by Pat Gohn
One of my favorite places to pray is seated on my living room sofa alongside a hand-painted statue of Our Lady of Fatima. I brought it home from a pilgrimage to Fatima, Portugal, more than 20 years ago. I purchased it in thanksgiving for a new lease on life. It is an ongoing reminder of my gratitude for Mary’s mothering as I recovered from breast cancer and her help in reclaiming my joy in life. Not only did I believe Mary was with me throughout my difficulties, but I knew she prayed for me and regularly brought my needs before Jesus. Her intercession is a powerful gift.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches us that Mary is our spiritual mother “in the order of grace” and “by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation” (CCC, 969).The Church has long recommended and esteems Christian devotion to Mary. (If you’ve yet to develop a relationship with your spiritual mother, Mary, the month of May — devoted to Our Lady — is a great time to start!)
When I was much younger, while I had great faith in Jesus, I could not fathom having a relationship with Mary. At the time I was being influenced by some of my non-Catholic friends who discouraged “praying to Mary” when I could pray directly to Jesus. But over time I discovered the true veneration that we all owe Mary. I found proof of this in that many great saints with the deepest devotion to Jesus also shared a strong devotion — even a consecration — to Mary.
St. Maximilian Kolbe is credited with this admonition: “Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.”
St. John Paul II, in Redemptoris Mater (The Mother of the Redeemer), stated: “Before anyone else it was God himself, the Eternal Father, who entrusted himself to the Virgin of Nazareth, giving her his own Son in the mystery of the Incarnation” (39).
Even God the Father trusted Mary!
At the announcement that [Mary] would give birth to “the Son of the Most High” without knowing man, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary responded with the obedience of faith, certain that “with God nothing will be impossible”: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word” [Luke 1:28–38; see Romans 1:5.]. “Thus, giving her consent to God’s word, Mary becomes the mother of Jesus. (CCC, 494)
Mary’s prayers are powerful because they are always in sync with God’s desires. At the Annunciation, Mary’s fiat— her deep faith and her consent to God’s holy will— was the loving response that God the Father longed to hear — since the fall of Adam and Eve — in order to bring his promised Son and salvation to a fallen world.
Mary’s prayer is revealed to us at the dawn-ing of the fullness of time. Before the incarnation of the Son of God, and before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, her prayer cooperates in a unique way with the Father’s plan of loving kindness: at the Annunciation, for Christ’s conception; at Pentecost, for the formation of the Church, his Body [see Luke 1:38; Acts 1:14]. In the faith of his humble handmaid, the Gift of God found the accep-tance he had awaited from the beginning of time. (CCC, 2617)
OUR MAGNIFICENT PRAYING MOTHER
Mary’s most famous prayers captured in Scripture are her fiat and the Magnificat. Of the fiat, the Catechism writes:
She whom the Almighty made “full of grace” responds by offering her whole being: “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word.” “Fiat:” this is Christian prayer: to be wholly God’s, because he is wholly ours. (CCC, 2617)
Mary’s prayers are efficacious because she is intimately acquainted with the life of the Trinity as daughter of the Father, mother to the Son, and spouse of the Holy Spirit.
Beginning with Mary’s unique cooperation with the working of the Holy Spirit, the Churches developed their prayer to the holy Mother of God. … In countless hymns and antiphons expressing this prayer, two movements usually alternate with one another: the first “magnifies” the Lord for the “great things” he did for his lowly servant and through her for all human beings [see Luke 1:46–55]; the second entrusts the supplications and praises of the children of God to the Mother of Jesus, because she now knows the humanity which, in her, the Son of God espoused. This twofold movement of prayer to Mary has found a privileged expression in the Ave Maria [Hail Mary]. (CCC, 2675–2676)
St. Louis de Montfort, another Marian-devoted saint, wisely taught: “The salvation of the whole world began with the Hail Mary. Hence the salvation of each person is also attached to this prayer.”
Mary’s witness throughout the Gospel is one of faith and continual prayer, followed by holy actions on her part or by God’s miraculous work.
At Cana [see John 2:1–12], the mother of Jesus asks her son for the needs of a wedding feast; this is the sign of another feast — that of the wedding of the Lamb where he gives his body and blood at the request of the Church, his Bride. It is at the hour of the New Covenant, at the foot of the cross [see John 19:25–27], that Mary is heard as the Woman, the new Eve, the true “Mother of all the living.” That is why the Canticle of Mary, the Magnificat (Latin) or Megalynei (Byzantine) is the song both of the Mother of God and of the Church; the song of the Daughter of Zion and of the new People of God; the song of thanksgiving for the fullness of graces poured out in the economy of salvation and the song of the “poor” whose hope is met by the fulfillment of the promises made to our ancestors, “to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.” (CCC,2618–2619)
MARY, UNDOER OF KNOTS, AND OTHER TITLES
Devotion to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, has grown in popularity ever since Pope Francis mentioned his own love for Mary under that patronage. That devotion is captured in a now-famous painting, but theologically the Church’s reverence for Mary’s knot-undoing dates back to first-century Christianity.
As St. Irenaeus says … “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedi-ence: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith.” (CCC, 494)
Mary is a true disciple and model of faith for us. St. Augustine makes this boast of her: “Mary is more blessed because she embraces faith in Christ than because she conceives the flesh of Christ” (CCC, 506). We are privileged to call on her name.
In more than 2,000 years of Church history, Mary has gone by many exalted and venerable titles.. Yet I have to admit, my personal favorite is simply, “Momma Mary.” But I wish to encourage you to find a title that endears her to your heart — and then present her with the deepest concerns.
[T]he Church loves to pray in communion with the Virgin Mary, to magnify with her the great things the Lord has done for her, and to entrust supplications and praises to her. (CCC, 2682)
For the mighty God has done great things for Mary … and continues to do so … for all of Mary’s spiritual sons and daughters who live under her maternal mantle.
Prayer to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots
Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love, Mother who never refuses to come to the aid of a child in need, Mother whose hands never cease to serve your beloved children because they are moved by the divine love and immense mercy that exists in your heart, cast your compassionate eyes upon me and see the snarl of knots that exist in my life. You know very well how desperate I am, my pain, and how I am bound by these knots. Mary, Mother to whom God entrusted the undoing of the knots in the lives of his children, I entrust into your hands the ribbon of my life. No one, not even the Evil One himself, can take it away from your precious care. In your hands, there is no knot that cannot be undone. Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory power with your Son and my liberator, Jesus, take into your hands today this knot. (Mention your petition here.) I beg you to undo it for the glory of God, once for all. You are my hope. O my Lady, you are the only consolation God gives me, the fortification of my feeble strength, the enrichment of my destitution, and, with Christ, the freedom from my chains. Hear my plea. Keep me, guide me, protect me, O safe refuge.
Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me. Amen.
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.
Explore the titles of Mary
While there are many titles for Mary within Catholic tradition, you’ll find these interesting titles in the Catechism:
Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, Mediatrix (CCC, 969)
All-Holy or Panagia (CCC, 493)
Assumed into Heaven (CCC, 966)
Ever-Virgin (CCC, 499,501)
Icon of the Church (CCC, 967, 972)
Full of Grace (CCC, 722, 2676)
Handmaid of the Lord (CCC, 510)
Immaculate (CCC, 491–492)
Mother of Christ (CCC, 411)
Mother of the Church (CCC, 963–970)
Mother of God (CCC, 466, 495, 509)
Mother of the Living (CCC, 494, 511)
Seat of Wisdom (CCC, 721)
“She shows the Way” or Hodigitria (CCC, 2674)
The New Eve (CCC, 411)