I have looked in vain for some discussion of the authorship of this prayer. As the Anima Christi is often called the Prayer of St. Ignatius, though it was in use hundreds of years before St. Ignatius was born, so it is certain that "the Memorare of St. Bernard" is a misnomer. But St. Ignatius in his Exercitia Spritualia makes us repeat constantly the Anima Christi, and so was the propagator, though not the author, of this prayer: what connection has St. Bernard with the Memorare?
In the latest edition of the Raccolta it is called simply Orazione, and it is given thus :—
"Memorare, 0 piissima Virgo Maria, non esse auditum a saeculo quemquam ad tua currentem praesidia, tua implorantem auxilia, tua petentem suffragia, esse derelictum. Ego, tali animatus confidentia, ad Te, Virgo Virginum, Mater, curro; ad Te venio; coram Te gemens peccator assisto. Noli, Mater Verbi, verba mea despicere, sed audi propitia et exaudi. Amen"
Pope Pius IX., by a rescript of the Holy Congregation of Indulgences, dated December 15 1846, granted an indulgence of three hundred days every time we say this prayer, and a plenary indulgence to those who say it every day for a month, to be gained on any day they choose, on the usual conditions of Confession, Communion, visiting a church and praying there according to the intention of the Sovereign Pontiff. V But it is curious that exactly the same indulgences had been granted less than three months before (September 23, 1846) for the recitation of the same prayer with sundry omissions and additions. In the English translation of the Raccolta, however, published in 1857, by Cardinal Newman's specially loved and trusted friend, Father Ambrose St. John, we find that the common Memorare was in reality first in the field, being indulgenced at the request of Cardinal de Bonald, Archbishop of Lyons, July 25, 1846; but this was at first for all the faithful in the kingdom of France only, and not extended to the whole Catholic world for ever till the following December ii, 1846, "at the prayer of several ecclesiastics and persons of consideration in Rome.'' What is the history of this rival of the Memorare, which Father St. John calls "the prayer Ave Augustissima" from its opening words ?
"AVE, augustissima Regina pacis, sanctissima Mater Dei, per sacratissimum Cor Iesu Filii tui Principis pacis, fac ut quiescat ira ipsius et regnet super nos in pace. Memorare, o piissima Virgo Maria, non esse auditum a saeculo quemquam tua petentem suffragia esse derelictum. Ego tali animatus confidentia, ad te venio. Noli, Mater Verbi, verba mea despicere, sed audi propitia et exaudi. O clemens, o pia o dulcis Virgo Maria. Amen."
Why does Father St. John translate Augustissima by "Empress'' ? Here is his English version:—
"Hail, Empress, Queen of Peace, holiest Mother of God, by the Sacred Heart of Jesus thy Son, the Prince of Peace, cause His anger to cease from us, that so He may reign over us in holy peace. Be mindful, Mary, tenderest Virgin, that from of old never hath it been heard that he who asks thy prayers was forsaken of God. In this lively trust I come to thee. Cast not my words behind thee, Mother of the Word; but in thy loving kindness hear and do, gentle, tender, sweet Virgin Mary."
That last O clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria is translated earlier in the book, "O merciful, O tender, O sweet Virgin Mary." "Clement" and "pious" do not give the proper meaning here. Father St. John in the next page translated differently the words that are common to the foregoing prayer and to the following Memorare: —
"Remember, Mary, tenderest-hearted Virgin, how from of old the ear hath never heard that he who ran to thee for refuge, implored thy help, and sought thy prayers, was forsaken of God. Virgin of virgins. Mother, emboldened by this confidence, I fly to thee, to thee I come, and in thy presence I, a weeping sinner, stand. Mother of the Word Incarnate, O cast not away my prayer, but in thy pity hear and answer. Amen."
It is a pity that there is not one authorised version to be learned off by heart by all devout clients of Mary. The Raccolta also omits the words which are very commonly added after coram te gemens peccator assisto —namely, this very desirable addition, obsecrans ut me in filium perpetuum adoptes et aeternae meae salutis curam in te suscipias. Is Father St. John right in translating derelictum by ''forsaken of God'' ? Why should currere be turned into "fly'' rather than "run'' ? The following appears to be a fair working version :—
"Remember, O most tender-hearted Virgin Mary, that never was it heard of in any age that anyone who ran to thy protection, implored thy help, and sought thy intercession, was ever abandoned. Inspired with this confidence, I run to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother!
To thee I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful, beseeching thee to adopt me as thy child for ever, and to take upon thee the care of my eternal salvation. Do not, O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise my petition, but graciously hear and grant it.'' (Verbi and verba are purposely placed together. Might this point be brought out thus ?—"O Mother of the Word ! these words of mine despise not, but mercifully hear and heed them.")
Many have tried to turn the Memorare into verse ; but it is more poetical as it stands. For instance, here is my own paraphrase :—
Remember, holy Mary,
'Twas never heard or known
That any one who sought thee
And made to thee his moan—
That anyone who hastened
For shelter to thy care
Was ever yet abandoned
And left to his despair.
No, never. Blessed Virgin,
Most merciful, most kind.
No sinner cries for pity
Who does not pity find.
None, none, O Holy Mary !
And so to thee, my Mother,
With filial faith I call,
For Jesus dying gave thee
As Mother to us all.
To thee, O Queen of Virgins,
O Mother meek, to thee
I run with trustful fondness.
Like child to mother's knee.
See at thy feet a sinner.
