Since the beginning of Christianity, many Christians have had a special admiration of and intense trust in Mary. But, unfortunately, that dedication is often misunderstood by other Christians. Some believe that those who have it are deifying Mary and worshiping her. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
People who practice Marian devotions try to consistently praise, honor, and love Mary. However, we know that she’s human, and we don’t worship her. But although we know that she’s human, we also know that she is perfectly holy and pure. We know that because her conception was immaculate, she was born without the stain of original sin. And we know that she is the only woman whom God created to be the mother of His only beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Who is both God and man.
Because of all these things, we understand that she is infinitely more worthy of God’s favor than we are. Since she is kind, compassionate, and more honorable than we are, we seek her intercession for prayers that are particularly important to us.
The other reason that we approach Mary through praise and prayer is that we know that she will always lead us to Jesus. No human loves and knows Jesus more than His mother. She is the only person who knew Him and loved Him from the moment of His conception to His death on the Cross, and she still knows Him and loves Him in Heaven today. Consequently, she knows that He is our Lord and Savior, and she always strives to bring us closer to Jesus.
There are several Marian devotions in existence. Thankfully, every person who wishes to engage in one can find one that resonates with him or her. Here are just seven beautiful practices that can help us to express our love and devotion to Mary.
Praying the Rosary
Given to Saint Dominic by an apparition of Blessed Mother in the 12th Century, the Rosary is an extremely powerful devotion. On rosary beads, people recite specific prayers, including the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, Apostle’s Creed, Fatima Prayer and Hail, Holy Queen, while meditating upon significant events in the life of Jesus. Through the Joyful Mysteries, the Luminous Mysteries, the Sorrowful Mysteries, and the Glorious Mysteries, Christians respectively ponder the birth, earthly life and compassion, death, and Resurrection of Our Savior.
In Saint John Paul II’s “Rosarium Virginis Mariae,” the saint wrote about the power of this Marian (but Christ-centric) devotion. The saint wrote, “With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love. Through the Rosary, the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer.“
Wearing the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
The Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is a sacramental that some Catholics and Anglicans choose to wear. Before they can wear it, however, it must be invested by a priest. One form of the investiture that’s recited states, “Receive this Scapular, a sign of your special relationship with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, whom you pledge to imitate. May it be a reminder to you of your dignity as a Christian, in serving others and imitating Mary. Wear it as a sign of her protection and of belonging to the Family of Carmel, voluntarily doing the will of God and devoting yourself to building a world true to His plan of community, justice, and peace.”
Also known as the “Garment of Grace,” it is believed to carry Mary’s promise that it will be a “Sign of Salvation, a Protection in Danger and a Pledge of Peace” to all who wear it. And when someone passes away while wearing it, the belief is that the Marian practice of wearing it protects that person from eternal damnation.
Wearing a Miraculous Medal
In 1830, Saint Catherine Laboure – a young nun in Paris –was visited by an apparition of Mary. In the vision, Mary showed the saint what the Miraculous Medal should look like. The stunning vision included Mary standing on a globe while crushing a serpent with her feet. Our Lady’s hands were open, and brilliant rays of light streamed from jeweled rings on them. An oval soon formed around Blessed Mother, and a gold inscription read, “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.”
The vision then rotated, so that the young nun could see what the back of the medal should look like. In that portion of the apparition, there was a letter “M” below a cross. There were also two hearts below the M. One was crowned with thorns, and the other was pierced with a sword.
Of the rays of light that flowed from her hands, Blessed Mother told the young nun that they were graces that she poured out on those who asked them of her. The young nun also heard Mary say, “Have a medal made according to this model. For those who wear it with confidence, there will be abundant graces.”
Although it was originally known as the Medal of the Immaculate Conception, it was associated with so many miracles and blessings, that it became known as the Miraculous Medal. And many Christians who have them, today, still experience grace-filled blessings and miracles.
