The Feast of the Seven Dolors, by Father B Rohner, OSB

Our Lady of SorrowsSomething more than four hundred years ago, in the kingdom of Bohemia, a wicked, if not demented, monk, by the name of John Huss, fell into heresy and founded a sect. His wild followers, who were known as Hussites, made themselves notorious by various atrocities, one of which was to break and destroy most maliciously the images of the crucified Redeemer and of His blessed Mother. Naturally this conduct incensed the Catholics very much. Among those whose hearts were deeply lacerated by the insults offered to the pictures, and indirectly to the persons of Our Lord and His blessed Mother, was Theodoric, archbishop of Cologne, and this prelate, eager to make amends for these outrages on religion, consulted the other bishops of his province. A council was called at Cologne in 1412, at which it was resolved to commemorate every year on a Friday in Lent the seven sorrows of our blessed Mother. In the wording of their decree are beautifully expressed the sentiments that animated their hearts. The festival was to be celebrated “to honor the holy and immaculate Mother of God, Mary, who prayed with such confidence and fortitude at the foot of the cross for poor sinners, and whose praises cannot be sufficiently lauded, even if all the sands on the seashore had tongues to sing them.” It also further decreed that the feast shall contribute “to commemorate and honor the pain and anguish which the sorrowing Mother suffered when Our Saviour, Jesus Christ, hanging with outstretched arms on the cross. commended her to the care of the holy evangelist, Saint John.” Finally, the bishops desired the feast to be observed in order that “Our Lord, Jesus Christ, being thus appeased, might lift the cloud of error from the eyes and hearts of the Hussites, bring them back to the Catholic faith, and preserve the faithful from the evils of heresy.” From Germany the observance of this feast spread into other lands. This was the more easily effected inasmuch as, by the zealous efforts of the Order of the Servites, or, as they were also called, the Servants of Mary Sorrowing, this pious devotion was well known and well beloved in the Church. Although the festival of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin is not a holy day of obligation in the Church, yet, on the Friday preceding Palm Sunday, the Christian faithful frequent in large numbers those churches and chapels in which are found the venerated pictures or statues of Our Lady of Sorrows. Such places of pilgrimage are very numerous, especially in Catholic countries. In order to foster this devotion among her children the Church has generously opened her treasury and poured out bountifully her treasures of graces and enriched the various exercises of devotion to the Mother of Sorrows with many indulgences. Thus, for example, we can gain an indulgence of a hundred days as often as we recite piously the beautiful hymn, “Stabat Mater,” in the tender words of which we can best learn the meaning of this festival. (Pope Innocent XI, September 1681)

Holy Mother! pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Saviour crucified;
Let me share with thee His pain,
Who for all my sins was slain,
Who for me in torments died.

Prayer of Holy Church

O God, at whose sufferings the tender soul of the glorious Virgin Mother Mary was, according to the prophecy of the venerable Simeon, pierced by a sword of grief, mercifully grant that we, who solemnly honor her sad martyrdom, may, through her glorious merits, and by the prayers of all the saints who persevered under the cross in fidelity, be made sharers in the precious fruit of Thy Passion and death.

O Lord Jesus Christ, in humble supplication we bring Thee our petitions and other offerings, while meditating affectionately on the sorrows of Thy Mother’s gentle heart. Amen.

– text taken from Veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Her Feasts, Prayers, Religious Orders, and Sodalities, by Father B Rohner, OSB, adapted by Father Richard Brennan, LLD, published in 1898 by Benziger Brothers; it has the Imprimatur of Archbishop Michael Augustine, Archdiocese of New York, New York, 22 June 1898