Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows

Hebrews 5:7-9
John 19:25-27


In Catholic devotion and tradition, there are seven sorrows of Mary, that she endured in love during the life, suffering and death of Jesus her Son. They are:

The Prophecy of Simeon and Anna

The Flight into Egypt

The Loss of the Child Jesus

The Condemnation of Jesus

The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus (the focus of today’s gospel)

The Retrieval of the Body of Jesus

The Burial of Jesus

In the Passionist parish church of St Brigid, Marrickville, Sydney, there are two striking images of Our Lady of Sorrows, both carved from marble. One, on the left side of the centre aisle, represents Mary in all her seven sorrows. The second forms the centre-piece of the Lady Chapel. It’s an exact replica of the famous Pieta of Michelangelo in St Peter’s Basilica, Rome. It represents the sixth sorrow, and shows Mary holding the lifeless body of her Son, her heart broken with the pain of loss.

These graphic representations are both dear to the hearts of Passionists and their people. As a young assistant priest there from 1964 to 1969, I took part every Wednesday night in the Novena to Our Lady of Sorrows, which was attended by hundreds of people. I still treasure the rallying cry of the Opening Hymn:

O come and mourn with me awhile;

See Mary calls us to her side;

O come and let us mourn with her.

Jesus, our Love, is crucified.

Highlights that followed, included the reading of petitions to Mary for favours, and of expressions of thanks for favours received. They interspersed the beautiful prayers in the Novena booklets, and the exhortations of the Passionist preachers. People found the content so rich and relevant that the came in big numbers from near and far. For, like Mary, people continue to lose loved ones, are unjustly persecuted and killed, and seek refuge and a brand-new start in far-away lands, etc, etc. The Novena was not only an opportunity to pray with Mary, but also to invite her to pray with us in our own sorrows. Her weekly Novena there remains one of my most valued memories.

Brian Gleeson, a Passionist priest.