Notre-Dame des Douleurs : Un Pilier de la Piété Chrétienne-RELICS

Our Lady of Sorrows: A Pillar of Christian Piety

Our Lady of Sorrows, also known as Our Lady of Seven Sorrows, is a Marian devotion honoring the Virgin Mary as the Mother of Sorrows. This devotion centers on the suffering of Mary, mother of Jesus, and is celebrated in many Christian traditions, including the Catholic Church. The Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows is observed on September 15, the day following the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. This article will explore in depth the history, meaning, and practices associated with Our Lady of Sorrows.

capirote penitent

Capirote of penitent bearing the insignia of the Our Lady of Sorrows brotherhood

History and Origins of Our Lady of Sorrows

Medieval Roots

Devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows has its roots in the Middle Ages, a period when Marian piety developed intensely. During this era, the Virgin Mary was revered not only as the Mother of God, but also as a figure of compassion and suffering shared with her son, Jesus Christ. Believers sought to understand and emulate Mary's virtues, particularly her ability to endure pain with unwavering faith.

The Role of the Servants of Mary

One of the most significant contributions to the spread of this devotion came from the Servites of Mary, or Servites, a religious order founded in 1233 by seven merchants from Florence, Italy. These men, often called the Seven Holy Founders, withdrew from commercial life to devote themselves entirely to the spiritual life. Their main objective was to meditate on the sufferings of Mary, particularly those she endured during the Passion of her son.

The Servites played a crucial role in institutionalizing devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows. They established the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows to encourage the faithful to meditate on the sufferings of Mary. This festival was first celebrated locally, then gradually adopted by other regions.

Our Lady of Sorrows

Development and Recognition

The scriptural origins of this devotion are found primarily in two key passages in the New Testament. The first, in the Gospel according to Luke (2:34-35), where Simeon prophesies that Mary's soul will be pierced by a sword, symbolizing the many pains she will experience as the mother of the Savior. The second, in the Gospel of John (19:25-27), depicts Mary at the foot of the cross, helplessly witnessing the crucifixion of her son, Jesus.

In the centuries that followed, devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows continued to spread. Medieval preachers, theologians, and mystics contributed to its development by writing about Mary's sufferings and encouraging the faithful to meditate on her sorrows. Influential figures include Saint Bridget of Sweden, who had visions of Mary's suffering and wrote extensively about it.

Official Recognition by the Church

The official recognition of this devotion by the Catholic Church has been a gradual process. From the 14th century, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows began to be celebrated in different regions, although in varying forms and on varying dates. The Church saw in this devotion a way of deepening the understanding of Mary's role in the mystery of Redemption.

In 1814, Pope Pius VII, in a gesture of gratitude for his own release after his imprisonment by Napoleon Bonaparte, extended the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows to the universal Church. He set the date of this feast for September 15, immediately after the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, thus emphasizing the deep connection between the sufferings of Mary and the Passion of Christ.

Influence and Expansion

The influence of devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows extended far beyond the Servants of Mary. Many saints and mystics, such as Saint Catherine of Siena and Saint John of the Cross, meditated on Mary's sufferings and encouraged this devotion among their followers. Marian apparitions, such as those at La Salette in 1846, also helped to revive and propagate this devotion.

The Seven Sorrows of Mary

The devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows focuses on the seven specific sorrows that Mary endured during her life. These pains are often meditated on in the form of prayers, rosaries and meditations. The seven sorrows are:

