Devotion to the Mother of Sorrows is as old as the Cross. From the throne of the Cross, the Savior focused the world's attention on his Mother: "Behold your Mother," Jesus said. The Via Crucis and the Via Matris are closely associated. Christ prophesied: "And, if I be lifted up will draw all unto myself." His Mother, standing at the foot of the Cross, also draws all unto herself. No argument as to which "way" is greater or more fruitful. Both center on the same Subject, but one as seen through the eyes of his Mother. God-inspired Simeon in the temple prophesied about the child Jesus and laid the direct biblical foundation for the Via Matris, encouraging Christians to contemplate Mary in her sorrows. "And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his Mother, 'Behold, this child is destined for the fall and for the rise of many in Israel, and for a sign that shall be contradicted. And your own soul a sword shall pierce, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.'" The reason Simeon gave was not founded on the fact that Mary was Immaculate or the Mother of Jesus, not that she was to be Queen of heaven and earth, but specifically as a tender object of meditation for all future ages "that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."
The Via Matris, depicting the seven main sorrows of Mary, is set up in churches and chapels that Christians may meditate, be inspired, and be encouraged while dwelling on Mary's sword-pierced heart.
Like the Via Crucis, the history and origin of the Via Matris lie buried in the obscurity of the Middle Ages. The Franciscans initiated the Way of the Cross, and the Servants of Mary (Servites), founded like the Franciscans in the 13th century, brought the Way of the Mother in its present form before the public. Although the devotion was practiced for centuries in Servite churches, it was not until 1937 when the Sorrowful Mother Novena was established that the devotion became popular in the United States.