When we are invited into the Miraculous Medal Association, we begin a unique relationship with Mary. Not only do we wear her medal, but Mary listens attentively to us who wear it. She listens because we explicitly chose to pray and talk to her. Let us try to understand a little more why Mary listens to us and how we pray to her.
If we look at the four dogmas of Mary, one of them stands out as helping us pray to Mary. The dogmas of Mary are The Immaculate Conception, the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, the Mother of God and the Assumption. They tell us how God gifted and created the human person Mary. Though she showed herself to St. Catherine Laboure as the Immaculate Conception, it is her title the “Mother of God” that helps us talk and pray to her. It tells us she was a woman and gave birth. A woman giving birth is very human. It is a fulfilment of God’s purpose in creating humans.
The whole idea of praying and talking to Mary did not start with St. Catherine Laboure and the Miraculous Medal Association. It started very early in the Church. Those who heard the apostles preach also heard stories about Mary from the apostles. Second and third generation witnesses repeated the stories that they heard. They knew that the one who gave birth to Jesus was Mary and that she was human.
Early in the early 3rd century, the Christians drew pictures of Mary in the catacombs. The pictures show Mary nursing baby Jesus. This human activity is known by every mother and father. But why did they paint this type of picture? Normally, this is not the first thought we have of a friend’s mother. They could have drawn pictures of Mary at Bethlehem, or of the angel Gabriel and Mary; or even a picture of the Gospel account of Mary at the Wedding Feast of Cana.
But No, it was a picture of Mary nursing Jesus. This is a very Human Mary. They related to Mary as who she was – the Mother of God, but they also related to her as God’s fulfilment of creating ALL humans. It was a picture of the most intimate RELATIONSHIP of any human mother to HER son.
At the same time as these pictures, the early Christians of Egypt had already started to establish a relationship with Mary through prayer. They had a real sense of who Mary was too. They also related to her under the title of the Mother of God and they recognized that she was a human mother. In the early 3rd century, Christians in Egypt had a formalized prayer:
“We fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God: despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us from all evil, O glorious and blessed Virgin”
The prayer uses words like “fly to thy patronage, mother, listen to us, and help us.” It was like talking to a person of power and significance. They acknowledged who she was the “Mother of God” and yet told her, like their human mother, what was going on and what they needed. They sensed that Mary was the privileged channel through which the grace of Christ flows into the world. They knew that she was free and able to help them.
This early prayer is the heart of our prayer and of our relationship, to Mary today. We call this prayer the Memorare. Catholics pray this ancient prayer in every country of the world. Let us pray this now:
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.
Out of all the important words in this prayer, let me point out the one phrase that we have been talking about and that helps us relate to Mary. “O Mother of the Word Incarnate…” This speaks about Mary as the Mother of God. And we remember when Mary became the Mother of God at the Annunciation, with the words of the angel Gabriel and Mary. The words of the Annunciation celebrate the immense greatness and privilege, conferred on Mary by the One who wanted to be her Son. Yes, Jesus wanted Mary as his mother. And yet the words remind us of the humble, amiable and simple Mary.
We rarely think that God wanted Mary to be his mother. Who would want this plain Jewish girl from Nazareth, a nothing town, to do anything? Perhaps God should have chosen the wife of a high priest or a queen or a princess. But God’s choices and ways are not our choices and ways. God’s choices and ways confound the wise. God wanted Mary because she was totally human. As totally human, Mary filled the deepest desire of all of humanity – to love God. Mary learned that all the praise of others and all the treasures and trinkets of the world would never make her happy. God made her happy and was always with her as who she was, a human person.
Let me say this again in different words. Mary is the one that God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit wanted to be their mother on earth because God wanted a fully human mother. Because God wants her, we can say that Mary is God’s desire.
But as a fully human person, God respects Mary as a free and responsible person. Because he wants and desires her does not mean that he ignores her freedom. To ignore Mary’s freedom would make Mary a machine. It would de-humanize Mary. She would no longer be human. God brings about the Incarnation of his Son after he has obtained Mary’s consent. Or again, God does not go forward with salvation and redemption, his birth on earth, his taking on fully our nature, until Mary says yes, “Let it be done unto me.” God brings about salvation and redemption in the Freedom of Humanity. From the absolute first moment of conception, God comes into the world surrounded by the gift of Human Freedom. Mary’s free choice was critical to redemption. Mary is never forced to say yes or forced to do what God wants. She is always free and always responsible for her freedom and commitments. With that yes, Mary becomes filled with God and acts solely with God’s life. She is the Daughter of God the Father, the Mother of God the Son and the wife of God the Holy Spirit.
As a member of the Miraculous Medal Association, we become like Mary. And in the same way, God respects our freedom. Until we say Yes to God and let Your will be done in me, God cannot act in us or through us. When we refuse to talk to our neighbour or to help them, God cannot enter them through us. We can stop God from showing others how much he loves them. What a great responsibility we have! We are called to bring Jesus Christ and his love to all that we meet, just as Mary did. The call is no less important for a world so in need of redemption. If we realize this, our prayer to Mary would be much more earnest and meaningful.
As members of the Association, We want to be like Mary. To become free like Mary we must choose to pray to Mary to help us, to transform us. We need to make a free decision to pray to Mary and then do it. It must be a free decision and not a decision made because it is required or because everyone else is doing it. As we talk to Mary, she connects us without us knowing it, to God. Mary shows us her Son because Jesus is so like us – both divine AND HUMAN. And Mary shows us Jesus because Jesus is so like his mother. He is her flesh and blood. As a son, there are probably some physical resemblances. We definitely know that Mary acts like Jesus and that Jesus acts like Mary. As a child, Mary taught him to act that way!
Mary reveals to us what Jesus Christ can be in humans. Mary as a woman, witnesses to the feminine side of God. Mary shows us God’s joys and sorrows as the God of Compassion, or the God of Joy in the Magnificat. Mary shows us a tender love of God, who picks up and holds her child, as every human mother. Her loving arms never stop holding Jesus Christ, even holding her dead Son after his crucifixion.
The Miraculous Medal Association is a unique place for us to freely nurture a strong relationship with Mary. By our medal, we show that we have freely chosen a relationship with Mary. We freely love her, pray and talk to her, and are committed to her. Wearing her medal also shows others that we do what Mary did and what she continues to do today through us – bring Jesus Christ into the world. We, like Mary, give birth to the love of Jesus Christ for all of his brothers and sisters. We, like Mary, choose to let God Work through us and go into the hearts of the lonely, the desperate, the crying and the dying.
The Miraculous Medal Association gives us a special relationship with Mary. Our relationship with Mary is one in freedom and one that holds Christ in our arms. We hold, with Mary, the saviour of the world in our hearts. We live the love and compassion of Mary on earth. As the living the compassion of God, Mary always wants to listen to us. She always wants to hear what we say and what we want. She always wants to be with us. Mary too has a great devotion – to the members of the Miraculous Medal Association.
The Association asks us to increase our relationship with Mary and through her, Jesus. Daily, we too pray the Memorare, the Novena prayer and the Consecration to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. Talk to Mary all the time, and you will soon realize that you are talking to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Though just like you, Mary is uniquely related in God. Our one prayer goes to both – Mary AND God.
How easy is that!!!
Rev. Carl Pieber CM
International Deputy Director, AMM