Start your meeting with the Sign of the Cross and your prayers
Someone read: A reading from Proverbs 4: 1,6-11
My child,… If you love Wisdom and don't reject her, she will watch over you. The best things about Wisdom is Wisdom herself; If you value Wisdom and hold tightly to her, great honours will be yours. It will be like wearing a glorious crown of beautiful flowers. My child, if you listen and obey my teachings, you will live a long time. I have shown you the way that makes sense; I have guided you along the right path.
Praying with Children and World Youth Day Themes of Pope Francis
My soul glorifies the Lord,
My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour
He looks on his servant in her lowliness
Henceforth all ages will call me blessed.
Hello everyone, I'm Fr. Thige O'Leary. This might be the second time I've been invited to prepare something for these talks. It's a real joy to do that for you.
Many of you have had children and families and have had that wonderful privilege: you've had to make decisions about what you are going to teach your children. A range of things, like whether to give them the shots or not! I know that's a debate – and I'm not taking sides at all. Decisions about education, the kinds of activities you want your children to be engaged in and so on. Those are very, very precious things to do. And one of the things to make decisions about is the question of what we share with them of our faith, what we believe, about God, creation, about Mary the Mother of Jesus. I'm conscious I'm talking to people who have a link with the Marist spirit.
That's why I started by singing a verse of the Magnificat using a tone that I can remember from Seminary days. So long ago now! My soul glorifies the Lord – Mary's prayer giving thanks and praise to God. I wanted to reflect with you a little, and I don't claim to have the answers.
There are so many prayers that honour Mary and maybe some of them are prayers that you share, or are sharing, with your children. There is nothing better than to pray in our own words Mother Mary help us. Mother Mary bless our family… you've probably got a better idea than I have, spontaneous prayers you can share with your children. One prayer so widely used and is so well known is the Hail Mary and I pray that now …
Hail Mary, full of grace.
The Lord is with you.
Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.
That prayer is used so often, at least in my experience, and so widely known among Catholic people; a prayer that every child should learn at the appropriate time. It is a prayer bringing real blessing to us through the intercession of Mary. And it is a prayer, particularly the first part of it, straight from Luke's Gospel. The Angel appears to Mary, this young, young woman, and says to her those kind of words. 'Hail Mary, you are full of grace. Blessed are you' and goes on to speak about how she is to become the mother of the Saviour. 'Mary you are blessed among women' – among all the women you have a particular blessing says the Angel, the messenger from God. 'And blessed is the fruit of your womb', a reference to Jesus; and the Angel's announcement to her that she is to conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit and to bear a son. That beautiful moment when God breaks into our world in a special way because of Mary.
The second part of the Hail Mary is more of a construct, a prayer asking Mary's aid. "Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us …" If you're praying that with your child it is a prayer asking God's blessing through Mary's intercession for this child, for you as parents of the child, and so on. It's a wonderful prayer. And, for folks like myself who are getting a little bit older, there is that little reminder! 'Pray or us now', yes, 'and at the hour of our death'. Some of you who are listening might be still young and healthy! But for an older guy like me, it is starting to be more of a reality that the time will come when I go to meet my maker! The prayer becomes more poignant.
Perhaps we are praying it for our own parents or people we know who are ill or frail. 'Pray for us now AND at the hour of our death. Amen'. So there's a beautiful prayer, from the Gospel and that part added on which captures some important stuff for us. I think it is a great prayer to share and to learn. It is a great prayer for when we gather as people because just about everybody seems to know it. In Catholic circles it's right up there as a prayer we can pray in combination with the Our Father and the Glory Be. People seem to know it and can join in.
In the Marist family this is a great prayer. We have other prayers that we do in sync with other people who have devotion to Mary. There are prayers like this one …
We fly to your protection,
O holy Mother of God.
Despise not our prayers
and our necessities,
but deliver us from all dangers
O most glorious and blessed Virgin. Amen.
It is a fairly ancient prayer, I'm not sure exactly when it arose in the prayer practice of the Church. But a prayer saying 'we go to you for protection, we fly to your protection O Holy Mother of God'. It was in a time possibly of persecution or famine and people were praying for Mary's help and intercession before God. 'We fly to your protection …'
I've been told that Pope Francis has chosen a focus. You know about World Youth Day when the Pope gathers with young people from around the world every once in a while. Pope Saint John Paul II started this and it became a very popular – young people to gather with the Pope, have some days of activity and prayer, gather in huge numbers, in the order of hundreds of thousands, sometimes around a million or so! Pope Francis has continued the practise. He has decided that the focus for the World Youth Day celebrations that happen in local areas, in dioceses in 2017 and 2018 will focus on Mary. And the then the big international gathering that is tipped for 2019 will be held in Panama. He is seeing Mary as the focus for that World Youth Day and the local ones that lead up to it.
Pope Francis has highlighted the way the Mary the mother of Jesus – this is a key thing – was always open to God's will. So we have that expressed beautifully when Mary's response to the Angel was … "Be it done to me according to your word".
Such trust! Such faith! Pope Francis is highlighting this as the big driving force in the life of Mary mother of Jesus, to be open to what God was asking of her. So much so that he has described her as a 'role model to be imitated'.
In the context of this talk I'm suggesting to you, particularly you who have younger children to see in Mary this particular aspect – a role model … for young people to imitate.
So for 2017 it is not surprising that the theme chosen for the World Youth Day in local dioceses is "The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name." These are words of Mary in the Gospel of Luke 1:49.
For the year 2018 "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God." That's in Luke 1:30, the words of the Angel to Mary.
And for the year 2019 we have Luke 1:38, Mary's words of offering herself to the Lord. "I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word."
I know that you're sharing many things with your children, particularly the little ones, including them in your prayer, teaching them to pray in ways that are appropriate to their age and so we are reminded again of this beautiful mother of the Lord. The strong and courageous woman of faith whom we read about in the Gospels. We are encouraged again to pray to her to seek her help; to 'fly to her protection'. Pope Francis is inviting us in the next wee while to recognise the place of Mary in our spiritual life. To see in her a role model whom we can follow. She was faithful to the Lord's will for her.
Read the Script
Share anything that strikes you from the Scripture above
What way of praying did you learn as a child?
Who taught you to pray, the circumstances, the places, the memories?
Share experiences of praying with your own children that you find helpful.
Do you connect with MARY as a role model?
How could we share her life story as a young person of courage, faith and commitment to inspire ourselves and our children in the 21st century.
From Our Charter No 7
A Christian mother nurtures a love for Christ in her children and encourages them to live a Christ-like life.
"And Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature and in favour with God and people." Luke 2:52