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Some people start with an Act of Contrition, since the devotion has a penitential aspect

O, my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you.  I detest all my sins because of your just punishment, but most of all because they offend you, my God, who are all-good and deserving of all my love.  I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin.

(The groups of seven Hail Mary's are an occasion for meditation on the "mysteries.")

The First Sorrow

The Prophecy of Simeon
Reading: Luke 2:25-35

When Mary and Joseph present the infant Jesus in the temple, Simeon predicts that a "sword" (of sorrow) will pierce Mary's soul.

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, (…) The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too."

Word for meditation

The prophecy of Simeon to Mary undoubtedly caused great pain. Mary complied with the requirements of the act of purification (Exodus 13: 2-13), even though she was not directly concerned by this law. Given that she was conceived without sin, she came into the temple not to cleanse herself, but to offer to God the Son that she had received from Him. Oh! What a way she offered to God with great love! And publicly the way she has never ceased to offer Him in the temple of her heart! She knew that this child belonged more to God than to her. This led her to offer Him with a humble heart and thanksgiving, as a holy sacrifice without blemish. After she had finished offering her Son Jesus to God, the old man Simeon prophesied regarding her, saying “a sword will pierce your soul,” which means that she will see her Son suffering, being rejected, abandoned, and finally dying as a criminal hanging on the cross.

Prayer

Our God, You who loves us so much, we pray to You with confidence and humility. We ask You to preserve us from discouragement because hope is often lost among Your children. There are those who see the day ending without hope that it will rise again. Others see the day rise without believing that it will set again! All these are afraid of  tomorrow because they do not accept that there are some good things ahead for them. Their chorus is always: "God has become for them - as stated in the well-known proverb, "what has been lacking for leveling will not be found during the finishing." Give us Lord a strong heart like that of the Virgin Mary, so that we can consecrate our lives to You, and thus we will see that everything becomes new in You, Lord. Gives us power to unite ourselves to Jesus so that our difficulties may become a ladder to climb up and reach You, the King of kings.

Pray an Our Father

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name.  Thy Kingdom come Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  Amen.

On each Hail Mary bead of the set of seven pray

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee.  Blessed art Thou among women and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.

The Second Sorrow

The flight into Egypt
Reading: Matthew 2:13-15

When King Herod orders the death of all male children age two or younger, Mary and Joseph flee to Egypt with the infant Jesus.

“When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up," he said, "take the Child and His mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the Child to kill Him."  So he got up, took the Child and His mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my Son."

Word of meditation

See how the Virgin Mary suffered when Joseph told her that they should immediately take the Child and seek refuge in Egypt, as the angel came to reveal Him in a dream, so that King Herod does not kill Him. See Mary seeking what to take and what to leave, and she takes the infant Jesus on her back and leaves everything without hesitation to flee with Joseph.

As Mary passes all mothers in maternal love, that is why she suffered much by fleeing; the Child was shivering in the night, dying from cold; the parents themselves were tired, crushed by hunger and tiredness, and preoccupied by the journey towards an unknown country, without any knowledge of anyone to welcome them. In this escape, they were thinking of just how to save the infant Jesus. What pain they have not suffered by seeing their Child, the child of God, that they loved so much, chased by the enemies, so cruel. Moreover, this New Born Baby, for who is He the victim? For what is He the victim?

Prayer

Virgin Mary, mother whom we love, you endured a suffering that we cannot name, by carrying the infant Jesus into exile; teach us to accept our daily sufferings. Teach us to be brave so that we should never be discouraged when the world rejects or persecutes us. Help us to protect the life of Jesus who lives in our hearts as the jealousy of the devil does everything to drive out this life with Jesus. Loving mother, you who suffered much because of this exile, we offer you all refugees today. Keep them from despair so that they understand that the Almighty is with them everywhere they are. You who were denied the right to possess and to be filled with joy in your country, we offer you those who their rights to live in liberty are violated.

Pray an Our Father

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name.  Thy Kingdom come Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  Amen.

On each Hail Mary bead of the set of seven pray

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee.  Blessed art Thou among women and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.