  1. Prophecy of Simeon (Lk. 2, 22' 35) Sweet Mother! As you presented Jesus at the temple, old Simeon's prophecy plunged you into deep pain as you heard him say: "This Child is destined for the ruin and resurrection of many of Israel, and a sword will pierce your soul. » In this way, the Lord wanted to mix your joy with such a sad memory. Pray Hail Mary and Glory.
  2. Herod's persecution and flight into Egypt (Mt. 2, 13-15) O dear Virgin, I want to accompany you in the fatigue, the work and the shocks that you endured when you fled to Egypt in the company of Saint Joseph to save your life. of the Child God. Pray Hail Mary and Glory.
  3. Jesus lost in the Temple for three days (Lk. 2, 41-50) Immaculate Virgin! Who can analyze and calculate the torment caused by the loss of Jesus and the tears shed during these three long days? Let me, my Virgin, collect them, keep them in my heart and serve you as a burnt offering and gratitude. Pray Hail Mary and Glory.
  4. Mary finds Jesus carrying the Cross (Via Crucis, 4th station) Truly, the street of bitterness was the one in which Jesus was found so dirty, ugly and torn, carrying the cross that he became responsible for all the sins of men committed. and get involved. Poor Mother! I want to console you by wiping your tears with my love. Pray Hail Mary and Glory.
  5. The Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord (Jn. 19, 17-30) Mary, Queen of martyrs, pain and love are the force that leads them after Jesus, what horrible torment contemplating the cruelty of these servants of hell who pierce hands and feet from the hard-nailed savior! You suffered everything for my love. Thank you, God, thank you. Pray Hail Mary and Glory.
  6. Mary receives Jesus taken down from the Cross (Mk. 15, 42-46) Jesus died in Mary's arms. How did you feel, Mother? Do you remember when he was little and you cuddled him in your arms? For this pain I ask you, my Mother, to die in your arms. Pray Hail Mary and Glory.
  7. The burial of Jesus (Jn. 19, 38-42) You accompany your Son to the tomb and you must leave him there alone. Now your sorrow increases, you must return to men, those of us who killed the Son, because he died for all our sins. And you forgive us and you love us. My mother, forgiveness, mercy. Pray Hail Mary and Glory.
Our Lady of Sorrows

Theological Significance of Our Lady of Sorrows

The Unique Role of Mary in the Mystery of Redemption

The devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows highlights Mary's unique participation in the mystery of Redemption. In Catholic theology, Mary is seen not only as the mother of Jesus but also as a co-redeemer, a figure who, through her own suffering and obedience, contributes to the salvation of humanity.

The Compassion and Maternal Love of Mary

Mary, as the Mother of Sorrows, embodies compassion and maternal love to an exceptional degree. His sorrows, as prophesied by Simeon and experienced throughout Jesus' life, culminate in his presence at the foot of the cross. This compassion is not just an emotional response but a deep and active engagement in her son's suffering. She suffers not only because she is the mother of Jesus, but also because she fully understands the redemptive mission of her son and agrees to share this mission with him.

Total Obedience to the Will of God

Mary's life is marked by total obedience to the will of God, illustrated from the Annunciation when she agrees to become the mother of the Savior with the words: "Let everything happen to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). ). This obedience continues throughout one's life, even in the face of the most intense suffering. By accepting the prophesied pains and remaining faithful to God's plan, Mary becomes a model of faith and submission to the divine will.

The Sorrows of Mary as a Reflection of the Passion of Christ

Mary's sufferings are intrinsically linked to the Passion of Jesus. They are the mirror of the sufferings of her son and, in this sense, Mary actively participates in the work of redemption. Catholic theology sees Mary as a co-redemptrix, not in the sense that she equals the redemptive act of Jesus, but as a unique and privileged partner who, through her proximity and commitment, cooperates in the salvation of humanity.

Participation in the Passion of Jesus

By sharing the sufferings of her son, Mary participates in the Passion of Jesus in a spiritual and emotional way. This participation is not only an act of maternal compassion but also a mystical union with the redemptive sufferings of Christ. Mary, by accepting her pains, offers her sufferings for the salvation of souls, thus joining the sacrificial offering of Jesus.

The Human Dimension of Suffering

The devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows powerfully recalls the human dimension of suffering in the context of the Christian faith. Mary's pains are a reminder that even the Mother of God is not exempt from human suffering. This reality makes Mary particularly close to the suffering faithful, because she herself experienced pain, sorrow and loss.

Suffering as a Path to Purification and Grace

Devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows teaches that suffering, when experienced in union with Christ and his mother, can be a path of purification and grace. The faithful are invited to see their own sufferings in the light of Mary's sufferings, as a participation in the sufferings of Christ. This perspective offers redemptive meaning to suffering, transforming pain into a source of grace and sanctification.

Purification through Suffering

In Catholic theology, suffering accepted with faith and offering can become a means of purification. The pains of Mary, experienced in union with the Passion of Jesus, show that suffering can purify the soul, detaching believers from earthly attachments and bringing them closer to God. This purification through suffering is seen as participation in the paschal mystery, where the death and resurrection of Christ bring new life.

