The Feast of Our Lady of Compassion
This Feast of Our Lady of Compassion grew in popularity in the 12th century, although under various titles. Granted, some writings would place its roots in the eleventh century, especially among the Benedictine monks. By the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the feast and devotion were widespread throughout the Church.
In 1482, the feast was officially placed in the Roman Missal under the title of Our Lady of Compassion, highlighting the great love our Blessed Mother displayed in suffering with her Son. The word compassion derives from the Latin roots cum and patior which means to suffer with. Our Blessed Mother's sorrow exceeded anyone else's since she was the mother of Jesus, who was not only her Son but also her Lord and Savior; she truly suffered with her Son. In 1727, Pope Benedict XIII placed the Feast of Our Lady of Compassion in the Roman Calendar on Friday before Palm Sunday.
The key image here is our Blessed Mother standing faithfully at the foot of the cross with her dying Son: the Gospel of St. John recorded, Seeing His mother there with the disciple whom He loved, Jesus said to His mother, 'Woman, there is your son.' In turn He said to the disciple, 'There is your mother.' (John 19:26-27). Saint Bernard (d. 1153) wrote, Truly, O Blessed Mother, a sword has pierced your heart... He died in body through a love greater than anyone had known. She died in spirit through a love unlike any other since His (De duodecim praerogatativs BVM).
The title, Our Lady of Compassion, given to our Blessed Mother focuses on her intense suffering and grief during the passion and death of our Lord. Traditionally, this suffering was not limited to the passion and death event; rather, it comprised the seven dolors or seven sorrows of Mary, which were foretold by the Priest Simeon who proclaimed to Mary, This child [Jesus] is destined to be the downfall and the rise of many in Israel, a sign that will be opposed and you yourself shall be pierced with a sword so that the thoughts of many hearts may be laid bare (Luke 2:34-35). These seven sorrows of our Blessed Mother included the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt; the loss and finding of the child Jesus in the Temple; Mary's meeting of Jesus on His way to Calvary; Mary's standing at the foot of the cross when our Lord was crucified; her holding of Jesus when He was taken down from the cross; and then our Lord's burial. In all, the prophecy of Simeon that a sword would pierce our Blessed Mother's heart was fulfilled in these events. For this reason, Mary is depicted with her heart exposed and with seven swords piercing it. More importantly, each new suffering was received with the courage, love, and trust that echoed her fiat, let it be done unto me according to Thy word, first uttered at the Annunciation.
We published sermon by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre about Our Lady of Compassion.