The Third Sorrow

The Child Jesus Lost in the Temple
Reading: Luke 2: 41-50

Mary and Joseph search for the child Jesus for three days, finding Him at last — after agonizing sorrow — in the temple.

“After the feast was over, while His parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.  Thinking He was in their company, they travelled on for a day. Then they began looking for Him among their relatives and friends.  When they did not find Him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for Him.  After three days they found Him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.  Everyone who heard Him was amazed at his understanding and His answers. When His parents saw Him, they were astonished. His mother said to Him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for You."  "Why were You searching for me?" He asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?"  But they did not understand what He was saying to them.”

Word of meditation

Jesus is the only Son of God and also the only Son of Mary. Mary had an Immaculate Heart and loved her Son with unparalleled love, and her child Jesus was God. She could not live without Him. This is what made her to look for Jesus when she did not see Him during their journey returning home. She searched everywhere in Jerusalem for three days. The more time she spent looking for Him the more sadness filled her heart. At this point, the Virgin Mary suffered much because she felt that not taken enough care of her Son.

Prayer

Tender mother, you suffered greatly when you were searching for your Son who was lost in Jerusalem, I offer you my soul which is lost in the darkness of sin. I offer you my heart which is far from the Creator of Heaven and Earth. I offer you my brothers and sisters who are far from God, so that you will look after them, so that they will come back to you, and that satan will not do any harm to them since they are also your beloved children.

Pray an Our Father

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name.  Thy Kingdom come Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  Amen.

On each Hail Mary bead of the set of seven pray

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee.  Blessed art Thou among women and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.

The Fourth Sorrow

Mary meets Jesus carrying the cross
Reading: Luke 23: 27-29

As Jesus makes His way to Calvary, condemned to crucifixion, He meets His mother, Mary. He is bruised, derided, cursed and defiled and her sorrow is absolute as Jesus drags His own cross up the hill of His crucifixion.

“As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. A large number of people followed Him, including women who mourned and wailed for Him. Jesus turned and said to them, daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, `Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!'  Then they will say to the mountains, "Fall on us!" and to the hills, "cover us!"' For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?"

Word of meditation

The Virgin Mary loved her Son Jesus very much, first of all as her only begotten Son, and then as the Son of the Most High. Because of this great love she had for Him, she felt much pain when she met Him carrying His cross. As the Gospel according to Saint Luke tells us, there were also other women who accompanied her and were lamenting about Him!

- Then, if those who did not know the secret of this Son of Mary were lamenting, what of her to whom this secret was revealed by the angel? What suffering was in her heart!

- If those who did not give birth to Him, those who had never fled with Him or lived with Him in a foreign country shed tears, how upset was the heart of the one who lived through all that with Him?

- Ask yourself then. If the women who cried were not those who raised Him up, or saw His sweet smile, or heard His sincere word, greatly or saw His true love for His mother, or knew what it was to be called "mother", she whose heart was so full of goodness for her Son well educated, she who experienced all this, what feelings were in her heart!

Prayer

O Mother, who suffered so much, let me ask you something, you who do everything to ensure that those who come to you to find refuge are not disappointed, console the mothers who have been seriously wounded by seeing their children stabbed like animals, slaughtered and pierced by the spear as those who have offended the King. Console the mothers who are afflicted by the immense grief caused by losing their children that smiled at them so tenderly and filled them with joy. Console the children who are victims of a judgment like that of Pilate even when they don't know what sin is. Console the children who carry the heavy cross of life while they are still very young. Console those who are unjustly accused and carry on their heads many burdens.

Pray an Our Father

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name.  Thy Kingdom come Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  Amen.

On each Hail Mary bead of the set of seven pray

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee.  Blessed art Thou among women and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.

The Fifth Sorrow

Mary at the foot of the cross
Reading: John 19: 25-30

Mary stands near her dying Son unable to minister to Him as He cries "I thirst." She hears Him promise Heaven to a thief and forgive His enemies. His last words, "Behold your mother," charge us to look on Mary as our mother.

