Even though my glorious Patron is the Seven Sorrows of Mary, I have oddly enough, never prayed Her novena. That is, until my Spiritual Director recently had me pray one, in direct honor of this Good Mother’s Sorrows. In short, it was the most powerful novena I have ever prayed. I call it “irresistible” for a couple of different reasons. Because Our Lady, under this exact title, cannot resist shedding light on our requests, and as exorcist Father Chad Ripperger said- the demons flee before Her Sorrows because they are THAT commanding.
There is a reason why the Seven Sorrows of Mary is so fittingly known as “Patron of Exorcists”; Mary has the authority to drive demons out of souls- who else ONLY has this very same authority? Christ’s Catholic priests. This novena is also irresistible for us as well, because when one hears of the miracles that take place throughout the nine days- as that is how quickly She acts when one invokes Her Sorrowful Heart- one cannot and will not read about this novena and choose not to pray it. If you are one of the select few who let the opportunity go by without trying this novena, it is your loss, for you are missing out on a whirlpool of graces.
For, after praying the nine-day prayer myself, I am quite convinced that there is no other title of Mary, more efficacious and advantageous, that can be invoked by a soul. In fact, when I related to friends and family some of the miraculous occurrences that took place throughout the novena (the first few days), I even had some non-Catholics saying, “I need to pray this novena”. But it also gave fresh zeal to fervent Catholics, who decided to immediately pray one themselves. I have prayed dozens of novenas, too many to count, and I have often found myself exceedingly disappointed when I did not get an answer at all, it took years, or perhaps the desired outcome left me more confused then when I began the novena.
Not the case with Our Lady’s Sorrows; some things were made SO radically clear, that I was left astonished, thinking to myself, “this is too good to be true; this is too easy; what’s the catch?” There is no catch. Our Lady of Sorrows is simply THAT ready to come to the aid of Her beloved children, who invoke Her Sorrows, and ask for Her immediate assistance, guidance, and clarity in matters regarding the spiritual life; even the “mystery” of one’s own calling or religious vocation. ANY REQUEST. But again, this is also one of Her Seven Promises, made to those who are devoted to Her Sorrows: “I will give them as much as they ask for, as long as it does not appose the will of My Divine Son”.
If you decide to start this nine-day novena, I recommend this conference talk by Father Ripperger; it is one of the best I have heard on Our Lady’s Seven Sorrows. One of the things, expanded on in Father’s video below, was how Our Lady was so graceful, submissive and completely resigned to the crosses God gave Her, that even the angels were astounded. This in itself should be enough for us to see how Our Lady’s disposition and eveness of temper is what we must, at all costs, seek to imitate if we are to please, or even resemble, the Sacred Heart of Our Lord, Who Himself defines His Heart as “meek”. I hardly ever, if at all, listen to online sermons, podcasts and “talks” anymore, but I promise you that this one is well worth it; you will not be dissapointed. If you are not Catholic, more reason to tune in and prepare yourself for a topic that will leave you without a doubt of Mary’s constancy as Mother, Queen and Mediatrix of all Grace.
What to expect during the novena, prayer method and your “greatest defect”:
1.) Formal Prayer: Your own written formal prayer to Our Lady of Seven Sorrows, recited each day, with your main request. Father Ripperger, in another talk, discussed how formal prayer is important and most especially affective before God. So, while speaking from the heart is a good thing, novenas should still be more structured. Our Lord likes structure, if He did not, He never would have founded His Church. I would also suggest for this novena, to not simply google “Our Lady of Seven Sorrows novena”; there is nothing wrong with that, but what I mean by “formal prayer” is it is still structured and formal, but straight from your own heart, your own words. Making it a short, childlike, and easy prayer to be brought to Our Lady each day. After I finish these steps, I will provide an example prayer at the end.
