By Ben Gerigk,
Saint Brendan Catechist &
Aspirant to the Priesthood
Each week, we summarize a specific style, form, or approach to prayer, using the highly-acclaimed book by Robert J. Wicks, Prayer in the Catholic Tradition: A Handbook of Practical Approaches (Franciscan Media 2006). In this article, you’ll learn more about Marian prayer.
Since early Christian times, Mary has been considered a model of prayer. By entering into the mind and heart of the Mother of God and praying as she prays, we also can be grounded in a disposition of true and faith-filled prayer. When we take on the interior disposition of Mary and her life of prayer, we can more easily let go of our fears and anxieties and begin to cultivate an attitude of attunement toward the Spirit.
In particular, Mary is an extraordinary model of contemplative prayer because, as scripture says, she listened, pondered, believed, and responded with trust in God’s power and love for her. The Magnificat, for example, is Mary’s contemplative canticle when greeting her cousin, Elizabeth, after learning from the angel Gabriel that both were pregnant. “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,” Mary exclaims in the prayer, “and my spirit rejoices in God my savior” (Luke 1:46-55). In praying Mary’s song, we do not pray alone but join our voices with the countless men and women throughout the ages who have praised God in these words.
Another form of contemplative prayer rooted in the Marian tradition is the rosary. Indeed, Pope Saint John Paul II wrote in his apostolic letter, The Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that “[t]he Rosary is an exquisitely contemplative prayer.” A popular devotion to Mary widely prayed by many Catholics, the rosary enables us to recall the mysteries of the life of Christ through Mary’s own experience. Because she was closer to the Lord than anyone else, the recitation of the rosary helps us to meditate, through Mary’s eyes, on the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, as well as her assumption into heaven and coronation as the Queen of Heaven.
Mary also serves as a model of prayer in her role as mediatrix, intercessor, and protector. Indeed, there are many works of art around the world that depict Mary as a protector. In particular, her cloak or mantle is a powerful symbol of her motherly care. In addition, many prayers request Mary’s intercessions, including the Hail Mary and the Memorare, which enable us to ask for her intercession and protection from danger or harm.
Mary has been remembered and cherished from the earliest days of Christianity. We should ponder on her assent to God’s plan of salvation and call upon her as our spiritual mother and model of prayer, who walks beside us and intercedes for us, as we move towards our final end in transforming union with God for all eternity. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church (“CCC”) states, “When we pray to [Mary], we are adhering with her to the plan of the Father, who sends his Son to save all men” (CCC n. 2679).
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