Seven Dolor Rosary

Also referred to as the Servite Rosary or Chaplet or the Seven Dolors of Mary

The practice of praying the Chaplet of the Seven Dolors began in the 13th Century. During the Middle Ages, many prayer forms were created by Catholics, as they no longer knew Latin, which was the official language used in the prayers of the Catholic Church. Many of us are familiar with the five decade rosary, but that was only one of the many prayers that developed.

Like the five decade rosary, the Chaplet of the Seven Dolors of Mary is a meditative prayer on the life of Christ through the eyes of His mother–Mary. The word “dolor” means “sorrow” in Latin. This chaplet consists of seven mysteries/meditations. Seven “Ave” beads separate each meditation.

Also called the Servite Rosary, the Chaplet of the Seven Dolors is said to have originated in the Servite Order.

Before the Servites ever existed as an official religious Order, seven prosperous men came together in the city of Florence, Italy. As a reflection of the penitential spirit of the times, it had been the custom of these men to meet regularly as members of a religious society established in honor of Mary, the Mother of God. Eventually, the seven left their comfortable homes, put aside their finery and went to live together in a ramshackle building outside the city walls. The holiness and penitential lifestyle of the seven quickly attracted attention and people seeking prayers and spiritual direction became frequent visitors. To avoid these distractions that they considered a hindrance to the contemplative life they sought, the entire group moved to more peaceful surroundings, and established a hermitage on the summit of a nearby mountain, Monte Senario, sometimes known as the “sounding mountain.”

Coming to be known as the “Friar Servants of Mary,” others joined the first seven on Monte Senario, and as the group continued to grow, the seeds of the new religious Order took root. The Friar Servants of Mary were approved as a religious Order by the bishop of Florence sometime between the years 1240 and 1247. In the year 1304, the Order of Friar Servants of Mary received definitive approval as a religious Order in the Church by the Holy See.

While attending the First Vatican Council in 1870, Joseph Melcher, first bishop of Green Bay, Wisconsin, invited Servites to work in his diocese. That same year four Servites, under the guidance of Fr. Austin M. Morini, took charge of St. Charles Church in Menasha, Wisconsin. In 1874, Bishop Foley invited the Order to Chicago, and eventually, Chicago became the center of Servite activity in the United States. The American Province was established in 1909.

In 1923, with the construction of the railroad, the Servite Order spread west. Today, the National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother, The Grotto, in Portland, Oregon has become a pilgrimage for many. Administered by the Order of Friar Servants of Mary, the shrine and beautiful botanical gardens spread out over 62 acres just minutes northeast of downtown Portland.

Well known, author, speaker, and retreat leader, Joyce Rupp, OSM, is a member of the Servite (Servants of Mary) community.

Her book Your Sorrow Is My Sorrow: Hope and Strength in Times of Suffering is a series of reflections from her own life experiences on the seven sorrows of Mary:
• The Foretelling of Sorrow
• Fleeing From Destruction
• Searching For Our Lost Treasures
• Meeting Our Pain
• Standing Beneath the Cross
• Embracing Our Loss
• Laying Our Sorrows to Rest

Interesting side note: I have had this book for a long time, but I have never read it. After reading about Joyce Rupp and that the book pertained to the Seven Sorrows of Mary and The Servite Rosary, I dug it out of the bookshelf. It is now on my night stand.

Prayers and Meditations for the Servite Rosary

Begin on the Cross with An Act of Contrition:
O, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, behold me before your divine presence, all in confusion at the thought of many grievous injuries I have done. I ask your pardon for them with my whole heart, repenting of them for love of you, hating them above every other evil and ready to lose my life rather than offend you again.

On the first bead, pray:
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of you faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your divine love. Send forth your spirit and they shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth.

On the second bead, pray:
Enlighten our minds, we beseech you, O Lord, with the light of your brightness, that we might see what we ought to do and be able to do what is right, through Christ, Our Lord.

Third Bead/Opening Meditation:
In the Sorrows of the Virgin Mary we see a reflection of the suffering and bitter anguish of the human Christ. Just as Mary accepted the total mystery of Christ into her life, so may we see in our sorrow, our fear, and humiliation, a dim, but real participation in His passion and death, recalling that if we wish to follow Him, we must “take up our cross” each day. Let us pray that we may accept Christ’s call, and become co-sufferers in His passion.

