A Religious Order Dedicated to the Sorrowful Mother
From the fact that Mary wished to have a religious Order in the Church which would have the veneration of her sorrows as its special object, we may infer how much Mary herself desires us to venerate her dolors. Devotion to the sorrows of Mary has been practiced in the Church at all times. This is proved by numerous passages from the writings of the holy fathers, by prayers, pictorial representations and touching hymns. But God desired that devotion to the sorrows of the Mother of His Son should remain an abiding practice among all the faithful. To accomplish His design, He called into existence an Order whose special object should be to practice and foster devotion to the sorrows of Mary.
The Mother of Sorrows entrusted the establishment of this Order to seven pious noblemen of Florence. In 1223, on Good.Friday, as these men were meditating together on the Passion of Our Lord and the sufferings of His Blessed Mother, Mary appeared to them in heavenly beauty, accompanied by hosts of Angels. Some of the Angels carried the instruments of Our Lord's Passion; others carried black garments in their hands. One of the Angels held a book, the rule of St. Augustine; another held in his right hand a scroll bearing the title of the new Order, "Servants of Mary," in letters of gold, and in his left hand, a palm. The Blessed Virgin invested her servants with the black garment ---- it was the black scapular.
While these Saintly men were enraptured at what they beheld, they heard these words from the lips of the Blessed Virgin: "I have come, my elect servants, to comfort you in reply to your earnest petitions. Behold this garment; wear it in future. The black color should continually remind you of the sorrows which I experienced on this day at the death of my Son. The palm which you behold announces to you the glory that awaits you in Heaven if you serve me faithfully on earth."
The holy founders did as Mary bade them. Their spiritual sons have likewise propagated the devotion to the sorrows of Mary with great zeal. Even persons who are not members of the Order may participate in the merits and good works of its members by being invested with the black scapular of the Order. This scapular is usually included in the so-called fivefold scapular. Many graces and benefits may be gained by devoutly wearing this scapular, but those who wear it must also venerate the sorrows of Mary.
Eternal Father, we offer Thee the Blood, the Passion, and the Death of Jesus Christ, the sorrows of Mary most holy, and of St. Joseph, in satisfaction for our sins, in aid of the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for the needs of holy Mother Church, and for the conversion of sinners. Virgin most sorrowful, pray for us!