Have you ever had an experience in prayer that you returned to repeatedly? Has God given you a phrase or consoling thought in prayer that remains with you to the present day? In an earlier essay on Catholic Exchange, I shared “How God Interrupted My Day,” I wrote about an experience of visiting a religious sister and her recommendation to visit the chapel on their grounds. I deliberated between heeding the religious sister’s advice and pray a holy hour or to go to the movies. I chose the better part—spending time with the Lord, in which I had a profound prayer experience. In my prayer I believed Mary spoke to me interiorly, and the words she spoke have been a continued source of comfort and consolation.
As I returned to those words most recently, I wondered: “Did Mary ever have this experience?” That question led me to reflect on the Annunciation event, and whether the words of the angel Gabriel might have brought her consolation: “Do not be afraid, Mary.” Throughout her life, Mary faced a lot of fearful events, and when she did, did she simply repeat those words of the angel in her mind and heart? “Do not be afraid, Mary.”
When the child was presented in the temple, and Simeon prophesied that Jesus would be a sign of contradiction and a sword would pierce her heart, must have been a frightening experience, not knowing what was to come. Did she say in her heart, “Do not be afraid?”
When the Holy Family fled into Egypt because Herod wanted to kill Jesus, was she fearful? Or did she repeat those words, “Do not be afraid, the Lord is with you.”
When Jesus remained in Jerusalem at the age of twelve and they believed him lost, did she repeat in her heart, “Do not be afraid” as she searched for the Christ child?
As she stood at the foot of the cross, did she repeat those words in her mind and heart: “Do not be afraid,” God has a plan?
These are just a few of the fears we know of from the gospels. Certainly, Mary must have faced many other fears in her life, but as I sat with Mary in my mind’s eye, I imagined her allowing those words of the angel to be the recurring mantra in her heart. I would like to believe she confronted that fear with the words spoken by that angelic being who announced she had no reason to be afraid. Mary was a fearless woman, and her example should help us confront fear, and remind us, that like her, we have nothing to fear.
Just like Mary, who possibly repeated those angelic words in her mind and heart at moments of fear, we can do the same. And because Mary is with God, and now our advocate and intercessor, it gives us even more reasons not to fear.
The fears of life can creep up at a moment’s notice. And what are we to do? We can repeat those words of the angel reminding ourselves not to be afraid. We can also turn to Mary’s intercession, that as she quelled fear in her own life, she can help to do the same for us. I’m reminded of the words of St. Bernard of Clairvaux who said:
When the storms to temptation burst upon thee, when thou seest thyself driven upon the rocks of tribulation, look at the star, call upon Mary. When buffeted by the billows of pride, or ambition, or hatred, or jealousy, look at the star, call upon Mary. Should anger, or avarice, or fleshly desire violently assail the frail vessel of thy soul, look at the star, call upon Mary. If troubled on account of the heinousness of thy sins, distressed at the filthy state of thy conscience, and terrified at the thought of the awful judgment to come, thou art beginning to sink into the bottomless gulf of sadness and to be swallowed in the abyss of despair, then think of Mary. In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary.
What does this look like in our modern life today?
When you learn from the doctor about a health problem, call upon Mary. Fear will be there, but we have nothing to fear because she intercedes for us. Like so many Catholics, call upon Mary, and if you are able, visit a Marian shrine and ask for the grace of healing. Many shrines I have visited have testimonials left behind like crutches or braces by those who attributed their miraculous healing to Mary. With Mary’s prayers, we have nothing to fear.
When storms threaten where you live, yes there is a lot to fear, but allow Mary to quell that fear. Call upon her intercession under the title of Our Lady of Prompt Succor as so many have done in years past.
Is there fear in your marriage? Not sure whatever difficulty is faced can be overcome? Turn to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, and ask her to untie the difficult knots of your married life so that joy and happiness may return. That’s the origin behind the painting and should encourage anyone in a troubled marriage.
Feeling tempted to sin? Pick up the rosary, a weapon against evil, and ask Mary to slay the serpent in your life.
The most common fear in life is death. For a person approaching death themselves or for their family members or friends who are journeying with them, they can experience a lot of fears. Our faith in God and the promises of Jesus can quell this fear. Not only that, but so often in life, we have asked Mary to pray for us now and at the hour of our death. We have confidence that Mary will do as we asked, that when we or someone we love draws their last breath, Mary is present to them, praying for them in that moment. With Mary’s prayers, at that hour, we have nothing to fear.
Fearful about evangelizing and sharing the faith? Look up the story of Mary’s 1859 apparition in Champion, Wisconsin, when she appeared to Adele Brise. Mary instructed Adele to do four things: 1) pray for the conversion of sinners; 2) offer her Holy Communion for the conversion of sinners; 3) make a general confession; 4) gather the children and teach them what they should know for salvation. Mary’s departing words to Adele were, “go and fear nothing, I will help you.” The Queen of Heaven, the fearless Mary of Nazareth, instructs Adele to have no fear, and to place confidence in her intercessory efficacy and mediation of grace. That same exhortation resounds to us, not only about our missionary efforts, but also in our daily life. Face your fears with Mary, and repeat in your mind and heart: do not be afraid. Not only did the angel tell Mary those words, but she repeated them to Adele, and now to us. Live your life, trust in God, and go, and fear nothing, for Mary will pray for you and obtain help from God.