Grace in Suffering

Suffering, when offered to God, becomes a channel of grace. Mary's pains are a source of consolation and strength for the faithful, because they show that even the deepest sufferings can be transformed by divine grace. By meditating on the sorrows of Our Lady, believers are encouraged to offer their own sufferings to God, with the hope that these sufferings, united with those of Christ, can bring redemption and healing.

Devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows is an invitation to contemplate and participate in the mystery of Redemption through the sufferings of Mary. By highlighting his unique role, his compassion, and his total obedience, this devotion offers the faithful a model of faith and resilience. It reminds us that suffering, experienced in union with Christ, can become a path of purification and grace, transforming human pain into a sanctifying participation in the redemptive work of God.

Our Lady of Sorrows

Devotional Practices of Our Lady of Sorrows

The Chaplet of Seven Sorrows

The Chaplet of Seven Sorrows is one of the most popular devotional practices in honor of Our Lady of Sorrows. This form of meditative prayer allows the faithful to contemplate each of Mary's seven sorrows, providing a structured way to pray and meditate.

  • Structure of the Prayer : The Chaplet of Seven Sorrows is made up of seven groups of prayers, called “stations”, each group corresponding to one of Mary’s sorrows. For each station, the faithful recite one “Our Father” and seven “Hail Marys”.
  • The Meditated Sorrows : The seven sorrows are: the prophecy of Simeon, the flight into Egypt, the loss of the child Jesus in the Temple, the meeting of Mary and Jesus on the road to Calvary, the crucifixion and death of Jesus, the descent of Jesus from the cross, and the burial of Jesus.
  • Intention and Reflection : In reciting this rosary, the faithful are invited to meditate on the specific sufferings of Mary and to draw closer to her compassion and pain, while offering their own sufferings to God.

Masses and Novenas

Masses and novenas in honor of Our Lady of Sorrows are common practices for those seeking to deepen their devotion.

  • Special Masses : Special masses may be celebrated in honor of Our Lady of Sorrows, particularly on September 15, her feast day. These masses often include readings and homilies focused on Mary's sufferings and their meaning for the faithful.
  • Novenas : A novena is a series of prayers performed over nine consecutive days. Novenas dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows are a way of asking for her intercession and meditating deeply on her pain. They may include specific prayers, meditations, and biblical readings associated with each of the seven sorrows.

Processions and Theater Plays

Processions and plays are public and community expressions of devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows.

  • Processions : In some regions, processions are held to commemorate Mary's suffering. These processions may take place at specific times of the year, such as during Holy Week. Participants often carry statues or images of Our Lady of Sorrows, reciting prayers and hymns along the way.
  • Theater Plays : Theatrical performances, sometimes called "passion plays" or "mystery plays", can also be organized. These pieces depict events from the Gospels related to Mary's suffering, providing a lively and engaging way to meditate on her sorrows.

The Meditation of Suffering

Meditation on the sufferings of Mary is an individual and collective practice, encouraged throughout the liturgical year, but particularly during specific periods such as Lent and Holy Week.

  • Individual and Collective : The faithful are encouraged to meditate on the sufferings of Mary individually, through personal prayer and reflection, as well as collectively, through prayer groups or spiritual retreats.
  • Specific Periods : During Lent and Holy Week, meditation on the sorrows of Mary takes on particular importance. The faithful are invited to come closer to the sufferings of Mary and Jesus through practices like the Stations of the Cross, where each station can be accompanied by a reflection on Mary's pain.
  • Texts and Prayers : Numerous texts, prayers, and hymns were composed to help the faithful meditate on the pains of Mary. These texts are often used in private devotions or liturgical services.

The devotional practices associated with Our Lady of Sorrows are diverse and deeply rooted in Christian tradition. They offer the faithful various ways to contemplate and share Mary's sufferings, to ask for her intercession, and to find comfort and inspiration in her compassion and maternal love. By engaging in these practices, believers can deepen their faith, their understanding of human suffering, and their relationship with God.

The Cult of Our Lady of Sorrows Throughout the World

The cult of Our Lady of Sorrows, also known as the Virgin of Sorrows, is a Marian devotion that has taken varied forms throughout the world. This devotion, centered on the sufferings of Mary, is marked by religious practices, festivals, processions, and unique local traditions in different countries.


Italy, cradle of the Servants of Mary, is particularly marked by the cult of Our Lady of Sorrows. Processions and festivals are key elements of this devotion.

  • Holy Week : During Holy Week, many Italian cities hold processions where statues of the Virgin of Sorrows are carried through the streets. These processions are often accompanied by songs, prayers and lamentations, recreating the atmosphere of the Passion of Christ.
  • La Festa dell'Addolorata : September 15, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, is celebrated with special masses and processions. In cities like Florence, where the Servites were founded, these celebrations are particularly grandiose.


In Spain, devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows is deeply rooted in religious culture, particularly through Holy Week processions.

  • Semana Santa : Holy Week processions in Spain, particularly in Andalusia, are famous for their grandeur and emotion. The Virgin of Sorrows, often depicted with a sad face and tears, is a central figure. Brotherhoods (cofradías) carry elaborate statues, called pasos, through the streets, accompanied by bands of music and penitents.
  • Viernes de Dolores : Sorrowful Friday, the Friday before Good Friday, is a day of special celebrations in honor of the Sorrowful Virgin. Masses, processions and vigils are organized in many churches across the country.


In the Philippines, a country with a strong Catholic tradition, Our Lady of Sorrows is venerated under various names and forms.

  • Nuestra Señora de la Soledad : One of the most revered representations of Our Lady of Sorrows in the Philippines is Nuestra Señora de la Soledad. It is particularly popular during Holy Week, when nighttime processions are held, featuring scenes from the Passion.
  • Holy Week Processions : Holy Week processions in the Philippines are marked by the intense devotion of the participants. The statues of the Virgin of Sorrows, often richly decorated, are carried by worshipers who recite traditional prayers and songs.

Latin America

In Latin America, devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows is omnipresent, with regional variations that enrich this tradition.

  • Mexico : In Mexico, the Virgin of Sorrows is often associated with Holy Week celebrations. Processions are a central feature, where statues of the Virgin are carried through the streets with great reverence. Additionally, household altars are often erected in his honor.
  • Guatemala : In Guatemala, Holy Week is marked by impressive processions where figures of the Virgin of Sorrows are adorned with magnificent garments and jewels. The processions, called andas, are accompanied by carpets of colored sawdust, called alfombras, which decorate the streets.
  • Peru : In Lima, the procession of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores is an ancient tradition that attracts thousands of faithful. This procession is particularly known for its solemn atmosphere and the intense devotion of the participants.

Eastern Europe

In Eastern Europe, although devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows is not as widespread as in Western Europe, it is nonetheless present, especially among Catholics.

  • Poland : In Poland, Our Lady of Sorrows, known as Matka Boska Bolesna, is venerated especially during Holy Week. Images of the Virgin of Sorrows are often incorporated into depictions of the Stations of the Cross, and special masses are celebrated in her honor.
  • Slovakia : In Slovakia, the Virgin of Sorrows is particularly venerated in Šaštín, where a national basilica is dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows. Every year, pilgrimages are organized, attracting thousands of faithful.


In the United States, devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows is primarily promoted by immigrant communities and Catholic parishes.

  • Parish Festivals : Many Catholic parishes organize festivals in honor of Our Lady of Sorrows, including masses, processions and recitations of the Chaplet of Seven Sorrows.
  • Immigrant Communities : Hispanic and Filipino-American communities in particular maintain living traditions of devotion to the Virgin of Sorrows, with celebrations that reflect those of their countries of origin.

The cult of Our Lady of Sorrows is a universal Marian devotion that transcends cultural and geographical boundaries. Each country and region has developed its own unique expressions of this devotion, all united by contemplation of Mary's suffering and participation in her love and compassion. This diversity enriches the faith of Catholics around the world, providing many avenues for expressing their devotion and spiritual quest.


    Our Lady of Sorrows is a devotion deeply rooted in Christian tradition, offering the faithful a way to get closer to the Passion of Christ through the eyes of his mother. By meditating on Mary's suffering, believers find a model of faith, compassion and resilience. This devotion continues to inspire and comfort millions of Christians around the world, reminding them that even in the most painful times, God's grace is always present.

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