O Most holy Virgin, Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ: by the overwhelming grief you experienced when you witnessed the martyrdom, the crucifixion, and the death of your divine Son, look upon me with eyes of compassion and awaken in my heart a tender commiseration for those sufferings, as well as a sincere detestation of my sins, in order that, being disengaged from all undue affections for the passing joys of this earth, I may long for the eternal Jerusalem, and that henceforth all my thoughts and all my actions may be directed toward this one most desirable object.  Honor, glory, and love to our divine Lord Jesus, and to the holy and immaculate Mother of God. Amen.

Prayer to Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows by St. Bonaventure

The origin of the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows dates back to the twelfth century, but it was not until 1667 that the Vatican officially approved a feast for Our Lady of Sorrows.  Then, in 1814, Pope Pius VII added the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows to the Roman Catholic calendar of saints.  He assigned it to the third Sunday in September.  In 1913, Pope Pius X changed the date of the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows to September 15, the date on which it is still celebrated today.

The sorrows to which the title, Our Lady of Sorrows, refers are the seven sorrows that the Blessed Virgin suffered during the life and death of her Son, Jesus Christ:

  1. The Prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:34-35)
  2. The Flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13)
  3. The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:43-45)
  4. Mary Meets Jesus on the Way to Calvary (Luke 23:26)
  5. Jesus Dies on the Cross (John 19:25)
  6. Mary Receives the Body of Jesus in Her Arms (Matthew 27:57-59)
  7. The Body of Jesus is Placed in the Tomb (John 19:40-42)

By chance (or was it divine intervention?) Our Lady of Sorrows featured prominently in my discovery of my Danko family origins.  Several years ago, one of my cousins faxed me copies of several photographs and cards his parents had obtained when they visited Poland.  Since the copies I had were faxes of photocopies, the images were rendered almost unrecognizable.  Fortunately, someone had written, in Polish, a description on the reverse side of each image.

Our Lady of Sorrows

A picture of Our Lady of Sorrows in the parish of Dubiecko, Poland… originating from the end of the sixteenth century.

A souvenir from the Dubiecko parish.  The altar of Our Lady of Sorrows in the Dubiecko parish, to which belongs the village of Nienadowa, from which came the parents of Mr. Joseph Danko from the U.S.A.

Here was Our Lady of Sorrows, leading me to the village where my Danko grandparents lived (Nienadowa, Poland), and the parish where they worshipped (Dubiecko, Poland)!

The following autumn, I traveled to Poland and visited the parish church in Dubiecko.  I arrived at the church shortly before noon, but found both the church and the rectory tightly locked with not a soul in sight.  By luck (or was it again divine providence?), just as I was preparing to leave, a local nun came to ring the church bells and say the Angelus.  She opened the door to the church and invited me in.

Once inside the church, my eyes fixed on the altar.  There was the Altar of Our Lady of Sorrows, just as on the faxed photocopy my cousin sent me.  Immediately above the crucifix on the main altar, was the picture of Our Lady of Sorrows.

The Altar of Our Lady of Sorrows - 2000

The nun explained to me about the history of the church.  She told me that my grandparents would not have known this church building; it was constructed long after they emigrated to America.  During the time my ancestors lived in Nienadowa, parishioners worshipped in a small chapel that was located on the same site as the present church.

After leaving the church, I visited the parish cemetery where my ancestors were buried and found many graves with the surnames of my ancestors.  I then visited the village of Nienadowa and discovered that there were still Dankos living there.  I had a very enjoyable visit with them.  I returned to the rectory in Dubiecko during the hours it was open and the pastor permitted me to search the parish records.  To my delight and amazement, I found the first of many records for my Danko ancestors.

Since that trip, Our Lady of Sorrows has always held a special place in my heart.  On this day, September 15, the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, I plan to meditate on the seven sorrows of Mary, to remind myself of the significance she has for the faithful in the parish of Dubiecko, and to thank her for the role she played in helping me find my ancestors.