“Near the cross of Jesus stood His mother, His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus saw His mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home”.

Word of meditation

The Virgin Mary climbed up the Mount of Calvary with Jesus, carrying in her heart the same cross which her Son bore on His shoulders. As she walked, she watched how her Son was stumbling under the cross. How they were beating Him so that He moves forward. He often fell under the heavy burden and they lifted Him up by pulling on His hair. When they arrived at the top of Calvary, they forced Him to undress in front of his detractors, who were happy to mock Him. His mother felt all these things so deeply that she suffered bitter pain seeing these wicked men humiliating and making fun of her Son until they finally crucified Him in front of the eyes of the crowd. When Jesus was nailed to the cross, the Virgin Mary suffered in her heart, as if it was she herself who was nailed to the cross. Jesus spent six hours in extreme agony as He saw his grieving mother, standing near the cross.

Prayer

Our mother you who loves us so much, Queen of Martyrs, gives us the courage that you had in such painful moments, so that in our turn we can give thanks to God through all who do evil to us, and thus join in the pardon granted by Jesus for everybody.

Pray an Our Father

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name.  Thy Kingdom come Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  Amen.

On each Hail Mary bead of the set of seven pray

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee.  Blessed art Thou among women and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.

The Sixth Sorrow

Mary receives the body of Jesus
Reading: Psalm 130

Jesus is taken down from the cross and His body is placed in Mary's arms. The passion and death are over, but for His mother, grief continues. She holds His body in her arms.

“Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body away.  He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.”

Word of meditation

Look at Jesus nailed to the cross until He dies. Look also at His mother who received His body in her arms. Who could understand the sadness that filled His mother’s heart? Jesus, her only begotten Son, died as a criminal. This Son took part in domestic work with His mother; they were praying together, they were laughing together, and now all that is finished. Yet this mother kept everything in her heart, knowing well that all that happens is for the glory of God. In spite of all the pain she felt, she understood very well that to lose a person who is dear to us for the glory of God, is really no loss.

Prayer

Mary, mother of incarnate Word, obtain for me from your Son the grace of faith.
Mary, mother of sorrows, obtain for me from your Son the grace of perseverance.
Mary, mother of sorrows, give me the grace to accept the cross in my life as a gift from God.

Pray an Our Father

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name.  Thy Kingdom come Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  Amen.

On each Hail Mary bead of the set of seven pray

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee.  Blessed art Thou among women and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.

The Seventh Sorrow

Mary witnesses the burial of Jesus
Reading: Luke 23: 50-56

The body of Jesus is laid in the tomb. The most tragic day in history ends, Mary alone in sorrow, awaiting the Resurrection.

“Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for His needs.  Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and John, and the mother of Zebedee's sons.  As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him.  Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.”

Word of meditation

The Virgin Mary accompanied her Son Jesus all the way of the cross, while those with little faith fled, believing that everything had come to an end. They thought that the one in who they had put their trust was now at the point of death. At the end of his painful agony, His time had arrived. He bent His head and He died (John 19:30). Joseph of Arimathea took His body and buried it in honor. Mary accompanied the sacred body of her Son to the grave, and saw how they closed the tomb with a big stone.

Prayer

Mother who suffered greatly, we come before you as our refuge and our shield so that you may intercede for us. We offer you our Church so that you can intervene in all the difficulties it is going through: the discouragement of the faithful, especially those you have chosen to be your beloved in a particular way, the persecution of the faithful in various parts of the world, the constant decline of faith among Christians.

Pray an Our Father

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name.  Thy Kingdom come Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  Amen.

On each Hail Mary bead of the set of seven pray

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee.  Blessed art Thou among women and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.

Concluding prayers

“Queen of Martyrs, your soul was greatly troubled in the ocean of suffering. We beg you by the merits of the tears you shed in these terrible sorrowful mysteries, to obtain for us and all sinners of the world, the grace of complete sincerity and repentance. Amen.”

To wipe away Mary's tears during her immense sufferings, say the Our Father, Hail Mary and the following prayer three times:
"Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!"