Over the centuries many pious customs have been developed to enter more deeply into the sorrowful heart of Mary. One such custom was instituted by the Servite Order, a group founded by the “Seven Holy Founders” in 1233. From the very beginning they were devoted to Our Lady of Sorrows and passed on that tradition to subsequent generations of priests and religious.
The Servites eventually made their way to the United States and founded a parish in Chicago in 1874. Several decades later in 1937 Archbishop Mundelein approved a “Perpetual Novena in honor of Our Sorrowful Mother.” According to a pamphlet describing its history, “The first Novena services were held on Friday, January 8, 1937. They consisted of the Via Matris (stations of the Seven Sorrows of Mary), six prayers culled from the ancient Servite Manual, two hymns to Our Blessed Mother, the Memorare, and Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament.”
Furthermore, “One year after His Eminence granted the Imprimatur, 73,000 people were making the Novena at 38 services each Friday in Our Lady of Sorrows Church. This phenomenal weekly attendance at one church constituted a world record.” It is believed that during the novena’s peak it spread to over 2,300 parishes.