Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows
Our Lady of Sorrows

Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows

The devotion to the Sorrowful Mother, extremely popular above all in areas around the Mediterranean, developed around the end of the 11th century. Connected with this devotion is the Stabat Mater, attributed to Jacopone da Todi (1230-1306). We find the first liturgical celebrations for the sorrowful Mary, or the Feast of Our Lady of Compassion, “standing” at the foot of the Cross, in the 15th century. Prior to that, in 1233, the Ordo Servorum Beatae Mariae Virginis (Order of the Servants of the Blessed Virgin Mary, commonly known as the Servites) was founded. They greatly contributed to the spread of the devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows, so much so that in 1668 they were granted permission to celebrate a votive Mass to the Seven Sorrows of Mary. In 1692, Pope Innocent XII authorized the celebration of a Feast in honor of Our Lady of Sorrows on the third Sunday of September. This proved only to be temporary because later, on 18 August 1714, the feast was transferred to the Friday before Palm Sunday. On 18 September 1814, Pope Pius VII extended the liturgical feast to the entire Latin Church, transferring it to the third Sunday of September. Pope Pius X ( + 1914) fixed the date of the feast on 15 September, the day after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. It would no longer be known as the “Seven Sorrows of Mary”, but “Our Lady of Sorrows”.

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home (Jn 19:25-27).


Seeing His Mother, Jesus entrusts her to the beloved disciple. This almost represents His last will and testament. It makes Mary the Mother of the disciple, and makes the disciple the Mother’s son. “He took her into his home”, that is, into his most intimate place, into everything he holds most dear. Jesus did not leave His Mother alone. He entrusted her to the care of his beloved disciple, to the one who followed him to the last.


The same word is used as at Cana, almost as if there is a connection between the two passages. At Cana, Jesus’s hour had not yet come, whereas on the Cross, it had. The Cross becomes the event that Cana prophesied. By using the term, “woman”, Jesus refers to Eve: “This one shall be called ‘woman’ ” (Gn 2:23). Mary is the new Eve.


Jesus entrusts His Mother to the disciple. This disciple, tradition tells us, represents the entire Church. Mary is entrusted to the Church, and the Church is entrusted to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the first disciple of her Son.

Mother and disciple

For all of us, Mary is the Mother of her Son, our Lord, Jesus. But she is also a Disciple of the Master, the one who can help us better than anyone else to grow in her Son’s School. More than anyone else, she knew how to remain faithful in this School, to the point that she remained “standing” at the foot of the Cross. This fidelity caused her to suffer an interior martyrdom: “And you yourself a sword will pierce”, Simeon had foretold (Lk 2:35).

15 September
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