I love my Catholic faith, but I’ve noticed that Catholic phrases are sometimes thrown around like the government throws around acronyms. For instance, when I worked for the government, I worked for DOH in BHR doing R&P and a little C&P – does that make sense to anyone besides me?
To someone from the outside, words like annunciation, exposition, visitation,
transfiguration, chaplets, novenas, contemplative prayer, spiritual communion, Our Lady of (fill in the blank), and or just about anything in Latin can sound just as confusing as those government acronyms. But in time, when you begin to understand the lingo and the meaning behind it, these words and what they represent can really enrich your faith experience.
‘The Seven Sorrows of Mary’ is one of those phrases for me. I’ve heard it before, but never had a reason to think about what it means. I’m always interested in learning new things, so I was intrigued when I noticed this little card sitting on a table at church:
After reading the card and doing a little research, I decided to try doing this devotion daily. I love experiments (ask my husband about my cooking…) so I figured that even if I lost interest and moved onto something else, at least I’d learn a little more about Mary in the process.
As a former Episcopalian who went to a Baptist Bible camp during my summer breaks and occasionally attended Wesleyan, Baptist, and independent churches, I can guess what some of my non-Catholic readers might be thinking right now. So just to be clear, Catholics do not worship Mary. We worship Jesus and each of us is asked to accept Him alone as our Lord and Savior. So why exactly do Catholics like Mary so much?
Consider this: Mary was the one person who was with Jesus from the moment he appeared in her womb, through his birth, his childhood (except for those few days when he was lost in Jerusalem…I thought he was with you!…), and into his adulthood. Mary stood by Jesus’ side during his crucifixion and death, and was present at his resurrection. She experienced the sufferings and joys of Jesus first hand.
As any mother can tell you, the pain and suffering of your child is something you feel deeply and will do anything to stop. I could not even imagine the pain of seeing my child die, especially in such a brutal way. But, as the Bible often says, Mary kept all of these things and quietly pondered them in her heart. She said nothing because she trusted in God’s plan for her son – what faith!
One way that I’ve heard Mary’s role explained is as a pair of glasses. When we look at Jesus through her, we can focus on him and how his sufferings saved us. So, I put on my Mary glasses, look at Jesus as a mother would, and experience him in a deeper, more profound way.
I think about when Clara had surgery to trim the frenulum under her tongue. Something went wrong and when we got home she was in so much pain that she could not even swallow her pain medicine. I was helpless to stop the pain and all I could do was pray as she ended up back in the hospital. And I think about Will and how I wish I could flip a switch and help him to move past the difficulties he faces.
I can only guess that as a mother, Mary felt the same way about Jesus’ suffering. This is what the Devotion to the Seven Sorrows of Mary is about. When I look at Jesus’ suffering the way Mary did, my appreciation for Jesus as my savior deepens even more.
The Devotion to the Seven Sorrows was passed on to us by St. Bridget of Sweden in the 14th century. In the devotion, we are asked to contemplate Mary’s sorrows while praying the Hail Mary. As revealed to St. Bridget, Jesus wants us to understand and appreciate the sorrows of his mother (what a good son!) He then grants graces to those who share this devotion. He doesn’t have to do anything in return for our devotion, but he does because he loves us so much!
For anyone who is uncomfortable with asking for the intercession of a saint, take a look at the article “Any Friend of God is a Friend of Mine” by Patrick Madrid. The first part of the Hail Mary prayer comes directly from the Gospel of Luke (1:28, 42.) The second part asks her to pray for you just as you would ask your best friend to do. Those who are already in Heaven see God face to face. Why wouldn’t we ask them to pray on our behalf?
So, does the devotion work? Well, the first thing I noticed when I started it was that, as promised, there was more peace in my family! In my post Wrapping Up the Summer, I wrote that our son had been struggling emotionally all summer long. We finally made some progress with him during the last week before school started. I know without a doubt that Mary’s intercession was the cause.
I also started having a better understanding of the lives of Jesus and Mary because I had to think through the details of each sorrow every day. I became more patient with my children (which is still a work in progress, of course) because I was reminded daily of Mary’s love for all of her children. I became more aware of Mary’s desire to lead us to Christ, which in turn led me to refocus my priorities. I am so grateful to Mary for her intercessions on my behalf.
You can find a more detailed description of the Devotion to the Seven Sorrows of Mary by clicking here, but the basics of what you need to know are:
- Mary’s emotional grief paralleled Jesus’ physical suffering.
- Jesus wants us to honor his mother by remembering her sorrows.
- God provides graces to those who follow his commands.
This devotion is so easy and doesn’t take long. In this busy world, having a quick and easy way to improve our relationship with Jesus is invaluable.
The Seven Graces
- 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 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 Seven Sorrows
- The prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:34, 35)
- The flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13, 14)
- The loss of the child Jesus in the temple (Luke 2: 43-45)
- The meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross
- The crucifixion and death of Jesus
- The taking down of the body of Jesus from the Cross
- The burial of Jesus
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
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