On September 15 each year the Catholic Church celebrates the memorial of Mary with the title ‘Our Lady of Sorrows’. There are over fifty titles given to Mary, though not all are acknowledged in the Liturgical Calendar of the Church.
Why does Mary have so many different titles?
There are a number of reasons including:
- The paradoxical nature of her person: She is the servant of the Lord and a non-descript Jewish girl, yet, at the same time, called and invested with the grandeur of being the mother of the God-made-man. It is difficult to speak of her in a one-dimensional fashion. Doing justice to the whole picture of Mary’s character gives rise to many titles.
- She is a person and not a system of thoughts. As individuals only God has the last word on who we are and may become. The description of a living human person – one’s inner life especially – is inexhaustible. This applies to Mary in a preeminent way, not least because of what is said in #1 above. The best way to speak about a person is symbolic language. This leads to a multitude of images attempting to capture Mary’s personality.
- Mary’s intercessory role. Mary’s role as mother and her intimacy with her Son made her a powerful intercessor throughout Christian history. Since human needs are countless, as numerous as the varied situations and expectations of human life, Mary’s help was and is sought for all of them. This led to the formulation of many of her titles (good counsel, good death, help of the sick, mother of the “domestic church,” etc).
- Geographic and cultural reasons. There were times when every country and every little village wanted to have their own lady chapel or lady image which again led to a multiplication of titles.
- Titles related to apparitions are still another category, but quite frequently they are connected to #3 above. Apparitions are often accompanied with healing and conversion such as at major sites like Lourdes and Fatima.
Therefore, as we honour Mary, our Lady of Sorrows, we honour her as the faithful disciple and exemplar of faith, we pray:
Father, as your Son was raised on the cross, His Mother Mary stood by Him, sharing His sufferings. May your Church be united with Christ in His suffering and death and so come to share in His rising to new life. Looking to the example of Mary, may we too unite our sufferings to our Lord, facing them with courage, love, and trust.