A little over a year ago, I read a book titled Our Lady of Kibeho, by Immaculee Iligabiza (whose first book, Left To Tell, I’ve written about before). I was moved by this account of the Apparitions in Kibeho, curious but from a distance, reserved, wanting to think it over during the course of months not moments. But a seed was planted. It germinated slowly, breaking through the crusty soil of my heart when I was blessed to hear Immaculee speak in person at Sacred Heart University, at a convention for catechists. There she told her story of survival through the genocide, the loss of her whole family and all her friends at the hands of their neighbors, the agonies of her trials, and the ever greater depths of God’s love. To hear her talk of forgiveness, of that absolute necessity of loving your enemies, even those that would kill you, was the greatest insight I have ever received about imitating the Mercy of God. Afterwards, I found myself purchasing a small booklet and beads for the Rosary of Seven Sorrows, about which I had read in Our Lady of Kibeho. I cannot sufficiently praise this devotion, the strength that it gives me, the light that it shines into the darkest corners of my selfish heart, and the deepest peace that comes from God’s Infinite Mercy.
This prayer is intertwined with both the Apparitions at Kibeho, officially approved of by the Church as “worthy of belief” in 2001, as well as with the Rwandan Genocide. It is not a new prayer, dating originally back to the early 13th century and the Servite Order (hence it is also called the Servite Rosary), but it has been newly introduced to the world as a resource for the faithful. Our Lady indicated that it should be prayed so we may obtain contrition for our sins, and through conversion of heart, bring peace and mercy into the world. This call to conversion of heart and repentance is a repetition of the constant teaching of Sacred Scripture and Apostolic Tradition, as Bishop Augustin Misago of Gikongoro, Rwanda, declared: “the message linked to this apparition is not a new revelation; it is rather a way of recalling the ordinary teaching of the Church, which has been forgotten.” The more I looked into this devotion, the more fitting it struck me for the needs and challenges of our era, which is so blindly, viciously committed to violence, destruction and degradation of Human Life and God’s Creation, contempt for God and His Church, and the Culture of Death. It has been repeatedly promoted as a Lenten devotion, especially since the 18th century. It is a simple set of prayers, once you get comfortable with the structure of the rosary (begin with an Act of Contrition and three Hail Mary’s, announce the Sorrow and say one Our Father and seven Hail Mary’s for each of the Seven Sorrows): minor variations abound, but I follow the one promulgated at Kibeho (instructions here).
This last point, that the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows is especially apropos for Lent, leads me to the purpose of this post. Last Friday, along with other members of St. Lawrence Parish, I prayed this Rosary as part of our vigil of 40 Days for Life outside an abortion center in Bridgeport, CT. I added, as I like to do when praying privately, specific intentions for each decade (I guess more appropriately called a “week” for this rosary), which one woman asked me to write down for her, that they could be prayed again next time she attended the vigil. It is in the spirit of solidarity with those keeping the vigil for Life throughout the whole world, and most especially with the women and men suffering from abortion, that I offer these intentions here. Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!
The Rosary of the Seven Sorrows—40 Days for Life
1st Sorrow – The Prophecy of Simeon – Lord Jesus, unite our hearts to yours through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, that, like her, we may embrace suffering to end abortion.
2nd Sorrow – The Flight into Egypt – O Holy Family, pray for all those families that are suffering from abortion. May they find their help in the Lord; may He protect them from all evil.
3rd Sorrow – The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple – Lord Jesus, call your Church back from the World to find You in your temple, to hear your word, and receive your Gospel of Life.
4th Sorrow – Mary Meets Jesus on the Way to Calvary – O suffering hearts of Jesus and Mary, pray for us, that we may endure all things to follow the Gospel of Life.
5th Sorrow – Mary Stands at the Foot of the Cross – Lord Jesus, even on the Cross you forgave your killers and all those who rejected and abandoned you: please forgive and bring conversion of heart to all abortionists and those steeped in the sin of abortion.
6th Sorrow – Mary Receives the Dead Body of Jesus – Mary, as you received the dead body of your Son, receive also the souls of those killed by abortion, that their suffering and death may be united with Christ’s, and bring about an end to abortion.
7th Sorrow – The Body of Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb – Lord of Life, bring hope to the hopeless, especially those women & men suffering from abortion.
Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!