Stabat Mater Dolorosa

Devotion to the Sorrows of Mary has always been a favourite devotion among the faithful. It has been sanctioned by the Church and introduced into the Missal and Breviary. During Lent, it is good to keep before our mind’s eye the inexpressible sufferings endured for us by the Mother of God, our Co-Redemptrix. This pious exercise is reinforced each year as we make the Way of the Cross chanting the verses of the hymn Stabat Mater between each station.

The sufferings of the Mother of God are incomprehensible, inconceivable to any other human being. Only a mother who has lost her only son can understand, but then even in only a small way, the trials and tribulations, sufferings and woe which filled the life of Our Blessed Mother as she accompanied Our Saviour throughout His earthly life.

The goal of devotion to the Sorrowful Mother and her Seven Sorrows, consists in a heartfelt and sincere compassion for the sorrows which the Holy Virgin endured throughout the course of her life, her long martyrdom‒Mary is the Queen of Martyrs, Regina Martyrum‒which began with the prophecy of Simeon and was consummated when the sword of sorrow pierced her heart on Calvary.

This pious devotion should be practiced by souls who wish to rid themselves of their sinful habits, for devotion to the Dolours of Our Lady nourishes the spirit of compunction, sorrow for our sins, confidence in God’s mercy, attracts the special protection of the Virgin in times of temptation, and preserves the sinner from falling into sin. Our Lady once said to St. Bridget:

No matter how numerous a person’s sins may be, if he turns to me with a sincere purpose of amendment, I am prepared forthwith to receive him graciously, for I do not regard the number of sins he has committed, but look only upon the dispositions with which he comes to me; for I feel no aversion in healing his wounds, because I am called and am in truth the Mother of Mercy.

A particular fruit of devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows is the grace of a holy death. In recompense for her fidelity, in remaining next to Jesus as He died on the Cross stabat juxta crucem, Our Lady has received from Him a special power to assist souls in their final agony. There is no doubt that she will assist in a special manner those who have kept her company in her agony and have wept with her. For Our Lord revealed to Blessed Veronica of Binasco: “My daughter, the tears which you shed in compassion for My suffering are pleasing to Me, but bear in mind that on account of My infinite love for My Mother, the tears you shed in compassion for her sufferings are still more precious.”

The Stabat Mater was composed in the 13th century as the Sequence for the Mass of our Lady of Sorrows. During the reforms of the Council of Trent, it, as well as the majority of sequences for a variety of feasts, was suppressed from the Roman Missal. However, in 1727 Pope Benedict the XIII restored it to liturgical use for the newly instituted feast of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady. The hymn is well-loved by the faithful and sung most frequently during the Stations of the Cross. It expressed the sentiments of the saddest moments in the history of our Salvation.

Oftentimes people have difficulty identifying with the saints, but especially Our Lady, pure and immaculate, steadfast in her faith. They figure everything must have been easy for Mary because she was conceived without original sin. But we get a glimpse from reading the gospels, that not everything was so clear and easy for our Blessed Mother. As is often the case the spiritual life, every “Thabor moment,” graces of illumination and consolation, is followed by long and trying times of suffering and darkness. Indeed Mary was surrounded by light, filled with grace, and literally had God within her at the Annunciation. However, the brilliance of this moment was followed by the dark night. Her fiat was not just a yes to becoming the Mother of God, but an unconditional yes to all of the trails and difficulties involved in becoming the Mother of the Redeemer, the Passion of the Saviour being the most difficult trial of them all.

Over the course of this Lent, let us turn to Mary, Mother most Sorrowful‒Mater Dolorosissimaand allow her to embrace us with her love. Let us run to her and find the strength, courage, faith and consolation we need to bear our crosses, especially when they seem absurd and incomprehensible. May we find in her all we need as we make our own Via Crucis toward the eternal Easter without becoming discouraged or wavering in the faith.