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What are the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady?

Q. This week we observed the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows (September 15). What specifically are those sorrows she endured?

A. When the Blessed Virgin Mother, along with St. Joseph, presented the infant Jesus to God the Father in the temple in Jerusalem, the aged prophet Simeon declared that a “sword” would pierce her heart because of sorrowful events to come in her Son’s life. This occasion, along with six other such events, are commemorated in special devotions to the Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary, including the celebration of this week’s feast. These devotions invite us to meditate on Our Lady’s spiritual martyrdom, which she suffered in union with the passion and death of her beloved Son. The Seven Sorrows, with scriptural references, are these:

2. The flight into Egypt: “And when [the wise men] had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt; and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the Child to destroy Him.” And he rose and took the Child and His mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod” (Matthew 2:13–14).

3. The loss of the Child Jesus in the temple: “And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the company they went a day’s journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances; and when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him” (Luke 2:43–45).

4. The meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross: “And there followed Him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented Him” (Luke 23:27).

5. The crucifixion of Jesus: “There they crucified Him. … But standing by the cross of Jesus [was] His mother. … When Jesus saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing near, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” (John 19:18, 25–27).

6. The taking down of Jesus’ body from the Cross: “Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council … took courage and went to Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. … And [Joseph] bought a linen shroud, and taking Him down, wrapped Him in the linen shroud” (Mark 15:43, 46).

7. The burial of Jesus: “Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb where no one had ever been laid. … As the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there” (John 19:41–42).

On each of these occasions, and no doubt countless more, Our Lady endured unspeakable sorrow for the sake of her divine Son and in union with His sufferings.

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