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mother of sorrows

FEast: Sept. 15th
Patron of:  Sorrows, sufferings, slovakia, poland, Hungary, Malta, grieving mothers



Mary’s title “Mater Dolorosa”, Latin for “Mother of Sorrows” comes from the sufferings St. Simeon predicted would afflict Mary throughout her life, symbolized by metaphorical swords piercing her heart. These sufferings were to occur because of the bond between her heart and Jesus’. Simeon’s prophecy is recounted in the Gospel of Luke chapter 2, verses 25-35, 

   “Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace,
according to thy word;
for mine eyes have seen thy salvation
which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to thy people Israel.”
And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel,
and for a sign that is spoken against
(and a sword will pierce through your own soul also),
that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.”

    The sufferings of Mary firstly, began with Simeon’s prophecy. The second suffering was the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt to save Jesus’ from King Herod’s order that all babies be killed. The third was Mary and Joseph’s pain and fear when losing a young Jesus in the crowds before finding him in the Temple, and the fourth is Mary meeting Jesus on the way to his Crucifixion. The fifth of her sufferings was Jesus’ death at Crucifixion, and the 6th and 7th were her witnessing his body being taken down from the cross and buried.

This devotion honors these trials of Mary’s, and encourages us to turn to Mary as we go through our own sufferings, since she knows this pain dearly. It reminds us that her motherly love extends to us as her children. One method of doing so is to pray a prayer called the Chaplet of Seven Sorrows and to reflect on these experiences of Mary’s during the prayers. During the Rwandan Genocide, and apparition of Mary called Our Lady of Kibeho appeared to three teenage girls and encouraged them to use this prayer.

The devotion to the Sorrowful Mother became popular in the 11th or 12 century and held two different feast days closer to Holy Week, and a separate feast day was granted for the Servite Order to celebrate it in September in 1668. Folks celebrated both for many years through 1918 when it was officially established on the September 15th date in the General Roman calendar, until 1969 when the Holy Week feast was removed.



let us turn to you to contemplate your tears, your reddened eyes, and your broken heart, when we, too, feel the piercing pain of sorrow. the image of your pain may not solve those problems which brought us here to you, but it does remind us that you sit and mourn with us in our loss, our devastation, our hopelessness, our pain. Stay with us. Amen.

all proceeds from prints purchased of Mother of Sorrows will go to Gaza.


Stickers are also available for free. We just ask that each sticker ordered be accompanied by your prayers and/or activism for an end to the violence and genocide.


Art Reflection


this icon was created during Holy Week while in meditation on the suffering and sorrow in Gaza.

Unlike a Pieta image of Mary in which he holds her dead son in mourning and looks at the viewer for a response, images of Our Mother of Sorrows usually depict her alone with seven swords in her heart, eyes closed or downcast. I interpret this to be representative of how alone she (and each of us) often feel in our sufferings. This is something I chose for this piece because so many victims in Gaza have been lost under rubble, or so violently killed that mothers have nothing left of their children to hold.

Like in traditional images, she is shown with tears, eyes downcast, and hands at her heart.

Here, the seven swords are represented by stalks of the plant Drimia Maritima. It grows abundantly along the Mediterranean, and I first encountered in late September, just before the start of the violence, while in Greece. Walking through rocky, desolate islands strewn with ancient ruins, the flowers, also dried a bit by then from the hot summer, were often the only things actively growing, shooting up tall from cliff sides. I felt that they looked like and were representative of ghosts - the ruins being so old and full of so many stories of those who had gone before. Once I returned home and did more research on this plant that had captivated me, I found that they are both toxic and medicinal, and that they are used in Palestine traditionally to mark the boundaries of farmland. They also were used historically as spiritual protection against evil. They can perhaps be interpreted as the "ghosts" here of people lost to this woman.

The designs on her clothing come from traditional Palestinian cross stitch embroidery called "Tatreez", and represent pigeons, cypress trees, pomegranates, and olive branches: symbols of peace, connection to the land, life, and good news. Her scarf is also the "Keffiyeh", a pattern derived from symbols of olive leaves and a fishing net - important representations of Palestinian connections to the sea. It is worn in such a way as well that she could be a Muslim woman with her hijab coming undone due to turmoil or just an non-muslim woman wearing it as more of a veil.

The colors come from the Palestinian flag - which has been banned throughout history and used within the Tatreez designs on clothing as a method of resistance. The purple is symbolic of Holy Week and the Church season of reflection and sorrow. Her halo is gold leaf, but imperfect and with some damage, which is also symbolic of what she has been through and how it does not diminish her worth.

Lastly, the piece of wood this has been created on is left to show through in the background rather than painted over, symbolic of the bareness and exposure of sorrow, and the shape is reminiscent of a coffin, especially as it was a tray with raised edges so that one must look down into it to see the image.

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