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|Our Lady of Sorrows
Sancta Mater Dolorosa
Seven Swords Piercing the Sorrowful Heart of Mary in the Church of the Holy Cross, Salamanca, Spain.
|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church|
Friday before Good Friday
|Attributes||Blessed Virgin Mary in mournful state, tears, bleeding heart pierced by seven daggers|
|Patronage||Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Malta, Seven Sorrows of Mary, Mississippi, Ronda, Cebu, Tanawan Bustos, Bulacan|
|Part of a series on the|
of the Catholic Church
Our Lady of Sorrows (Latin: Beata Maria Virgo Perdolens), Our Lady of Dolours, the Sorrowful Mother or Mother of Sorrows (Latin: Mater Dolorosa), and Our Lady of Piety, Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows or Our Lady of the Seven Dolours are names by which the Virgin Mary is referred to in relation to sorrows in her life. As Mater Dolorosa, it is also a key subject for Marian art in the Catholic Church.
The Seven Sorrows of Mary are a popular Roman Catholic devotion. In common religious Catholic imagery, the Virgin Mary is portrayed in a sorrowful and lacrimating affect, with seven long knives or daggers piercing her heart, often bleeding. Devotional prayers that consist of meditation began to elaborate on her Seven Sorrows based on the prophecy of Simeon. Common examples of piety under this title are Servite rosary, or the Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady and the Seven Joys of Mary and more recently, "Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary".
These Seven Sorrows should not be confused with the five Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary.
Earlier, in 1233, seven youths in Tuscany founded the Servite Order (also known as the "Servite Friars", or the "Order of the Servants of Mary"). Five years later, they took up the sorrows of Mary, standing under the Cross, as the principal devotion of their order.
Over the centuries several devotions, and even orders, arose around meditation on Mary's Sorrows in particular. The Servites developed the two most common devotions to Our Lady's Sorrows, namely the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows and the Black Scapular of the Seven Dolours of Mary. The Black Scapular is a symbol of the Confraternity of Our Lady of Sorrows, which is associated with the Servite Order. Most devotional scapulars have requirements regarding ornamentation or design. The devotion of the Black Scapular requires only that it be made of black woollen cloth.
On February 2, the same day as the Great Feast of the Meeting of the Lord, Orthodox Christians and Eastern Catholics commemorate a wonder-working icon of the Theotokos (Mother of God) known as "the Softening of Evil Hearts" or "Simeon's Prophecy".
It depicts the Virgin Mary at the moment that Simeon the Righteous says, "Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also...." (Luke 2:35). She stands with her hands upraised in prayer, and seven swords pierce her heart, indicative of the seven sorrows. This is one of the few Orthodox icons of the Theotokos which do not depict the infant Jesus. The refrain "Rejoice, much-sorrowing Mother of God, turn our sorrows into joy and soften the hearts of evil men!" is also used.
The Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows grew in popularity in the 12th century, although under various titles. Some writings would place its roots in the eleventh century, especially among the Benedictine monks. The first altar to the Mater Dolorosa was set up in 1221 at the Cistercian monastery of Schönau.
The formal feast of the Our Lady of Sorrows was originated by a provincial synod of Cologne in 1423. It was designated for the Friday after the third Sunday after Easter and had the title: Commemoratio angustiae et doloris B. Mariae V. Its object was the sorrow of Mary during the Crucifixion and Death of Christ. Before the sixteenth century this feast was limited to the dioceses of North Germany, Scandinavia, and Scotland. 
According to Fr. William Saunders, "... in 1482, the feast was officially placed in the Roman Missal under the title of Our Lady of Compassion, highlighting the great love our Blessed Mother displayed in suffering with her Son. The word compassion derives from the Latin roots cum and patior which means "to suffer with".
After 1600 it became popular in France and was set for the Friday before Palm Sunday. By a Decree of 22 April 1727, Pope Benedict XIII extended it to the entire Latin Church, under the title "Septem dolorum B.M.V.". In 1954, it still held the rank of major double (slightly lower than the rank of the September feast) in the General Roman Calendar. Pope John XXIII's 1960 Code of Rubrics reduced it to the level of a commemoration.
In 1668 a second, separate feast was granted to the Servites, for the third Sunday in September. Its object of the seven dolours of Mary. By inserting the feast into the General Roman Calendar in 1814, Pope Pius VII extended the celebration to the whole of the Latin Church. It was assigned to the third Sunday in September. In 1913, Pope Pius X moved the feast to September 15, the day after the Feast of the Cross. It is still observed on that date.
In 1969 the Passion Week celebration was removed from the General Roman Calendar as a duplicate of the feast on 15 September. Each of the two celebrations had been called a feast of "The Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary" (Latin: Septem Dolorum Beatae Mariae Virginis) and included recitation of the Stabat Mater as a sequence. Since then, the 15 September feast that combines and continues both is known as the Feast of "Our Lady of Sorrows" (Latin: Beatae Mariae Virginis Perdolentis), and recitation of the Stabat Mater is optional.
Observance of the calendar as it stood in 1962 is still permitted as an extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, and even where the calendar as revised in 1969 is in use, some countries, such as Malta, have kept it in their national calendars. In every country, the 2002 edition of the Roman Missal provides an alternative collect for this Friday:
O God, who in this season
give your Church the grace
to imitate devoutly the Blessed Virgin Mary
in contemplating the Passion of Christ,
grant, we pray, through her intercession,
that we may cling more firmly each day
to your Only Begotten Son
and come at last to the fullness of his grace.
In some Mediterranean countries, parishioners traditionally carry statues of Our Lady of Sorrows in processions on the days leading to Good Friday.
Our Lady of Sorrows is the patron saint of:
Our Lady of Sorrows, depicted as "Mater Dolorosa" (Mother of Sorrows) has been the subject of some key works of Roman Catholic Marian art. Mater Dolorosa is one of the three common artistic representations of a sorrowful Virgin Mary, the other two being Stabat Mater and Pietà.
In this iconography, Our Lady of Seven Sorrows is at times simply represented in a sad and anguished mode by herself, her expression being that of tears and sadness. In other representations the Virgin Mary is depicted with seven swords in her heart, a reference to the prophecy of Simeon at the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple.
Madonna in Sorrow, by Titian, 1554
Madonna in Sorrow, by Juan de Juni, 1571
Mater dolorosa, by El Greco c. 1590
The Madonna in Sorrow by Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato, 17th century
Nuestra Señora de la Soledad de Porta Vaga, Philippines.
Nuestra Señora de Dolores, Metropolitan Cathedral of Chihuahua, Mexico
Our Lady of Sorrows of Umbe, Biscay, Spain
Our Lady of Sorrows of Chandavila, La Codosera, Spain
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Feasts of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.
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