Fr. Britto's Blog

Mary, Model of Intercessory Prayer

As we are coming to the end of the month of May, our thoughts inevitably focus on our Blessed Mother. While He was about to leave this world, the Master gave Mary to us as His parting gift. She is not only our mother and patroness; she is also our model. She can teach us how we can live the Gospel and conform ourselves to the image of Christ. In particular, she can help us become men and women of prayer. In this column, I would like to propose Mary as the model of one type of prayer.

In our prayer we often ask God for things. This type of prayer is known as petition or intercession. Mary offers us a great example in this regard. She is also a great model of prayer of praise and prayer of lament. In this column, however, I would like to discuss how Mary shows us the way to ask God for things.

It is significant to note that immediately after the annunciation, Mary rushes to the hill country of Judea to assist her cousin Elizabeth in her hour of need. Filled with God who had made His dwelling in her, she goes out to encounter the God who had visited her needy relative. Such sympathetic concern characterized Mary all her life. Aware that she could not solve all problems, she brought everything to God in prayer. Her prayer of petition then was an outflow of her consuming compassion for others.

We notice Mary engage in such a prayer of petition at the marriage feast of Cana (John 2: 1-11). She realizes that the wine is running short and that the newly-wed couple is about to be terribly embarrassed. Admitting her own inability to tackle the situation, she turns to her Son with confidence: “Son, they have no wine.” When Jesus tries to put her off by protesting that His hour had not yet come, she does not give up. It is likely that she cajoled her Son and pleaded with Him. At the end, she instructs the servants: “Do whatever He tells you.” Confident that He will solve the problem, she just walks away.

It is important to note that Mary does not pray for herself. She stands before God on behalf of others. In this she follows the example of the men and women of the Bible who interceded for others. We can see Moses pleading with God that He should turn His just wrath away from His people. We can picture Abraham bargaining with God so that Sodom and Gomorrah may be spared. We can imagine Jeremiah and Isaiah praying for the chosen people. Mary continues to pray for her children. Every one of her apparitions is an eloquent testimony to her continuing solicitude for the Pilgrim Church.

Mary teaches us that it is perfectly acceptable to ask God for things. If God is our Father, He has concern for our needs, both spiritual and material. While we ask for our daily bread, we can pray for a little butter too. And if we are on a diet, we can ask for a touch of “I can’t believe it is not butter!” In our prayer of petition we should bear in mind that God always listens to our prayers. Sometimes His answer is “No.” We must take care not to limit our petitions just for ourselves; we need to pray for others.

We should pray for spiritual gifts rather than for material ones. If a couple finds that their marriage is floundering, they should face their problems in God’s presence. If parents are concerned about an errant son or daughter, they should carry that individual to God in prayer. We must remember that Monica wept bitter tears and prayed numerous prayers for twenty years for the conversion of her son, Augustine. And what a saint he became!

Mary is the first and the best disciple. Even when the Twelve had taken to their heels and were afraid to acknowledge being Jesus’ followers, she stood at the foot of the cross. She has shown us what it means to be open to the designs of the Spirit. Her total submission to the will of God will always challenge us to bow our heads in obedience to God’s plans. She is the humble handmaid of the Lord and she constantly gives thanks to God for the wonders He worked in her life. Her characteristic openness to the Holy Spirit and her phenomenal surrender to God’s will challenge us to emulate her.

It is serendipitous that on the last day of Mary’s month we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost. The Acts of the Apostles reports that some early Christians did not know who the Holy Spirit was. Sadly the Holy Spirit is the forgotten person of the Holy Trinity. Our work of sanctification is entrusted to the Spirit. It is the Spirit of the Lord Who can guide us and lead us to Jesus. Let us stir to life the gifts of the Spirit that we received in our baptism and in our confirmation.

As we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, let us pray the beautiful sequence the Church sings during Mass today. In part that prayer goes thus:

 

Holy Spirit, Lord Divine,

Come, from heights of heav’n and shine,

Come with blessed radiance bright!

 

Cleanse our soiled hearts of sin,

Arid souls refresh within,

Wounded lives to health restore.

 

Bend the stubborn heart and will,

Melt the frozen, warm the chill,

Guide the wayward home once more!

 

Give us virtue’s sure reward,

Give us your salvation, Lord,

Give us joys that never end!

 

Happy birthday to the Church that was born on Pentecost! May the Church always enjoy the protection of our Blessed Mother!

Who is Fr. Britto?

Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.

After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...

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