On the first large bead:
• Announce the First Dolor Meditation–The Prophesy of Simeon
• Pray the Our Father/Lords Prayer

Many of us are parents. We know that only by sharing life with God is life fulfilled. That is why we also sense a fear about our loved ones. Simeon’s prophecy was a blessing for all mankind, but foretold grief for you, Mary. Your first sorrow was much more than a parent’s fear.

“And you yourself shall be pierced with a sword–so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:35

Pray the “Hail Mary” on each of the seven smaller beads as you meditate.

On the second large bead:
• Announce the Second Dolor Meditation–The Flight to Egypt
• Pray the Our Father/Lords Prayer

What can a mother do when the life of her child is threatened? When Herod decreed death for all those innocent children, God warned Joseph. With no time for packing or goodbyes, you escaped into the night. Homeless and tired, with an uncertain future before you, you were secure in nothing but the love of those who needed you.

“Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt.” Matthew 2:13

Pray the “Hail Mary” on each of the seven smaller beads as you meditate.

On the third large bead:
• Announce the First Dolor Meditation–Mary Seeks Jesus, Lost in Jerusalem
• Pray the Our Father/Lords Prayer

A child lost. What a panic grips the hearts of parents at such a time! They wonder, “Is he safe?” “Will I ever see him again?” And then they imagine things too terrible to express. It was the same for you Joseph. Mary, for three days you sought Jesus. It took faith to continue the search in the pain of separation.

“Why did you search for me? Did you not know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Luke 2:49

Pray the “Hail Mary” on each of the seven smaller beads as you meditate.

On the fourth large bead:
• Announce the Fourth Dolor Meditation–Mary Meets Jesus Bearing His Cross on His Way to Calvary
• Pray the Our Father/Lords Prayer

What mother called suddenly to the hospital to see her sick or injured child has not wished: “If only I could suffer instead of you!” But she remains only a spectator. Mary, you saw Jesus beaten and bloody. You felt powerless to help Him, and yet through your love you shared His Pain.

“…the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all…” Isaiah 53:6
“Christ suffered for sins once…that he might lead you to God.” 1 Peter 3:18

Pray the “Hail Mary” on each of the seven smaller beads as you meditate.

On the fifth large bead:
• Announce the Fifth Dolor Meditation–Crucifixion and Death of Jesus
• Pray the Our Father/Lords Prayer

It has often been said, “To lose a child is the worst death for a parent to endure.” Mary, in those long hours, at the cross, perhaps your thoughts returned to the earlier days. How horrible now to face the reality of death! His breath grew labored. The time has come. Yet He spoke to you and consoled you. In dying he gave life to others and made you mother of all mankind.

“Near the cross of Jesus there stood his Mother.” John 19:25

Pray the “Hail Mary” on each of the seven smaller beads as you meditate.

On the sixth large bead:
• Announce the Sixth Dolor Meditation–Mary Receives the Dead Body of Jesus in Her Arms
• Pray the Our Father/Lords Prayer

He is dead…and it hardly seems real. How many of us have paused before the body of a loved one and wondered: “Can this be happening to me?” Death is real, all too real! As you held Jesus in your arms, Mary, you probably wondered as we have, “Is this the end of everything?”

“Come, all you who pass by the way, look and see whether there is any suffering like my suffering.” Lamentations 1:12

Pray the “Hail Mary” on each of the seven smaller beads as you meditate.

On the seventh large bead:
• Announce the Seventh Dolor Meditation–Jesus is Laid in the Tomb
• Pray the Our Father/Lords Prayer

The garden and the bomb…there is something strangely consoling about the burial of Jesus, Mary. Perhaps a flower or blade of grass reminded you of his words “Unless a seed falls into the ground and dies, it cannot produce new life.” It is always difficult to see death and life together, but you continue to believe, hope, and love. His words fill your heart.

“If we have died with him we shall live with him.” 2 Timothy 2:11

Pray the “Hail Mary” on each of the seven smaller beads as you meditate.

Closing Prayer
Lord God, our Father, from the passion and death of Jesus, shared by the compassion of his Mother, you brought healing to fallen man. Grant that we, your people, may exercise this healing and rise from the power of sin to a wholeness of life promised by Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.

Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Scripture verses: Sisters of the Holy Cross – Notre Dame, IN –

Prayers adapted from: The National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother, The Grotto – Portland, OR –

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