The Seven Dolours


"It is to be a martyr, to suffer patiently, and with gratitide, the ills inseparable from our heman existence, and which are common both to the just and to sinners, and we are not deprived of the glory which is attached to this title because we have not shed our blood in hour o fJesus Christ."
-- Saint Cyprian

There is one attribute common to all the human race, no matter what in life, age or race they may be, and that is suffering. For such a common ill there must be palliatives, which, while not curing, render them more tolerable and meritorious.

The remembrance of the patience of the Man-God in His unspeakable afflictions must always be our great solace; as also the thought that our night of suffering is the dawn of hope, and that suffering is a school in which we are taught to grow in holiness by God Himself; for the soul is purified in the furnace of affliction as precious metals are by fire.

Our holy mother the Church, anxious to afford her children every help possible, proposes this month the consideration of the sorrows of our Blessed Lady, to show us that sufferings accompany the highest sancity, and to point out to us a model for imitation.

From the time of Simeon's prophecy -- forty days after the birth of her Divine Son -- her sufferings may be said to have lasted till her death. At times they were more intense, as when she had to fly with her Child into Egypt to save His life; when she lost Him for three days; at her meeting Him carrying His Cross; when she stood beneath the Cross and saw the soldier pierce His side with a lance; or when she laid Him in the sepulchre.

When we consider Who was the Son, who the Mother, and what the sufferings, we can easily understand why she is styled Queen of Martyrs. Moreover, there were circumstances which increased her sufferings immensely, and which are apt to escape our notice; for example, she suffered from the thought that her sufferings were an additional cause of pain to her Divine Son, Who loved her as no other son ever loved his mother; and then she was so helpless that she could not soothe His pains by such ordinary means as a cup of water or a caress.

Thus, we can never consider the sorrows of Mary without coupling them with the sorrows of her Son. The two are so inseparably united that she is styled the co-redemptress of the world, and thus we can understand her deep sympathy and readiness to succour poor sinners.

Only those who have suffered can measure the depths of others' woes, and sympathize with crushed and wounded hearts; and as no one, after Jesus, has suffered so much as our Blessed Mother, so no one, after Jesus, can dry our tears, lighten our cross, or soothe our griefs, like Mary. She will show us the value of sufferings, which detach us from the things of earth, and make us desire heavenly goods, and increase our merit in Heaven by causing us to practise many virtues, especially patience, resignation, and sympathy for others.

In our trials and sufferings, let us, in imitation of our Blessed Lady, perform our daily duties as if we were free from sorrow. Let us pray, making short, affectionate, frequent aspirations of resignation, love, and confidence. Let us forget our griefs by sumpathizing with and helping those whose troubles are heavier than our own.

Gentle Mother, we beseech thee,
By thy tears and troubles sore,
By the death of thy dear offspring,
By the many wounds He bore,
Touch our hearts with that true sorrow
Which afflicted thee of yore.

Example -- Saint Ignatius of Loyola

There is preserved at Saragossa, in Sapin, a picture of Our Lady of the Seven Dolours, which was much used by Saint Ignatius. It is an ordinary print, representing Mary seated at the foot of the Cross, her heart pierced by a sword, her hands joined, and her head lowered. The features express profound affliction, combined with peace and resignation. The Saint held this picture in singular veneration. He wore it on his breast from the time of his conversion till his death, a period of thirty-five years. He assures us that he had received from God, by means of this devotion, extraordinary graces on all occasions. No wonder, then, that he was so full of tenderness for others. At the beginning of his stay in Paris, he had entrusted the little money he possessed to a young Spaniard, who, after spending part of it, ran away with the rest, leaving the Saint utterly destitute, and obliged to interrupt his studies in order to beg for his daily bread.

Some time afterwards, hearing that this youth was dangerously ill a Rouen, Ignatius instantly left Paris, and walked barefooted to that city -- seventy miles -- hardly stopping to rest on the way. He nursed the young man with tenderest care, collected money to pay his way home, and only left him when he was sufficently recovered to proceed on his road towards Spain.