My dear people of St. Mary’s:
On this Sunday as we honor all of our mothers, living and deceased, we especially think of Our Blessed Mother. The Church has traditionally dedicated the entire month of May to her honor. We begin the month with the Feast of her spouse, St. Joseph the Worker, on May 1st. In the middle of the month we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, on May 13th. And we close the month with the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary on May 31st.
The Solemnity of Pentecost, the feast we celebrate next Sunday, recalls the 50th day following the Resurrection, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Blessed Mother, the Apostles, and other disciples gather together in the upper room in prayer. From Ascension Thursday they had been told to pray and await the coming of the Holy Spirit. They spent nine days in prayer. This is where we get the Catholic tradition of praying a “Novena”, spending nine days in prayer for a specific intention. On this Mother’s Day, near the Feast of Pentecost, I would like to share with you a special novena, recommended by a famous mother to all the world: St. Teresa of Calcutta.
Mother Teresa and her sisters, the Missionaries of Charity, often prayed novenas for various intentions. But what about those times when circumstances demand an answer right away, and nine days is simply too long to wait? Well, St. Teresa had a remedy for that. She would pray what she called a “Flying Novena” to the Blessed Mother using the prayer called the “Memorare” (Latin for the first word of the prayer, Remember):
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 with this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To thee I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy clemency hear and answer me. Amen.
St. Teresa’s “Flying Novena” consisted of reciting the Memorare ten times in a row. Why not nine, you may ask, if it is a novena? Well, St. Teresa had such trust in the Blessed Mother, and was so confident of the prayer being answered, that she always added an extra Memorare “in thanksgiving” for the favor she was sure she would receive. Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, the postulator for the cause of Mother Teresa’s canonization, explained that she 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 [Jesus] will do what she asks him. … She is mediatrix of all graces. … She is always there with us.”
Msgr. Leo Maasburg, her friend and spiritual advisor, explained: “Mother Teresa used this prayer constantly: for petitions for the cure of a sick child, before important discussions or when passports went missing, to request heavenly aid when the fuel supply was running short on a night-time mission and the destination was still far away in the darkness. The [Flying] Novena had one thing in common with nine-day and even nine-month novenas: confident pleading for heavenly assistance, as the apostles did for nine days in the upper room ‘with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the women’ (Acts 1:14) while waiting for the promised help from the Holy Spirit.”
The Missionaries of Charity Sisters state that they still use the Flying Novena for all types of spiritual needs from the simplest things such as getting out of traffic when they are late or finding something lost, to serious life and death things for the poor people they serve.
Father Kolodiejchuk explained: “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. 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.”
And so, on this Mothers’ Day, when we honor all of our mothers, I recommend to you from St. Teresa of Calcutta, one of the great mothers of history, to have recourse to this special prayer, the “Flying Novena”. She knew and believed in its power, because it is directed to Our Lady as a mother. And our Heavenly Mother is always attentive to the needs of her children.