Litany of Loreto – Refuge of Sinners
Mary stands by her Son not only in the moments of joy, but also in his sorrow and suffering. Likewise, she is not only there for us as the ‘Cause of our Joy’ – the object of our celebration and veneration – but also as a source of compassion when times are hard. In particular, she stands for us as an example in moments of temptation, showing us by her sinless life that we too, strengthened like her by God’s grace (which we received in our Baptism), can avoid sin if we will only trust him and, like Mary, say ‘yes’ to him: for, as the angel said, ‘with God nothing is impossible’ (Luke 1:37). In such moments, though, she helps us not only by giving an example, but also by her prayer: when it all feels too much, by turning to her we can be assured of her support (and that of all the Church) in a battle which is not ours to be fought alone – rather, it is our share in the battle which has already been fought and won by her Son.
But she is also there for us when we have failed: when we have fallen, sinned, and betrayed the great love her Son has shown for us. Often in such circumstances, when we recognise our sin, we can have a kind of false humility by which we convince ourselves we are not worthy to pray, even if we know it is the very thing we should be doing. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, we are embarrassed and hide from the face of the Lord. Again, in moments like that, we need help, and whose help could be better than that of the Mother of God? Even though it is our own fault, our own timidity, that prevents us from turning straight to Christ, nevertheless her powerful intercession can help obtain for us the courage we lack. After all, by her Immaculate Conception she shows us that God’s gift of mercy has nothing to do with any worthiness or merit on our part: she did not exist before she received that special grace, and so in it we see the utter gratuity of God’s love.
Thus, at times like these (both of temptation and after sinning), the familiar words of the prayers of the Rosary, for example, can be of great comfort and help to us. It does not require any great mental effort, of which we might well not feel capable, and our beads, as it were, give us something to hold on to as we turn ‘to Jesus through Mary’. Besides that, in such moments I personally find the Memorare, that passionate prayer of St Bernard, a great help:
Remember, O most blessed Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your aid or sought your intercession, was left unaided.
Filled, therefore, with confidence in your goodness, I fly to you, Virgin of virgins, my mother.
To you I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petition, but in your mercy hear and answer me. Amen.