Light and Life – July-Aug. 2020, Vol 73, No 4 – A Publication of the Western Dominican Province
What do we expect Mary to say when we invoke her in the Litany of Loreto as a helper in times of dire need (German Catholics see her here as the principal “Nothelferin” among the saints)? Something or nothing? And to whom?
Our invocation, whether spoken quietly for ourselves or out loud in a group, asks Maria under a particular title to become one with us in prayer as the interpres desiderii, to articulate with us and for us and others the particular need we are seeking to bring before the Lord. “Ora pro nobis. Pray for us”, was already the basic request expressed in the Litany of Saints, from which the Litany of Loreto developed.
The Roman Catholic and Eastern rite traditions of Christianity, like what came to be representative of the ancient and medieval Church but otherwise than several of the early modern Western communities that have separated from them, trust that Mary and all the souls of all the saints will join them in common intercession to God. There is a wise abstinence in trying to imagine the precise mode of speaking. In his treatise on religion and the question on prayer, Thomas Aquinas names the central point: “The greater the charity of the saints in heaven, the more they pray for wayfarers” (ST II-II 83, 11 co.) The Church in heaven is not so “triumphant”, that she has ceased to be “paracletic” and intercessory. She continues to share in the intercession of the crucified and risen Lord, in his “pro nobis et pro vobis”, and in the providential care of the Father. Not blessed chiefly on the condition of oblivion, the Church represented in Mary continues to be ensouled by the Paraclete: “But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.” (Rom 8:26)
In asking Mary to join us in prayer, we are also asking that the charity in us be deepened from which true prayer arises. The devotion that generates “devotions”, like the inner prayer that expresses itself in vocal prayers, is internal before it expresses itself externally. To ask here, “What would Mary say?” is also to ask also what are the deeds and words that will be elicited in us from that charity that has intensified in our parecletic love for those who are infirm, accused, afflicted or persecuted for their faith. We wayfarers might well be surprised by all that Mary has to say in the new deeds and the new words of those who in the Spirit have joined her in intercession and petition.
A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.