Our Lady of Sorrows: What are Mary’s seven sorrows?

Our Lady of Sorrows at the Basilica of Our Lady of Sorrows in Granada, Spain. Our Lady of Sorrows at the Basilica of Our Lady of Sorrows in Granada, Spain. | José Manuel Ferro Ríos via Wikimedia (CC BY 3.0)

Catholics are invited to contemplate the seven sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary in a special way on Sept. 15, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.

The first sorrow begins with the prophecy of Simeon, a devout man in Jerusalem who met Christ as a baby. During the encounter, Simeon foretells Mary’s suffering.

“Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed,” he tells her, according to Luke’s Gospel (Lk 2:34-35).

As with the first sorrow, Mary’s other sorrows regard her son: fleeing into Egypt to save the Christ Child’s life; losing the child Jesus in the Temple for three days; meeting Christ on his way to Calvary; standing at the foot of the cross; watching Christ’s body being taken down from the cross; and burying Christ’s body.

Reflecting on Our Lady of Sorrows in Slovakia in 2021, Pope Francis highlighted Mary’s response to these sorrows.

“Mary, Mother of Sorrows, remains at the foot of the cross. She simply stands there. She does not run away, or try to save herself, or find ways to alleviate her grief,” he said. “Here is the proof of true compassion: to remain standing beneath the cross. To stand there weeping, yet with the faith that knows that, in her son, God transfigures pain and suffering and triumphs over death.”

Through these sorrows, Our Blessed Mother also offers hope. She revealed seven promises to St. Bridget of Sweden in the 14th century for those who recite seven Hail Marys daily while reflecting on her tears and sorrows, according to Our Sorrowful Mother’s Ministry (OSMM) in Vandalia, Illinois. 

OSMM lists those seven promises from Mary as:

1. “I will grant peace to their families.”

2. “They will be enlightened about the divine mysteries.”

3. “I will console them in their pains and I will accompany them in their work.”

4. “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.”

5. “I will defend them in their spiritual battles with the infernal enemy and I will protect them at every instant of their lives.”

6. “I will visibly help them at the moment of their death; they will see the face of their Mother.”

7. “I have obtained from my divine Son that those who propagate this devotion to my tears and dolors will be taken directly from this earthly life to eternal happiness since all their sins will be forgiven and my Son and I will be their eternal consolation and joy.”

The faithful can also ask for the intercession of Our Lady of Sorrows through the seven sorrows rosary, or chaplet. OSMM provides general instructions on how to pray it: The prayer resembles a regular rosary, except that there are seven sets of seven Hail Marys. Each of the seven sets — consisting of an Our Father and seven Hail Marys — focuses on one of the seven sorrows.

This article was originally published on CNA on Sept. 15, 2022, and was updated Sept. 14, 2023.

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