Welcome to the fourth post of my series on Catholic piety for Protestants and converts; in this series, we’re delving into some of the classic prayers of the Church. Catholic piety is not typically well understood in Protestant circles, and as a convert I found this to be an area that was both fascinating and also deeply important to my changing perceptions of the Church. Thank you to Therese for suggesting the Memorare!
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
That never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection,
Implored your help, or sought your intercession,
Was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence,
I fly unto you, O Virgin of Virgins, my Mother.
To you do I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate,
Despise not my petitions,
But in your mercy, hear and answer me.
Guys, I have to be frank.
This beautiful prayer is scary to Protestants – at least, it was to me. My first reaction to reading this one, back when I was early in our probings into the Church, was one of revulsion. It wasn’t quite as alarming as the Hail Holy Queen, but I really did have to think this one through.
Protestants have no context for this prayer other than the common belief that Catholics worship Mary; without Sacred Tradition, they often have no real connection to Mary at all. She is an important Bible character, nothing more. With a Reformation background, a Protestant reaction to the Memorare will likely go something like this:
“No one has any business flying to Mary for protection. That’s idolatry, plain and simple. We do not seek the intercession of Mary or any other saint. After all, “there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (I Timothy 2:5 KJV).”
I Timothy 2:5 is a well-beaten path of Protestant argument, not only about Mary and the intercession of the saints, but also about priests serving as an intermediary in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Here’s one reason, briefly, why it doesn’t disprove Catholic teaching:
- It’s important to note first that “intercessor” and “mediator” are synonyms both in standard English, and also provably so in the Bible. (Hebrews 7:24-25 refers to Jesus as “intercessor,” and is clearly describing His mediatory role.)
- In I Timothy 2:2, just 3 verses before the verse in question, Paul asks for “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men.” It would be confusing at best if Paul asked for intercessions and prayers to be made, but then in the next breath declared that only Jesus had the power to do so!
- We can see, in a nutshell, then, that the Bible does allow for subordinate forms of mediation. Tim Staples puts it this way:
“Is Christ our one, true mediator? Absolutely! And it is this same Christ who has chosen to use his Body to mediate God’s grace to the world in and through him.”
The “One Mediator” issue can be large and complex; if you want more meat, check the Further Resources, below.
The Emergency Novena – my spiritual kettlebell
I like to work out with a kettlebell. (Well, more accurately, I like having already worked out with a kettlebell!) I’m a busy person, and I need exercise because I’m not young and pregnant anymore but I still like to eat. Kettlebell is a killer effective exercise – 10 minutes is great. 5, even, is not pointless. 20? I can go to the buffet and it’s all good.
Have you heard of the Emergency Novena? I was very touched by this story about it from Catholic Foodie when I first read it last year. The emergency novena, or “flying novena,” consists of 9 Memorares in petition, and then one more as a thanksgiving. St. Teresa of Calcutta would use this prayer if she was in need and didn’t have 9 days for a traditional novena.
While I wouldn’t recommend this as your only prayer method (just like 5 minutes of kettlebell shouldn’t be the only time you get off the couch!), it is a wonderful devotion for those inevitable days when something longer won’t happen, but you really need some heavy lifting in the prayer department.
Like so many other things on my road home, what at first seemed dark and scary was changed as I saw things from a new point of view. This prayer, troubling at first, has become a close companion on this strange road I’ve found myself on.
One Mediator Between God and Men – Catholic Answers
Mary a Mediatrix? – Steve Ray
A Critique of the “One Mediator” Argument – Reasonable Catholic
Making Peace with the Mediatrix – Catholic Answers
20 Answers – Mary – Catholic Answers
And, a lovely musical version by an artist I’m just discovering: