Three prayers stand out in the life of the Church as enduring legacies of Christian devotion to the Mother of God. Catholics have constantly turned to Our Lady for help in times of need throughout the centuries with these beloved prayers.
The Memorare (the Latin request to “remember”) is a prayer that has been attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux in the 12th century but almost certainly comes from a later period. It models a longer 15th century Latin prayer, Ad sanctitatis tuae pedes, where it is said that the faithful present their prayers “at the feet of Our Lady’s holiness,” confident in her loving care and attention to everything they ask. There is hardly a more beautiful Catholic prayer.
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine 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.
The Salve Regina (“Hail Holy Queen”) is another very popular Marian prayer that has ancient origins. Some scholar believe that it was written by a French bishop named Adhémar, who, before going on the First Crusade (1096-1099), wrote it as a hymn to accompany the Christian soldiers into war. The prayer’s most famous phrase, “in this vale (valley) of tears” recognizes that life is a constant battle and that we need a loving advocate who has royal power (a Queen) to plead our cause. The Salve Regina is traditionally prayed at the end of the Rosary and after Night Prayer as an act of entrustment of our lives and needs to Mary before we sleep.
Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee to we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn, then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
V.Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
The Fatima Prayer is the most recent of these three Marian prayers, given to us by the Virgin Mary herself when she appeared to the three shepherd children at Fatima in 1917, warning them of the terrible events to come in the course of the 20th Century. On July 13th of that year, Our Lady showed the children a horrific vision of Hell after which she asked them to recite this short but powerful prayer for salvation and forgiveness of sin at the end of each decade of the Rosary. For this reason the Fatima Prayer (also known as the Decade Prayer) may be one of the most familiar Marian prayers. It was approved by the Bishop of Fatima for public recitation in 1930.
O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who are in most need of Thy mercy.
There is hardly a deeper sentiment in the heart of a Catholic than love and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was defined by the earliest Church council (Nicea, 325 AD) as the “mother of God”, a privilege given to no other woman on earth. The Church’s history of prayer and devotion to Mary conforms perfectly to Our Lady’s own prediction that “all generations” would call her blessed (Lk 1:48).
Catholics are sometimes accused of worshiping Mary, but nothing could be further from the truth – we worship God alone.