Our Lady of Sorrows: September 15


The Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows is celebrated the day after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (September 14). It’s also eight days after Mary’s birth (September 7). So this feast, we should remember, recalls Mary’s sorrows, her lifelong sorrows. 

When Jesus was born, the old man Simeon  told Mary a sword would pierce her heart. Today’s readings and prayers recall her final experience of that sword, when she stood beneath the Cross of her Son. But Mary experienced sorrow all her life. She is Our Lady of Sorrows. An earlier feast, the Seven Sorrows of Mary, made her lifelong sorrows more explicit.   

What were Mary’s lifelong sorrows? She was a human being and a believer. She experienced what all human beings experience- we’re contingent beings. An infant cries as it enters this world. “Our life is over like a sigh. Our span is seventy years, or eighty for those who are strong. And most of these are emptiness and pain.” (Psalm 90) You hear that complaint often in the psalms. It’s a human complaint.

Faith doesn’t inoculate us against sorrow. We don’t see clearly the promises of God. Mary, like every believer, experienced the sorrow that comes from not knowing. Her life, like ours, was not immune to sorrow.

The sword of sorrow struck Mary most deeply at the death of her Son. Mark’s gospel describes some onlookers at Jesus’ crucifixion: There were also women looking on from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joses, and Salome.” They were looking on from a distance, not emotionally distanced. They were deeply engaged in the sorrow before them.  (Mark 15, 40-41) 

John’s gospel brings some of the women closer.  Mary, the Mother of Jesus stands at the cross itself. “Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.”

Mary stands by the Cross of Jesus, close by, not at a distance. She’s not absorbed in her own suffering, not afraid to see. Her standing by the Cross is significant. She enters the mystery of her Son’s suffering through compassion. 

She stood by him. Compassion doesn’t experience another’s suffering exactly, and it may not lead to taking another’s suffering away. Compassion enters suffering to break the isolation suffering causes. It helps someone bear their burden.  The sword, the spear, the sorrow, pierces both hearts, in different ways.

Our prayer for today’s feast says that when her Son “was lifted high on the Cross” his mother stood by and shared his suffering. “Grant that your Church, participating with the Virgin Mary in the Passion of Christ, may merit a share in his Resurrection.

Where is the Passion of Lord? It’s in the human lives of each one of us. It’s in the poor. It’s in the earth we’re destroying. Sometimes we can do something to relieve that suffering. Like Mary, we’re always called to stand close by as she did, and see. 

For a commentary on John’s Gospel see here.

For a study on Mary on Calvary see here.

For readings for the feast and the Stabat Mater see here.

6 thoughts on “Our Lady of Sorrows: September 15

  1. Gloria

    Your Cross

    When a heavy cross
    anticipated or unexpected
    is thrust upon you
    the One who loves you
    will give you strength
    to bear your burden
    and you will take up your cross
    and walk

    But should you stumble
    on your way
    the One who loves you
    will send a Simon from the crowd
    to take your cross and bear it
    so that you may once again
    stand upright

    And when the splinters
    of your heavy cross
    gouge your flesh
    and rip into your very heart and soul
    the One who loves you
    will send tender hands to bind your wounds

    And you will feel the presence of God

    Gloria Ziemienski
    September 2002


  2. Natalie

    “his cross hers through compassion, which breaks suffering’s isolation and offers to bear its burden”

    Well said !! Compassion a lesson we learn from Mary is the ultimate human emotion. To share another’s pain. To console another in pain. Pain..physical or mental..isolates people from each other. Isolation is devastating. Jesus felt it when the apostles fell asleep while he prayed. It’s all clear now through Jesus and Mary’s passion why God didn’t just create his son. He gave him a mother. A mother’s job is to feel compassion for her child, to comfort her child when he is isolated. It’s a hard job that’s why God have it to mothers!!


  3. Berta Hernandez Orlando Hernandez

    Our Blessed Mother not only takes care of us now, she has done it always! Think of the disciples back in the Upper Room after Jesus’s death. Who do you think brought consolation to them and gave them the incentive to go on? I am positive it was Mary! She knew what it was like to suffer and survive. She taught them ,I’m sure, that if it was God’s will it was meant to be and all must be left in His hands. Thank you Jesus for sharing Your Mother with us! It’s just one more gift that You gave us!


  4. fdan

    To enter The Mystery of the Passion through compassion, and to stand not at a distance but close by, not afraid to see, not absorbed in my own suffering, not disengaged from Jesus or his suffering. Grant this, O Lord, I pray. Thank you, Father Victor, for giving me ways that speak to my heart for praying the Mystery of the cross.


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