by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
During October 2003, I was fortunate to be in Rome for the beatification of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The afternoon and evening before the scheduled outdoor celebration of the beatification ceremony, Rome experienced a steady downpour of rain. The weather reports were bleak. The forecasts were for several days of uninterrupted rain.
The Missionaries of Charity, the order of religious Sisters founded by Mother Teresa, seemed to be everywhere in Rome. Hundreds had come from around the world for the beatification of their foundress. In conversation with a group of Missionaries of Charity, I expressed some concern about the forecasts for the next day’s weather.
The Sisters reassured me, despite the predictions of the meteorologists, not to worry. The Missionaries of Charity informed me that, whenever Mother Teresa needed a special favor from Jesus, she invoked the intercession of his mother by asking the Sisters to make a “Memorare novena.” They told me that every Missionary of Charity in Rome was praying the Memorare nine times. They were confident that the next day’s weather would be fine.
The Sisters were right. St. Peter’s Square, contrary to the predictions of the meteorological experts, was basked in bright sunshine for the beatification ceremony of Mother Teresa.
This past Sept. 8, the feast of the birth of Mary, I had the privilege to dedicate a new Marian grotto on the campus of Benedictine College. The college was founded a little over 150 years ago — approximately the same time that Mary appeared to St. Bernadette at Lourdes. In part because of this historical connection, but even more so because of the beautiful Marian devotion of so many of the Benedictine students, the leadership of the college had decided to erect, at a very prominent location on the campus, a special outdoor space for prayer in honor of Mary.
The schedule for Sept. 8 began with a 5 p.m. Mass in St. Benedict’s Abbey church, followed by a procession to the grotto for the blessing and dedication. At 3 p.m. on the afternoon of Sept. 8, it was pouring rain at our chancery offices. All the weather reports predicted rain throughout northeast Kansas for the rest of the afternoon and evening.
Benedictine president Steve Minnis has a beautiful devotion to our Blessed Mother. He was aware of Mother Teresa’s use of the “Memorare novena” for special needs. In recent years, President Minnis formed what he dubbed the “Memorare Army,” asking them to imitate Mother Teresa by invoking Mary’s intercession through the praying of the “Memorare” for special needs of the college.
I called President Minnis shortly after 3 p.m. on Sept. 8, encouraging him to get the “Memorare Army” praying for good weather for the grotto dedication. He promised to rally the troops!
On my drive to Benedictine College that afternoon, the rain persisted right to the city limits of Atchison. As I arrived at the abbey church around 4:30 p.m., there was no rain. Yet, the skies looked ominous. I feared that by 6 p.m., the time for the blessing of the grotto, Atchison would also be enveloped in rain.
When we processed out of the abbey church to go to the grotto, the sun was shining. The weather was perfect for the blessing of the grotto. Much to my amazement, it did not start raining in Atchison until 9 p.m., well after the outdoor festivities were concluded.
President Minnis, some weeks later, told me that one of the college staff happened to be in Kansas City the night of the grotto dedication. Fearing that the rain had dampened the dedication ceremony, he was talking to an air traffic controller about the day’s weather. The controller expressed his amazement about the storm system that had rolled across Kansas at a steady clip, only to stall inexplicably at 4 p.m. outside of Atchison for approximately 5 hours.
A couple years ago, two of our priests were telling me about an experience they had on winter vacation in Florida. They had reserved a rental car. The one priest was thinking about how enjoyable it would be to drive a convertible the next few days in sunny Florida. He offered a silent prayer to the Blessed Mother expressing his desire for a convertible for those days.
Much to his surprise, when they went to pick up their car, the rental company employee was apologetic because they did not have available the type of car they had reserved. However, she informed them that for no extra charge they could have a larger car that also happened to be a convertible. When he told the other priest about his prayer, his brother priest chided him for wasting his prayers on convertibles.
The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” describes devotion to the Blessed Virgin in this way: “The Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship. The church rightly honors the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of Mother of God, to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs. . . . This very special devotion . . . differs essentially from adoration which is given the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration” (no. 971).
There are no coincidences with God. Jesus has given us his mother to be our mother also. Why would we not want to approach Jesus in the company of Mary when we are praying for a special intention?
It is not wise to squander our prayer requests on trivial matters. On the other hand, we know that the Lord and his mother are interested in even the seemingly small matters of our lives.
As we begin a new year, it is wise to discern what are the most important needs for ourselves and our loved ones. Through the devout praying of the rosary or perhaps making our own “Memorare novena,” I encourage you to invite Mary to go with you to her Son for your request.
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 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.