Do you sometimes have a hard time praying vocal prayers with your heart? It's a battle for everyone, but that doesn't mean that victory isn't possible. In fact, St. Teresa of Avila tells us that "Success is absolutely certain," if we play our part. Even though it's not easy, we have to try to concentrate and calm our heart in order to look at God and see how He is always looking at us. Otherwise, it's not really prayer. St. Teresa of Avila put it plain and simply: "If a person does not think Whom he is talking to, and what he is asking for…I do not consider that he is praying at all even though he be constantly moving his lips." (Interior Castle)
One beautiful prayer that has helped many people is the Memorare by St. Bernard of Clairvaux. One such person is Mother Teresa of Calcutta, famous for her heartfelt love for the poorest of the poor. However, her great love for Mary, the Mother of God and Our Mother, is not as well known, though not less fundamental in Mother Teresa's life. Whenever she needed help, she would pray nine Memorares in a row, calling it her "Express Novena". She would then pray a 10th Memorare right away, in thanksgiving, trusting that her prayer had been heard.
The prayer goes:
"Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection,
implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee,
O Virgin of virgins, my mother;
to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions,
but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen."
Here are some reflections on the prayer that might help you in really thinking about what you're saying when you recite the Memorare.
Remember: Mary, my Mother, what if everyone forgets about me? What if it doesn't matter to anyone that something happens to me? What if I need help and I don't have anyone to lend me a hand? When I fall, who's going to catch me? I need to know that there’s someone there who will always remember me, always look after me. Mary never forgets about us.
O most gracious Virgin Mary: What does gracious mean exactly? "Pleasing; acceptable; marked by kindness and courtesy; graceful; marked by tact and delicacy; characterized by charm, good taste, generosity of spirit, and good breeding; merciful; compassionate". Sounds good to me. I'd like someone like that to help me out in life.
Never was it known: Never, ever has anyone been able to say that Mary didn't come to their help. You can say to her, "And how are you going to let me be the first?" Our Lady, like a real mother (because she is our mother, in a spiritual but real sense), "knows us, loves us, and exerts herself to help us." (St. Edith Stein)
Anyone who fled to thy protection: We can apply the words of St. Paul to Our Lady, with her for us, "Who can be against us?" (Rm 8:31) How can God say no to His own mom? As Jesus said, we should only fear those who can kill us eternally. Yet, "Men do not fear a powerful hostile army as the powers of hell fear the name and protection of Mary." (St. Bonaventure)
Implored your help: We need to learn to be like beggars before God. The idea might sound strange, but that's because we're not used to recognizing how we receive everything from Him. Even though we have faith, we act and think as if God didn't exist. "We need to cultivate the attitude of a beggar, who puts all his trust in God's mercy." (God Alone Suffices, S.C. Biela) There's no better way to have an experience of God's mercy in your life than through Our Lady. The Catholic Church believes: We can say that, by the will of God, Mary is the go-between through whom we are given the immense treasure of mercies gathered by God… Just as no one can go to the Father but by the Son, almost in the same way, no one can go to Christ but by His Mother. In God's plan, we can see how good and merciful God is! (c.f. Leo XIII, Enc. Octobri mense, IX-22-1891, n.4)
Sought your intercession: Why do we need Mary's help? Why can't we just go straight to Jesus? Because God wants us to be humble and to recognize that we can't reach Him without other people's help. "Mary having co-operated in our redemption with so much glory to God and so much love for us, Our Lord ordained that no one shall obtain salvation except through her intercession." (St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori) Jesus is "The Way". How did He come to us? Through Our Lady.
Left unaided: The Word of God tells us: "'The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.' Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even could she forget, I will never forget you. See, upon the palms of my hands I have engraved you." No matter what, there is always someone to turn to: "Let us run to Mary, and, as her little children, cast ourselves into her arms with a perfect confidence." (Saint Francis de Sales)
Inspired by this confidence: We never fight for something that doesn't seem possible. People say, "I didn't even really want to go there," when they know that getting there is impossible. When your confidence in God knows no bounds, His help will be limitless. Jacques Philippe insists in his book The Way of Trust and Love that God truly has the heart of a Father, a heart that can't resist when He sees that we put all our trust in Him, like a child. And if that's true of a father, what can we say of the heart of a mother? Let your life be inspired by this confidence.
Our Mother: A child doesn't even realize what it needs and its mother is already taking care of it. St. John Vianney, who had many experiences of Our Lady's love, said: "Only after the Last Judgment will Mary get any rest; from now until then, she is much too busy with her children." She wants to take care of us; we just have to let her. We have to learn to be like a child in its mother's arms, just like Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta: "If you ever feel distressed during your day ~ call upon our Lady ~ just say this simple prayer: 'Mary, Mother of Jesus, please be a mother to me now.' I must admit — this prayer has never failed me."
I fly to you: It’s like they say in ads, "Don’t walk, run." If you really want something, you go for it. When I was lazy about looking for something when I was little, my dad would say, "Act as if you really wanted to find it." Run to her, and your life will never be the same. It's not just my opinion, one pope even said, "To desire grace without turning to the Virgin Mother is to desire to fly without wings."
To you do we come: There is no one better to turn to than Our Mother Mary.
Before you we stand: Sometimes it helps to actually place yourself before an image, painting, or statue of Our Lady. Catholics don’t believe that the actual image is Our Lady, but that having something visual in front of us helps us to concentrate on who we're talking to in prayer. God knows that (obviously, since He made us that way) and that is why He became man, the invisible has become visible. Lucia, one of the child visionaries in Fatima, Portugal, asked Mary for her help in front of an image of Our Lady of the Rosary: "I asked Her with all my soul, to keep my poor heart for God alone. As I repeated this simple prayer over and over again, with my eyes fixed on the statue, it seemed to me that she smiled and, with a loving look and a kindly gesture, assured me that she would. My heart was overflowing with joy, and I could scarcely utter a word ... That night ... I was so happy that I could not sleep, and it seemed the hours would never pass!"
Sinful and sorrowful: In the book Three Religious Rebels by Fr. M. Raymond, he talks about how God breaks our hearts of stone in order to give us new hearts. In a conversation deciding the future of a young man who would someday become St. Bernard of Clairvaux, his superiors decide to send him to a different community, even though it could break the young man’s heart. One of the superiors said "I thought of how this move could break his heart, but the truth is he has to learn to have his heart broken. A broken heart is what God uses in order to teach us from our mistakes. He then gives us a heart more like His. This is the secret He used with the seven swords that pierced the Immaculate Heart of Mary."
Mother of the Word Incarnate: Mary, my mother, I don't realize how wonderful you are. I believe, but I have such little faith that I don't ever think about how amazing, privileged, and pivotal your role is in God's plan for us, in the Church, and in our personal lives. The Second Vatican Council confirms that Mary, "occupies a place in the Church which is the highest after Christ and yet very close to us." St. Bonaventure put it plainly: "God could have made a more perfect world, but He could not have made a more perfect mother."
Hear and answer us: It's good to remember that the arms of Our Lady are, in the end, God’s very arms, because she only and always wants what God wants for us (God Alone Suffices, S.C. Biela). Since Our Lady is so united to God, we can apply to Our Lady what Psalm 37 says: "Trust in God and do what is good…live in peace. Make God your only joy and He will give you what your heart desires. Commit your fate to God, trust in Him and He will act… be quiet before God, and wait patiently for Him, not worrying… Enough anger… Do not worry, nothing but evil can come of it." We should try to keep in mind Saint Maximilian Kolbe's words: "Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did."