Sunday, February 12, 2012

Our Lady of Sorrows

Seven Sorrows of Mary
Mother Francis Raphael Drane tells us that Our Lady of Sorrows is celebrated in honor of the miraculous picture of Suriano which depicts the Seven Sorrows of our Lady and St. Dominic.  She writes, “An obscurity rests over the origin of this picture, or perhaps we should rather say, that the Church, whilst granting the festival and bearing her willing testimony to the extraordinary Divine favors shown to the devotion of the pilgrims of Suriano, has been silent as to the history of the painting itself.  This picture first appeared in the convent of Suriano in Calabria in the year 1530, and did not attract much popular regard, until the beginning of the following century, when the miracles and conversions wrought at Suriano made it a place of pilgrimage to the whole world. After a number of briefs, granted by successive pontiffs, and a severe examination of the facts, Benedict XIII, at length, appointed the 15th of September to be observed through the whole order in commemoration of the graces received before this remarkable picture.”  

The seven sorrows refer to the seven events in Scripture in which the suffering of Our Lady is mentioned: Hearing the Prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:34-35); Fleeing into Egypt with Joseph (Matthew 2:13);  Losing the Child Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:43-45); Meeting Jesus on the Way to Calvary; Standing by the Cross (John 19:25); Receiving the Body of Jesus (Matthew 27:57-59); Placing the Body of Jesus in the Tomb (John 19:40-42).  A special seven decade Rosary was developed to be used in prayer. The purpose of the devotion was to promote union with the sufferings of Christ through union with the special suffering that Our Lady endured.  

The devotion has a long history, but was not officially promulgated by the Church until the early nineteenth century.  Before its formal approval, both the Servite Order and the Dominicans had permission to celebrate it because they were so instrumental in popularizing the devotion.  Connection between Saint Dominic and this feast later became obscure although we know Saint Dominic practiced this devotion and promoted it among his followers. The Dominican Saint, Peter the Martyr, then the Inquisitor-General of Italy, helped to popularize the devotion and recommended the foundation of the Servite Order in 1243.  Since that time this devotion has been attributed more to the Servites than the Dominicans although Dominicans were instrumental in their founding. The painting referred to by Mother Frances Raphael Drane has been lost to antiquity.  The place now associated with the devotion is Monte Senario where the Servite founders had their visions rather than Suriano where the miraculous picture had been.  The seven sorrows are now popularly depicted by an image of the Blessed Mother with seven swords piercing her heart.  The fifth sorrow has been memorialized by the hymn Stabat Mater while the sixth sorrow is most famous as the Pietá by Michelangelo.

Drane, Augusta Theodosia (Mother Frances Raphael), The Life of St. Dominic and a Sketch of the Dominican Order with an Introduction to the America edition by Rev Joseph Sadoc Alemany, D.D., P. O’Shea Publisher, New York, New York, 1867, (p. 217).