Our Lady of Sorrows
In 1233, seven youths from the Tuscany region of Italy, in order to pay homage to the Blessed Mother, founded the Servite Order, also known as the “Servite Friars” or the “Order of the Servants of Mary”. Five years later, they made the sorrows suffered by Mary throughout her lifetime to be the principal devotion of their order.
These 7 sorrows experienced by Mary include: (1) the prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:34-35) or the circumcision of Christ, (2) the flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13), (3) the loss of the child Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:43-45), (4) Mary meeting Jesus on the way to Calvary, (5) Jesus’ death on the cross (John 19:25), (6) Mary receiving the body of Jesus in her arms (Matthew 27:57-59) and (7) the body of Jesus being placed in the tomb (John 19:40-42). These sorrows, also known as “dolors”, of Mary have evolved into a very popular Catholic devotion as well as a subject for a great deal of Christian art.
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.
The feast of the Our Lady of Sorrows was originated by a provincial synod of Cologne in 1413, but Vatican approval for the celebration of a feast in honor of Our Lady of Sorrows was not granted to the Servite Order until 1667. In 1814, Pope Pius VII extended the celebration to the whole of the Latin Church, assigning it 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 today.
The Blessed Mother, as all Catholics know, is honored and venerated under a large number of titles and designations. Mary, under her title of “Our Lady of Sorrows”, is the patron saint of Slovakia, the Congregation of Holy Cross, Mola di Bari and the Molise region of Italy, Mississippi (in the United States), Dolores, Abra, (in the Philippines) and Lanzarote (in the Canary Islands).