2.) Greatest Defect: “Most of the time the pre-dominant defect is not the one that is most seen.” Through the course of the nine days, you will also be asking Our Lady to reveal your greatest defect. Father Ripperger, in the video, said that this request works like clockwork- and does it ever. All I will allude to, is Our Lady made it so abominably clear for me, that now I think of this defect multiple times a day. Since I have received the grace to see it, I can now ask Her to help me root it out of my life. This was perhaps the greatest gift I received from Her Sorrowful Heart this novena. Do not get me wrong, it was humiliating and painful seeing not only some of my defects, but the greatest, but you know what they say…. first step to solving a problem, admitting you have the problem. Take courage, if you never properly see what your biggest flaw is, how will you ever grow in perfection and become a saint?
3.) Hidden Mystery: After having started to write your own, personal yet formal, prayer it is important to include your request, “reveal my greatest defect” and “any hidden mystery” regarding an area of your life that is gray or dark; not easy for your intellect to understand without the help of God. This can be applied to perhaps, a hidden mystery in your own calling or religious vocation. Hidden or secret knowledge etc. What do I mean by this? Before beginning my own novena, my Director relayed how he specifically wanted me to pray this novena, because when Our Lady’s First (of the Seven) Sorrow began in the Prophecy of Simeon, part of the fruit that came with the wounding of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart, was exactly what is described in the Gospel of Luke: “And Thy own Soul a sword shall pierce, that out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.” If there is something you need to know, that is hidden, one must go to Our Lady specifically under the title of Her Sorrows because, through Her own sorrow, She has obtained for us the gift of understanding. An example for future mothers: “why am I not able to conceive a child? it has been four years of sorrow. What is the hidden mystery?” Father Ripperger hilariously said, “we do not ask Our Lady to see what Our neighbors are doing”.
4.) Additional Daily Prayers Throughout Novena: Each day, along with the formally written prayer, the Litany of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows is prayed. But here is the small difference. Instead of responding “Ora Pro Nobis”, you say “reveal my greatest defect”. If you are shown your defect by day two, you can substitute it with “reveal the hidden mystery”. And if even that is shown you before the nine-days are completed, then it is safe to continue with “Ora Pro Nobis”. This Litany typically works like lightening. I also recommend, though it is not mandatory, to pray the Seven Sorrows Rosary each day during the novena. If you do not have one, you can use a normal rosary and change the prayers accordingly.
The prayers and mysteries are easily found online; I will provide the Litany in this post. Lastly, it is so important, throughout each day of the novena, that you are constantly calling on Mary, by repeating very often, “Our Lady of Seven Sorrows”. Do you remember in the beginning of this post when I mentioned how this title alone makes demons flee? This is the power it possesses. Shakespeare once asked, “what’s in a name?” In the case of Mary’s Sorrows- everything. The way this can be done is between each Hail- Mary, whether the normal Rosary or the Seven Sorrows- say, “Our Lady of Seven Sorrows”. And for those who pray the Divine Office, say this Name in between each Psalm. It is a simple way to tenderly remind Mary that you are remembering Her presence and most especially Her Seven Sorrows throughout the novena. Again, trust me, She WILL answer you, meet AND surpass, all your expectations leaving you forever devoted to Her Sorrowful Heart and Seven Sorrows.
In conclusion, I will only end with some thoughts on purgatory, and why I believe it necessary to pray the Rosary of Seven Sorrows daily, even when your novena ends. Our Lord revealed to Faustina that one would rather suffer many years on earth than one day in purgatory– go back and re-read that sentence. And when you think you are “well off”, perhaps think of Lucia’s friend Amelia. Who is Amelia? At Fatima, Lucia asked Our Lady if her friend Amelia was in heaven. Mary replied and said she “will be in purgatory until the end of the world”. One might so rightly ask… “why? what did she do?” What makes your case different from Amelia’s? Instead of finding out, why not simply pray the Seven Sorrows Rosary? Are you really doing all you can, in your state in life, and fulfilling all Our Lady asked for at Fatima? What does the Seven Sorrows Rosary have to do with purgatory? Everything.
When I oftentimes despair that I might not make it to heaven because of my own sinfulness, I immediately take comfort in the fact that I am wearing Mary’s Scapular, praying Her Rosary of Seven Sorrows, along with the regular Holy Rosary, and of course, turning to Her Immaculate Heart as a “refuge”. Venerable Teresita Quevedo (a Carmelite of Charity who died at age nineteen) once told a fellow postulant of her order that she too often feared that she would never be holy enough for heaven. But she said the Madonna gave her the confidence she needed, that perfection is possible, when we place our confidence in Her- remember that when you are tempted to doubt. The seventh (of the fifteen) promises for those who recite the Rosary ensures that one will not die without the sacraments of the Church; all of these are remarkable graces to be sure. But wouldn’t you want to avoid purgatory all together? This is not a prideful desire; the saints desired this!
What makes Our Lady’s Sorrows different, what is that hidden promise for those who recite this Rosary of Seven Sorrows daily? Mary revealed to Saint Bridget of Sweden “I have obtained this grace from My Divine Son, that those who propagate this devotion to My tears and sorrows will be taken directly from this earthly life to eternal happiness, since all their sins will be forgiven, and My Son and I will be their eternal consolation and joy.” Another hint which shows the importance Our Lord places on His Mother’s tears, is when He revealed to Saint Elizabeth that “those who before death invoke the Divine Mother in the name of Her Sorrows will obtain true repentance for all their sins.” That is how much Divine authority just this Name, and Title alone, have over God’s justice. Too much confidence in Mary is never pride, never a folly, it is wisdom and a true weapon of virtue. Why else is She called Virgo Potens?
Example of Formal Prayer for Novena to Our Lady of Seven Sorrows:
Most Sorrowful Heart of Mary, over the course of the next nine-days, I consecrate to Thee my novena made in honor of Your Seven Sorrows. Through the sword that pierced Thine own Heart, please reveal my greatest defect and hidden mystery of (list your own question- area in your life etc.). I also lay before Your Immaculate Heart the following request (insert). I am confident in Your love for me as your child and simply wish to live a perfect life, pleasing to Your Divine Son. I thank Thee in advance for all the graces You are and will bestow on me; and I pray for the particular grace, when this novena ends, to have an eternal devotion to Your Sorrows and invoke Thee in times of joy, as well as sorrow, all the days of my life. When the day and hour comes, for the veil to be lifted, when I see Thee face to Face, I only ask that Thou be the One to present me to Christ the King, when I depart this vale of tears, in great hopes of finally entering eternal life. Amen. (prayed once or several times a day throughout novena- or you can write your own, this is just an example of “formal” prayer).
LITANY OF THE SEVEN SORROWS OF MARY
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of heaven,
Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost,
Have mercy on us.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us.
Holy Virgin of virgins,
Mother of the Crucified,
Mother most sad,
Mother set around with anguish,
Mother overwhelmed by grief,
Mother transfixed by a sword,
Mother crucified in thy heart,
Mother bereaved of thy Son,
Mother of Dolors,
Fount of tears,
Sea of bitterness,
Field of tribulation,
Mass of suffering,
Mirror of patience,
Rock of constancy,
Remedy in perplexity,
Joy of the afflicted,
Ark of the desolate,
Refuge of the abandoned,
Shield of the oppressed,
Conqueror of the incredulous,
Solace of the wretched,
Medicine of the sick,
Help of the faint,
Strength of the weak,
Protectress of those who fight,
Haven of the shipwrecked,
Calmer of tempests,
Companion of the sorrowful,
Retreat of those who groan,
Terror of the treacherous,
Standard-bearer of the Martyrs,
Treasure of the Faithful,
Light of Confessors,
Pearl of Virgins,
Comfort of Widows,
Joy of all Saints,
Queen of thy Servants,
Holy Mary, who alone art unexampled,
Pray for us, most Sorrowful Virgin,
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
O God, in whose Passion, according to the prophecy of Simeon, a sword of grief pierced through the most sweet soul of Thy glorious Blessed Virgin Mother Mary: grant that we, who celebrate the memory of her Seven Sorrows, may obtain the happy effect of Thy Passion, Who lives and reigns world without end. Amen.