently bought the special rosary because I thought it was pretty. A prompting in my heart assured me this was the right thing to do and, determined to keep my promise, I tore open the package and read the little booklet that came with the rosary. Twenty minutes of meditating on our Lady’s sorrows each day made me realize how important this observance is not just for my friend’s intentions but for all of us.
Historically, devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows began at the crucifixion as St. John stood with Mary at the foot of the Cross and comforted her, but it wasn’t until Good Friday in 1239 that the practice gained in popularity. Our Lady appeared to seven holy men who lived in solitude on Mount Senario in Italy and instructed them to form an Order dedicated to her Sorrows. The men formed the Order of the Servants of Mary (or Servites) and their mission was to meditate on and propagate devotion to the Seven Sorrows of Mary. The men, all of whom are canonized saints, introduced the Chaplet (little Rosary) of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In our time, Mary again appeared to chosen souls and asked one of them to revive the devotion. Our Blessed Mother began appearing to three school children in Kibeho, Rwanda on 28 November 1981, and the apparitions officially ended on the same date in 1989. On 3 March, 1982, Mary taught one of the visionaries, Marie-Claire Mukangango, how to pray the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows and tasked her with the mission of spreading its devotion throughout the world. Marie-Claire, who was later killed in the genocide, never travelled outside of Kibeho, but by God’s grace, the efforts of this little seer continue to be used to spread the devotion. This chaplet does not replace the traditional Rosary but adds to it by meditating more closely on the Sorrowful Mysteries.
In The Glories of Mary, St. Alphonsus de Liguori wrote: “The Blessed Virgin Mary, for the love She bore us, was willing to see Her Son sacrificed to Divine Justice by the barbarity of men. This great torment then, which Mary endured for us—a torment that was more than a thousand deaths—deserves both our compassion and our gratitude. If we can make no other return for so much love, at least let us give a few moments this day to consider the greatness of the sufferings by which Mary became the Queen of martyrs; for the sufferings of Her great martyrdom exceeded those of all the martyrs; being, in the first place, the longest in point of duration; and in the second place, the greatest in point of intensity.”
The Seven Sorrows of Mary
- St. Simeon’s prophecy
- The flight into Egypt
- The loss of Jesus in the temple
- The meeting of Mary and Jesus on the way to Calvary
- The crucifixion and death of Jesus
- The piercing of the side of Jesus, and His descent from the cross
- The burial of Jesus
According to St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Our Lady of Sorrows promised the following graces to all who recite the chaplet faithfully:
- That those who before death invoke the divine Mother in the name of Her Sorrows will obtain true repentance of all their sins.
- That He will protect all who have this devotion in their tribulations, and will protect them especially at the hour of death.
- That He will impress on their minds the remembrance of His Passion.
- That He will place such devout servants in Mother Mary’s hands to do with them as She wishes and to obtain for them all the graces She desires.
Mary attached seven promises to the faithful prayer of the chaplet:
- “I will grant peace to their families.”
- “They will be enlightened about the divine Mysteries.”
- “I will console them in their pains and I will accompany them in their work.”
- “I will give them as much as they ask for as long as it does not oppose the adorable will of My divine Son or the sanctification of their souls.”
- “I will defend them in their spiritual battles with the infernal enemy and I will protect them at every instant of their lives.”
- “I will visibly help them at the moment of their death—they will see the face of their Mother.”
- “I have obtained this grace from My divine Son, that those who propagate this devotion to My tears and sorrows will be taken directly from this earthly life to eternal happiness, since all their sins will be forgiven and My Son will be their eternal consolation and joy.”
While the promises and graces are intended for those who pray the Rosary of Seven Sorrows, I am confident that my faithful prayer will help my friend. At times, the suffering of the people we care about is a martyrdom of their heart and we who support them can only accompany them in their struggle. We are sometimes frustrated since we may not be able to fix the problem, or correct the injustice, and we can’t foresee how things will unfold. When we bring their sorrows (and ours) to our Mother and unite them with her Seven Sorrows, we stand with her in solidarity. And Mary, who will never be outdone as our Heavenly Mother, will present them to Jesus and He will turn them into joy.
Devotion of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary (fatima.org)
Sanctuaire Notre Dame de Kibeho (kibeho-sanctuary.com)
Photo: author’s own.