‘Never Was It Known …’

In time for the Nov. 21 feast of the Presentation of Mary, a look at the might of the Memorare.

When Benedictine College needed to raise funds for a Marian grotto on its Atchison, Kan., campus, the college’s president, Stephen Minnis, turned to his “Memorare Army.”

He recruited members for this after considering the story of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta when her newly formed Missionaries of Charity needed money to build their motherhouse. She promised to pray 85,000 Memorares for the Virgin Mary’s help. Needless to say, she got her motherhouse.

“I can recognize a great idea when I see one,” Minnis told the Register. He asked students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the college to join the Memorare Army for the cause of Mary’s Grotto. More than 100 people enlisted.

“Before I asked for the money, we had completed pretty close to 100,000 Memorares,” Minnis recalls. This past Sept. 8 — the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary — hundreds attended the official dedication of the finished grotto.

For those who haven’t worked the Memorare into their daily prayers, the next Marian feast — the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, celebrated Nov. 21 — would be an ideal time to start. (For the words of the prayer, see “The Memorare” on page B2.)

Blessed Teresa stands as one of the prayer’s greatest champions. “The Memorare is a prayer that effectively expressed Mother Teresa’s trust in the power of Mary’s intercession as the mediatrix of all graces,” explains Father Brian Kolodiejchuk of the Missionaries of Charity, the postulator of the cause for Blessed Teresa’s canonization. “It flowed from the love and confidence she had in Mary and was a simple way to present her petitions to her. The speedy response she received inspired her with ever greater confidence to have recourse to Mary with the words of the Memorare.”

All Ages

The centuries-old Memorare — its name comes from the prayer’s opening word, which is Latin for “remember” — counts St. Francis de Sales among its most ardent devotees.

As a student experiencing spiritual torments in the 1580s, his problem suddenly disappeared as he knelt in church before a statue of the Blessed Mother imploring her help through the Memorare. After that, he recited the prayer daily. (He would go on to author one of the Church’s most widely studied and beloved devotional books, Introduction to the Devout Life.)

Joe and Megan Wurtz share his zeal for the Memorare. They lived in Virginia when they first learned of Benedictine College’s Memorare Army and joined. Eventually, they moved to Kansas. Joe is now the school’s dean of students.

The decision to relocate came naturally. Devoted to Our Lady, the couple began praying the Memorare together daily while dating. As a married couple, “We have adopted the Memorare as our bedtime prayer,” Joe explains. “The last thing we say to each other before sleep is this prayer.”

The Wurtzes are teaching the Memorare, along with the Rosary, to their young children. And why not? The Memorare is agreeable to Catholics of all ages. Benedictine students kneel for the Memorare after Masses. Among them is sophomore Rachel G’sell, who also prays it nightly at the grotto for a friend stricken with cystic fibrosis, which is presently incurable. She is especially moved by the plea “despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.”

After two weeks praying this prayer, G’sell spotted a news article about doctors who discovered part of the pathology causing cystic fibrosis. She discussed it with her chemistry teacher, who told her that with the new discovery, a cure could be found in a few years.

“I just ran to the grotto thanking Mary like crazy,” says G’sell. “We’re one step closer to a small miracle.”

Mother Teresa’s Trust

The Memorare Army continues as it successfully campaigns for increasing enrollment, explains Minnis, who credits the Memorare with yet another blessed outcome on that dedication day as rain threatened the outdoor event. Archbishop Joseph Naumann, who was to preside, called to report that it was raining in Kansas City.

Minnis recalls his words: “I know you have devotion to the Memorare, and the campus does. I suggest you pray the Memorare.” That prompted two straight hours of Memorares. Earlier, Minnis specifically requested the rain to hold through 9 p.m. For Mass at 5 p.m., the sun came out. In the evening, everyone strolled for a look at the grotto at night. As they returned inside, it began to rain. Minnis checked his watch. It was exactly 9 p.m.

In one plea for good weather, Mother Teresa had her sisters pray what she called a “flying novena.”

“It consisted of nine Memorares, which she would pray as the need arose or a difficulty presented itself,” Father Kolodiejchuk says. “She definitely inspired the same devotion in her sisters, but also in others.”

He quotes Mother Teresa herself describing one of many instances: “In Rome during the Holy Year (1984), the Holy Father was going to celebrate Mass in the open, and crowds of people were gathered. It was pouring rain, so I told the sisters, ‘Let us say a flying novena of nine Memorares to Our Lady in thanksgiving for beautiful weather.’ As we said two Memorares, it started to pour more rain. We said the third … sixth … seventh … and at the eighth one, all the umbrellas were closing, and when we finished the ninth one, we found all the umbrellas were closed.”

Mother Teresa’s point: When you pray the Memorare, you can trust fully in Mary’s intercession — no matter the circumstances.

Father Kolodiejchuk notes that Blessed Teresa also taught: “Get into that habit of calling on her (Mary). She interceded — at the wedding feast, there was no wine. … She was so sure that he will do what she asks him. … She is mediatrix of all graces. … She is always there with us.”

 Remember, O most gracious

Virgin Mary …

Staff writer Joseph Pronechen is based in Trumbull, Connecticut.

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.

Named for the Latin word for “remember,” the Memorare is often mistakenly attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux. It was popularized by Father Claude Bernard in the 17th century.

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