Praying the Memorare
The “Memorare (which is Latin for Remember)” is a powerful devotional prayer to Mary that was originally part of the 15th Century prayer “Ad Sanctitatis Tuae Pedes, Dulcissima Virgo Maria." The prayer, which can be used for a novena is as follows:
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession, was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto you, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To you do I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.
The prayer is believed to have attained miracles for people in need of desperate help, including Saint Teresa of Calcutta (known as Mother Teresa when she was alive) and Saint Francis de Sales. According to the book “Selected Letters,” by St. Francis de Sales, a “torment of despair” the saint experienced for a month ended suddenly as he prayed the “Memorare” after he received holy inspiration to pray it. St. Teresa of Calcutta and her Missionaries of Charity would pray a “Memorare” novena whenever there was an urgent need. After they prayed the nine “Memorare” prayers, they prayed a tenth in thanksgiving.
Participating in the Five First Saturdays Devotion
Although the First Saturday devotion was started by Mary Inglese in Italy in 1889, the Five First Saturdays devotion was promoted by Lucia Abobora, who was one of the three shepherd children who witnessed the world-famous Fatima apparitions. After Lucia had become a nun in Spain, Mary visited her (in another Church-approved apparition), and she shared with the young nun what would become the Five First Saturdays devotion. It includes receiving Holy Communion, saying five decades of the Rosary, and spending 15 minutes meditating on one or more mysteries of the Rosary on the first Saturday of each of the five consecutive months. It also includes going to confession.
According to Sister Lucia, Blessed Mother said, “Look, my daughter, at my Heart encircled by these thorns with which men pierce it at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. You, at least, strive to console me, and so I announce: I promise to assist at the hour of death with the grace necessary for salvation all those who, with the intention of making reparation to me, will, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months, go to confession, receive Holy Communion, say five decades of the beads, and keep me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary."
Joining the Legion of Mary
Although the Legion of Mary is an international lay apostolic association of Catholics and not a Marian devotion, joining the organization is a wonderful way for someone to express devotion to Mary. Founded in Ireland in 1921 by Servant of God Frank Duff, the object of the international organization is “the glory of God through the holiness of its members developed by prayer and active co-operation in Mary’s and the Church’s work.” That work includes visiting the sick and the disenfranchised. Each week, legionaries – guided by the Holy Spirit – must perform an apostolic work in union with Mary and meet with the members of their praesidium to discuss the work and to pray special prayers. The praesidiums are sanctioned by ecclesiastical authorities in dioceses located in about 170 countries throughout the world.
In Frank Duff’s book “The De Montfort Way,” the founder clearly articulates his devotion to Mary. He wrote, “Jesus was not originally given to the world – and nor is he now – save by Mary. The Legion fully recognizes this. Its title is not intended to be an empty one. The Legion is built, from top to bottom and through and through, on this most potent principle of union with Mary. By a deliberate, full, filial acknowledgement in thought, word and deed of that principle, it aspires to attract to itself this fruitful, this necessary action of Mary, which it will then lavish on souls through the medium of its intensive activity.”
Planting a Mary Garden
The beautiful practice of planting Mary gardens is believed to have been started at European monasteries and convents in the Middle Ages. The gardens range in size and scope, but they are generally planted in the midst of a statue of Mary. They also include flowers and herbs that are associated with Our Lady. For instance, many include roses, violets, marigolds (which are also known as Mary’s gold), and lavender.
Planting a Mary garden expresses devotion to Blessed Mother in a few different ways.The gardener’s design naturally becomes an outpouring of his or her affection for and regard for Mary. And the person’s love and care is poured into the planting and the care of the garden. It can also become a special, inviting place for the gardener to pray. Finally, the delicate garden’s beauty and serenity may inspire others to seek Mary’s help in learning to love and serve Jesus on a much deeper level.
Whether we participate in a practice as vibrant and colorful as planting a Mary garden or as heart-wrenching as praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, the immense beauty of Marian devotions always shines through. Whenever we express love and gratitude for Mary, we express that same gratitude and love for God, for Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior, and for the Holy Spirit. We also deepen our relationship with Mary, along with those we have with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.