The Solemnity of Our Lady of Sorrows, September 15
“There stood by the Cross of Jesus his mother Mary, who knew grief and was a Lady of Sorrows. She is our special patroness, a woman who bore much she could not understand and who stood fast. To her many sons and daughters, whose devotions ought to bring them often to her side, she tells much of this daily cross and its daily hope” (Constitutions of the Congregation of Holy Cross, 8:120).
When deciding on a patron for the Congregation of Holy Cross, our founder Blessed Basil Moreau selected Our Lady of Sorrows.
Moreau’s original vision was that the Congregation of Holy Cross be one community of priests, brothers and sisters living and working together in imitation of the Holy Family. He consecrated the priests to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the sisters to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the brothers to Saint Joseph, but he placed the entire Congregation under the patronage of Our Lady of Sorrows.
Moreau often stressed the importance of conforming one’s entire life to Christ, which Mary models through her Seven Sorrows. He said, “It is (in her sorrows) that we shall see to what extent she has loved us! She stood at the foot of the cross, among the executioners and soldiers, so close to her dying Son that no detail of his death could escape her. … What did she do in this circumstance, so painful for her heart, being minister before the altar on which the sacrifice of our redemption was accomplished? Truly, she fulfills fully her part in the work of Christ, to ‘fill up, in her own flesh, those things that are lacking in Christ’s afflictions for his body, which is the Church.’”
Mary suffered Seven Sorrows during her life:
- The Prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2: 34-35): Simeon told Mary that her son would be the rise and fall of many people and that a sword would pierce her heart so that many would know her thoughts.
- The Flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13): Joseph responds to a dream to take Mary and Jesus into Egypt to keep them safe. Today, we pray for the safety and security of all refugees.
- The loss of the child Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:43-45): Mary and Joseph thought Jesus was in the caravan after leaving Jerusalem. After three days, they found Jesus listening and teaching in the Temple of Jerusalem. Mary said to Jesus, “Why have you done this to us?”
- Mary meets Jesus on the way to Calvary (Luke 23: 26-32): Jesus, carrying his cross told the women of Jerusalem not to weep for him, but for themselves and their children.
- Jesus dies on the cross (John 19:25): Mary and John are bonded by the words of Jesus. The Church is born in this moment from suffering and relationship.
- Mary receives the body of Jesus in her arms (Matthew 27:57-59): Mary receives her inconsolable suffering, the body of her son.
- The body of Jesus is placed in the tomb (John 19:40-42): Mary and Jesus’ disciples stand together in their loss.
The Holy Cross motto: “Ave Crux, Spes Unica” — “Hail the Cross, Our Only Hope” — reflects the idea of seeing ourselves standing at the foot of the cross alongside Our Sorrowful Mother.
As apostolic religious, we realize that suffering is very real in our world and that many of those we serve experience heavy crosses each day. Sometimes we are in a position to alleviate this suffering and sometimes we are not. What we always have to offer, however, is hope. Mary is the perfect model of this hope. Even in the midst of her Seven Sorrows, she never despaired. Her faith endured through this suffering and so she shared in her Son’s victory over death. We believe that her intercession and patronage can help us do the same.
The Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows is September 15, the biggest feast day for Congregation of Holy Cross priests, brothers and sisters throughout the world. Each community honors the feast day differently, but members usually come together as a larger community for prayer and celebration.