Coming as it does on the day after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, today's observance of Our Lady of Sorrows gives us an opportunity to continue our reflection on the passion of Jesus. Although the synoptic Gospels do not include Mary or any of the disciples in the scene on Calvary, St. John's Gospel presents us with the poignant picture of Mary and the Beloved Disciple standing beneath the cross.
Devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows was popularized by the seven young men who formed the Order of the Servants of Mary, commonly known as the Servites. Their devotion to the Blessed Mother focused on the seven sorrows of the Blessed Mother: the prophecy of Simeon, the flight into Egypt, the loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple, Mary meets Jesus on the way to Calvary, Jesus dies on the cross, Jesus is taken down from the cross, and the burial of Jesus. Meditation on these seven events became especially popular during the Second World War when thousands of mothers gathered on Friday to mourn the loss of their sons in battle. This devotion is still observed in parishes and oratories staffed by the Servites.
The memorial we celebrate today has a rather varied history. It is probably the only memorial that actually was observed twice in each liturgical year. Observance of this memorial on the Friday of Passion Week (the Friday before Good Friday) was dropped in the 1969 revision of the Liturgical calendar.
This devotion became very popular during the Second World War as mothers turned to the solace of the Blessed Mother when so many of their sons were dying. As we observe the memorial today, let us pray for all mothers and fathers who have had to bury a child as well as for all parents who are caregivers for children who bear the cross of chronic illness and/or disability.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator