The Memorare: Unlimited Contrition and Confidence

October 25, 2018

By Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

The Memorare is perhaps the most hope-filled prayer in the Catholic Church, for the affirmation it makes is the most categorical possible: “Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection…was left unaided.”

If it was never known that anyone was left unaided, I, being someone, will not be left unaided in requesting Her help. Thus, I have not only the right but the obligation never to lose heart. As difficult as my plight may be, as much as I may be disgusted with and censure myself, if I ask Her to help me, She will help me. There may be a greater or lesser delay, but Her help will come.

1784 processional banner of the Lisbon Holy House of Mercy depicting the Our Lady of Mercy protecting all social classes; the first verse of the hymn is quoted underneath.

We are very accustomed to modern conveniences. If I need light, for example, I flip a switch and the room is inundated with light. If I want the room darkened in order to rest, I flip the switch and darkness falls over the entire room. By means of such automation, each person’s will is entirely accomplished.

We thus get the idea that prayer is like this: I flip a switch, I ask Our Lady to help me; She is immediately obliged to help me when I ask or expect Her succor. If She does not help me immediately, all will be lost; I become disheartened.

This is wrong. Our Lady is a Queen and a Lady. We do not treat such a lady as if she were a maid. We can say to the maid, “Bring me some coffee,” and she must go to the kitchen to prepare and serve it. This is Her job, to do the will of Her employer. But it is not this way with Our Lady. It is we who hope for the honor of becoming Her servants. It is very different, profoundly different.

A Marine prays the Rosary during the Korean War. Minutes later, the 1st Marine Division launched an offensive against entrenched communist troops during the Korean conflict.


The greater the delay, the greater the grace

For the good of our soul, She may delay in granting the grace we request. But, the longer the delay, the greater the grace will be.

Therefore, one can never think: “Our Lady is taking a long time to heed my prayer. This means She doesn’t want to help me. I might as well give up.”

Quite the contrary, this means that She wants to test me, in order to give a very great grace.

The meaning of the words of the Memorare

I believe it indispensable to encourage everyone, in every way and at all costs, to never, never, never lose heart! Ask Our Lady to help, help, and help, and pray the Memorare, which is so beautiful. One should never pray it hurriedly, but recite it thinking about each word.

“Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary…” — At the very outset She is called the most merciful 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…” — That is, with the confidence of those who, even though they sank into sin, prayed to Her and were attended.

“I fly unto thee,…” — To have recourse like this is to ask with insistence: “Help me.” It shows how one avails oneself of Our Lady’s intercession before God, addressing the Divine Majesty thus: “Thou art my Father and hast a right to be angry with me. I strike my breast in contrition. But Thy Mother is also mine, and for me She has all the disposition, goodness, and patience that all true mothers have for their children. Therefore, I hope in the patience of Thy Mother. Be patient with me as Thy Mother is.”

“O Virgin of virgins…” — A Virgin like no other, She is the holy Virgin of virgins. This is an allusion to sins against purity; She is the Virgin of virgins.

“To thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful.” — Groaning beneath the weight of my sins, I stand contritely before Our Lady.

“O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions…” — That is, do not disdain the entreaties of this miserable sinner.

Saint Catherine of Siena praying for the soul of an heretic.

“But in Thy mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.”

It is a most beautiful prayer.

* This article is based on a talk given by Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira on April 22, 1992, to a gathering of TFP members and supporters from around the world.

The Story of the Memorare

The Memorare is often erroneously attributed to Saint Bernard. Although there is something similar to it in one of his sermons, the prayer as we know it does not date from before the fifteenth century.

Fr. Claude Bernard

At first, the Memorare formed part of a longer prayer that began with the words “At the feet of thy holiness, O most sweet Virgin Mary,…remember that never was it known….” Until now, the oldest evidence of this version is in the Antidotarius animae, published in 1468 by Nicola Saliceto, a Cistercian monk of Strasbourg. A decade later the Memorare already appeared by itself in The Soul’s Little Garden, a collection of prayers edited by J. Wehinger.

Due to the zeal of the Servant of God Claude Bernard (1588-1641), this prayer became an instrument of Providence, working numerous prodigies and obtaining numerous conversions.

Very Rev. Jan Philipp Roothaan, S.J., (1785-1853)

In the nineteenth century, the Superior General of the Jesuits, Fr. Johann Philipp Roothaan, spread it with untiring diligence and, in 1846, obtained indulgences from Pope Pius IX for those who prayed it.


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