I call it the Big Liturgical Kahuna, but the next few days are more rightly called the Easter Triduum. Lent is wrapping up. Fasting, as usual, was a disaster (not a pound lighter), but prayer-blogging has been a blast. I hope you have enjoyed sharing some wildly over-the-top spirituality from our Catholic tradition (and a few others), and that non-Catholic visitors might have glimpsed some of the mad poetry that is our heritage. For Holy Thursday and Good Friday, I have saved the best for last, so check back!
Before all eyes turn to the Cross and Resurrection, I must share my go-to prayer to Mary. I'm not much of a Rosary girl (although I dug mine out on 9/11). But the "Memorare" is the prayer I say in the elevator on the way to the doctor to find out what kind of lump it was.
My relationship with Mary has "evolved," as we say these days instead of admitting we were wrong. Growing up in the 1970s, I found her rather irrelevant: What kind of role model was both Virgin and Mother? One to make all us gals fall short, it seemed. Much later, pregnant and searching to allay my fears, I stumbled on New Agey advice that described how Native American women would connect to a female spirit ancestor. Wait, I've got one of those. The experience of childbirth erased the sappy image of a thousand holy cards and replaced it with a gutsy human whose body did the hard work of bringing a precious Life into this world. And motherhood shocked me with its intimacy and fierce protectiveness; if a broken heart could link Heaven and Earth, hers must have been the one.
The Memorare offers a rare thing: the consolation of a guarantee, "no prayer left unanswered." Intercessory prayer to Mary is one of the things that Protestants historically hold against us Catholics, but we cannot help ourselves; we find the concept of a Heavenly Mother irresistible, as apparently did God Himself. In Turin, when I went to see the Shroud in 2010, I visited the Basilica of the Consolata, Our Lady of Consolation. The icon shown above reigns over this shimmering high-Baroque confection of a church, and she's lovely. But what won my heart was a side-aisle festooned with hundreds of home-made ex-voto pictures attesting to La Consolata's miraculous intervention.
The paintings and drawings evoke a homey panorama of human suffering. The perils of war—exploding shells, prison camps—are well-represented. But so are the torments of watching a child languish on a sickbed.
Grateful amateur artists also depict a catalog of random catastrophes across the decades, and in each La Consolata floats overhead, guiding the victim to safety. Or perhaps, for some, she waved them securely into the Pearly Gates.
Yes, those stern Protestant Reformers were probably right that we need only pray directly to God. But we Irish and Italians know there are times when you just need to talk to your mother.
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, we fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins and Mother; to thee do we come; before thee do we stand, sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not our petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer us. Amen.