Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

 Most Catholics have learned and recited this prayer from their earliest days. It is a beautiful prayer that affirms the nature of our relationship with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church. It saddens me greatly when I visit with young school children – and even some adults –and they don’t know that prayer or, worse, don’t seem to understand “why” Catholics say it. 

 St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) was a French Cistercian monk, theologian, preacher and reformer in the early Middle Ages who was well known – among many things – for his great devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He authored the Marian prayer so familiar to us known as The Memorare and numerous other homilies, hymns, and treatises about her. In De Maria, he famously wrote, “numquam satis” ... “about Mary, never enough (can be said).” 

Love for Mary, the Blessed Mother of the Lord Jesus Christ, is as natural to the Catholic as love for one’s own mother. Mary is, after all, the mother of the Lord and he is, at once, our Savior and our brother. “We never give more honor to Jesus than when we give honor to his mother, and we honor her simply and solely to honor him all the more perfectly. We go to her only as a way leading to the goal we seek, Jesus her Son” (St. Louis Marie de Montfort). We worship him as God. We love her as his mother.

“In danger, in anguish, in uncertainty,” St. Bernard reflected, “think of Mary, call on Mary. May she never be far from your lips, from your heart; and thus, you will be able to obtain the help of her prayer, and never forget the example of her life. If you follow her, you cannot go astray; if you pray to her, you cannot despair; if you think of her, you cannot be mistaken. If she sustains you, you cannot fall; if she protects you, you have nothing to fear; if she guides you, do not tire; if she is propitious to you, you will reach the goal…” (Hom. II super “Missus est,” 17: PL 183, 70-71).

In our more recent times, Pope St. Paul VI encouraged our Marian devotion, writing: “Mary remains ever the path that leads to Christ. Every encounter with her can only result in an encounter with Christ himself.” This is so natural an experience because it is so true.  

Christianity has loved Mary since the Lord Jesus’ final moments on the Cross when he said to John the beloved disciple, “Behold your mother.”

“From that hour onward, the disciple took her into his care” (John 19: 27).  And so he did. And so have we. Mary was God’s most precious, most perfect gift to Jesus, and Jesus’ most precious, most perfect gift to the Church. 

The entire month of May has been set aside by the Church for loving devotion to Mary, the Mother of God for centuries. 

The darkness of winter has passed, beautiful flowers are in bloom, the Easter Season is well underway and new life is all around us. What better time could there be for loving and honoring the one who was given to us because she has given us her Son – the Light of the World, the Source of all Beauty and Goodness and Truth, the Newness and Fullness of Life. Mary is the Mother of God and, as the Second Vatican Council proclaimed, she is the “Mother of the Church.”  

A mother’s love is unconditional and total.  It is only natural, then, that we return such love with true devotion. 

“If you put all the love of all mothers into one heart, it still would not equal the love of the heart of Mary for her children” (St. Louis Marie Montfort).  

And so, we call upon her from the deepest parts of our being in all the moments of our lives, “Mary, Mother of Jesus, please be a mother to me now” (St. Teresa of Calcutta).  And, “If you are in danger, if your hearts are confused, turn to Mary. She is our comfort, our help. Turn towards her and you will be saved” (St. Frances Xavier Cabrini).

The Hail Mary, the Rosary, devotion to the Miraculous Medal, the Hail Holy Queen and Marian antiphons, the Magnificat, the Regina Caeli and Angelus prayers, the brown and green scapulars – these are just some of the prayers to Our Blessed Mother, drawn from the rich treasury of the Catholic Church’s long tradition, seeking her intercession and her help.  

And, of course, we cannot forget St. Bernard of Clairvaux’s prayer, “The Memorare:”

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy 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.