It’s doesn’t take much scratching to uncover Catholicism’s rather macabre imagery. Crucifixion, hearts outside bodies (Sacred Heart), punishments of fire, decapitated saints walking around, swords and arrows and nails piercing bleeding flesh, St. Lucia carrying her own eyes on a plate—I’m honestly surprised more people don’t dress as saints for Halloween. Mary, who is often depicted as the beautiful young woman, is not immune from some morbid imagery. One instance of this is Our Lady of Sorrows, in which Mary is weeping for all the suffering Christ and God’s children must endure. Her bleeding heart is pierced by seven daggers.
The seven daggers represent the Seven Sorrows of Mary:
1. The Prophecy of Simeon (“This child is appointed for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed—and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”)
2. The Flight to Egypt
3. Losing Jesus in the Temple
4. Meeting Jesus on the Way to Calvary
5. Jesus Dies on the Cross
6. Receiving Jesus’ Body
7. Placing Jesus in the Tomb
This devotion was developed by Servites (the Servants of Mary, an order founded after she appeared to seven Florentines during the Feast of the Assumption) in the thirteenth century. Medieval Europeans loved numbered lists; I share that love of organization. Our Lady of Sorrows is the patron of Slovakia. The Feast of the Seven Sorrows has been celebrated in several places, and the date of the feast has shifted from Eastertide, to after Pentecost, to the third Sunday in September.