Change Your Life with the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady

By Chris Sparks

September is the month of Our Lady of Sorrows.

Now, it may seem strange to think of Our Lady as “Our Lady of Sorrows.” After all, she’s in Heaven! She’s the most blessed of all women, the greatest of all creatures, eternally beloved and honored by God Almighty in a way the rest of us can only dream of. When she visits us on earth, we learn once again how true it is to call her “our life, our sweetness, and our hope.” How is she “Our Lady of Sorrows”?

Well, she joined her Son in His self-sacrifice and sufferings on earth. She certainly had plenty to offer to God:

  • the uncertainty of being a pregnant virgin in a first century Jewish context, when the law could easily have condemned her to death;
  • the humiliation of travel while so heavily pregnant, the search for lodging where she could give birth, the strange uncertainty of giving birth in a stable, and the fear of Herod’s rampage against the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem;
  • the flight into Egypt, a pagan land, and raising God’s Son;
  • missing Jesus for three days in Jerusalem;
  • losing her husband, Joseph, before her Son began His public ministry;
  • watching her Son attract persecution and scorn;
  • the Passion and death of her Son and her God;
  • being left behind by Jesus when He ascended into Heaven;
  • and so on.

Our Lady had many, many sorrows, and she continues to have many sorrows today. She is laboring in Heaven to give birth to the Mystical Body of Christ, to bring into new and eternal life all souls, or as many souls as will heed her Son, and follow Him, and live. Where she labored to give birth to Jesus, Divine Mercy Incarnate, but had no pain, now to bring to life the whole Church throughout time and history, she labors in pain (see Rev 12:1-5). She sorrows with the Church and rejoices with the Church. She visits us with comfort at Guadalupe, in tears at La Salette, quietly at Lourdes, with signs and wonders at Fatima, and with a warning of sorrows to come at Kibeho. In fact, it was the visions of coming violence and slaughter she shared with the children at Kibeho before the Rwandan genocide that helped convince the Church that Our Lady had truly visited Kibeho.

The Marian Fathers have a particular connection to Our Lady under that title of Our Lady of Sorrows through their works of mercy in Kibeho, Rwanda, the site of Our Lady’s apparitions in the 1980s to several children. She asked them to tell people to recommit to the Seven Sorrows Rosary, a traditional devotion that’s been forgotten or neglected throughout much of the Church. She promised one of the Kibeho visionaries, "If you say the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows and meditate on it well, you will find the strength you need to repent of your sins and convert your heart. Pray my Seven Sorrows to find repentance."

The Rosary of the Seven Sorrows (also known as the Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows) has long-standing roots in the Church’s devotional life. As you pray the prayers, you meditate on seven specific sorrows of Our Lady. See the list of those sorrows and how to pray the Seven Sorrows Rosary here.

It’s an especially appropriate devotion for times of penance, like Lent or Advent, because of Our Lady’s promise to share with us the graces we need to repent of our sins and convert our hearts.

That theme also ties in to the Divine Mercy message and devotion. You see, Divine Mercy has been given to us as a means of preparing the world for the Second Coming of Christ (see Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 429; 1732). But what does that really mean?

Well, fundamentally, God wants to save us all. He wants to have us all come home to Heaven with Him in the end. But in justice, His mercy can be given only to those who are willing to accept it. His mercy reaches its full force and effect where it is welcomed. And in order to welcome His mercy, we need to participate in the sacramental order He established through the Church. We have to have conversion, to repent, turn to Him again, and be saved. That means getting baptized and confirmed, going to Confession, and receiving Holy Communion in the state of grace. That means cooperating with Christ and His Church to make our hearts immaculate and keeping them clean through a healthy, regular, persevering sacramental life.

So the graces promised through the Seven Sorrows Rosary are an important accompaniment to the graces promised through Divine Mercy. Divine Mercy offers us a pathway home to Christ and His Church.

Tell souls not to place within their own hearts obstacles to My mercy, which so greatly wants to act within them. My mercy works in all those hearts which open their doors to it. Both the sinner and the righteous person have need of My mercy. Conversion, as well as perseverance, is a grace of My mercy (Diary, 1577).

The Sacraments offer us certain grace. The fruits of those Sacraments depend on our cooperation with that grace. The Seven Sorrows Rosary offers us a way to really work grace into our habits, our lives, and our hearts, to reform ourselves according to goodness, truth, and life.

This September, make the Seven Sorrows Rosary a regular part of your prayer life and see how your life changes. See how the Sacraments and your other devotions become more fruitful. Together, the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady and the graces of the Divine Mercy Chaplet work powerfully for conversion and sanctification of ourselves, our homes, our communities, and more.

I leave you with this prayer by St. Faustina.

O Greatly Merciful God, Infinite Goodness, today all mankind calls out from the abyss of its misery to Your mercy — to Your compassion, O God; and it is with its mighty voice of misery that it cries out. Gracious God, do not reject the prayer of this earth’s exiles! O Lord, Goodness beyond our understanding, Who are acquainted with our misery through and through, and know that by our own power we cannot ascend to You, we implore You: anticipate us with Your grace and keep on increasing Your mercy in us, that we may faithfully do Your holy will all through our life and at death’s hour. Let the omnipotence of Your mercy shield us from the darts of our salvation’s enemies, that we may with confidence, as Your children, await Your final coming — that day known to You alone. And we expect to obtain everything promised us by Jesus in spite of all our wretchedness. For Jesus is our Hope: Through His merciful Heart, as through an open gate, we pass through to heaven (Diary, 1570).

Chris Sparks serves as senior book editor for the Marian Fathers. He is the author of the Marian Press book How Can You Still Be Catholic? 50 Answers to a Good Question.

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