Groaning and weeping sore—
Ah! throw thy mantle o'er me,
And let me stray no more.
No more! O H0Iy Mary!
Thy Son has died to save me.
And from His throne on high
His heart this moment yearneth
For even such as I.
All, all His love remember,
And oh ! remember too
How prompt I am to purpose,
How slow and frail to do.
Yet scorn not my petitions,
But patiently give ear,
And help me, O my Mother!
Most loving and most dear.
Help, help, O Holy Mary!
Miss Katherine Conway, of Boston, echoes the holy prayer thus :—
Remember, Mother, throned in Heaven's splendour,
That never on this earth has it been said
That any heart which sought thy pity tender
Was left uncomforted.
So, wearied of world-friendship's changing fashion,
And bankrupt of world-treasures utterly,
And trusting in thy mercy and compassion,
I come at last to thee
Why name to thee my needs in my entreating ?—
Thou, taught in human hearts by the Divine,
Long time agone, when soft His heart was beating,
Fond Mother, close to thine!
O plead with Him who on thy breast was cherished,
Sweet sharer in the world's Redemption-pain!
O let it not be said that I have perished,
Where none came yet in vain!
John Bernard Delaney, one of the first Bishops of Manchester in New Hampshire, keeps closer to the original:—
Remember, Blessed Mother,
That never was it known
Who sought thy intercession
Was left to plead alone.
Confiding in thy goodness,
I hasten unto thee:
Let not thy gracious promise
Be broken first for me.
Though most unworthy ever.
Yet hearken to my cry,
And stretch a hand through darkness
To lead me to the sky.
This version is too brief to be faithfuL The Rev, Arthur Barry O'Neill, S.C.S., in the Ave Maria,takes a larger canvas for his copy :—
Remember, Mary, Virgin tender-hearted!
How from of old the ear hath never heard
That he who to thine arms for refuge darted
Thy help implored with reverent, earnest word,
Thy prayers besought, and on thine interceding
With loving confidence and trust relied,
Did ever futile find his fervent pleading
Or see thy grace and favour e'er denied,
O Virgin Mother, 'mongst all mothers tender,
With equal confidence to thee I fly—
To thee I come as to a sure defender;
A weeping sinner unto thee I cry.
Sweet Mother of the Word Incarnate, hear me!
May e'en my halting words efficient prove!
Cast not away my prayer but deign to cheer me,
And let my sore distress thy pity move.
The same poet in the same pious Magazine— congenial home for such carmina Mariana — wrote these lines about the Memorare: —
Not for his age alone was Bernard speaking,
O Virgin Mother, amongst all women blest;
When, Thy assistance in his sore need seeking,
The "Memorare" voiced his soul's request.
He echoed but a prayer that long resounded
In fainting hearts o'er all the woeful earth;
The cry for help from those whom sin hath wounded,
In every age since Christ the Saviour's birth.
The echoes of an echo, we repeat it.
With all of Bernard's confidence and love;
And now as ever dost thou kindly greet it,
And grant it, Mother, in thy home above.
It was in the Ave Maria also that Brian O'Higgins first published his version of the Memorare:—
Remember, remember, O Virgin Mary!
That never in vain did the wanderer seek
Thy strength and comfort and holy guidance
When tempest-worn and spent and weak;
That never ascended the wail of anguish.
Commingled with sorrow's despairing moan,
From the noisome earth, through the clouds of darkness.
Without finding balm at thy radiant throne.
Remember, remember, O Virgin Mary!
And list to a voice that is weak and faint:
I have strayed far out on the sinful ocean
With its waves of passion beyond restraint;
And now, with a heart that is robed in anguish,
O Mother of Pity, to thee I come !
My eyes are dim with their ceaseless weeping,
My feet are weary, my hands are numb.
Remember, remember, O Virgin Mary!
Through the deepening shadows I send my plea:
Guide of the Wanderer, Hope of the Mourner,
Pray to the Child of thy heart for me,
That His tender grace may calm the waters
And pierce the gloom of the gathering night,
And lead me back to that Port of Beauty
Where His mercy shines with a fadeless light.
A little blank space at the foot of the column which contains these stanzas is well filled up with these two questions from one of Cardinal Newman's sermons :
"What shall bring yon forward in the narrow way, if you live in the world, but the thought and patronage of Mary ? What shall seal your senses, what shall tranquilize your hearty when sights and sounds of danger are around you, but Mary ?"
In a French magazine, Les Annales du tres Saint Sacrement, someone who called himself Un Malade gueri, made a sonnet out of the glorious prayer that I have named so often :—
Souvenez-vous, Marie, O Vierge tres pieuse,
Que nul n'a jamais dit ni jamais entendu
Qu'un secours ait ete vainement attendu
De votre royaute misericordieuse.
Emu de cat espoir, o Reine glorieuse.
Tout pecheur que je suis, gemissant, eperdu,
Je me jette a vos pieds, et mon ame anxieuse
Attend de vous la paix et son bonheur perdu.
Ah! ne meprisez pas la tres humble priere
De mon coeur suppliant! Le front dans la poussiere,
J'implore la faveur d'un regard de vos yeux,
Regardez ! et pregnant en pitie ma misere,
Intercedez pour moi, puissante et bonne Mere,
Aupres de votre Fils qui regne dans les cieux!
The longest of all the poems founded on the Memorare appeared in the Irish Rosary for June, 1907—five stanzas of eight lines each, by a Dominican Father, who disguises himself (alas ! too effectively for many of us) by giving his name in Irish, D. B. an Crataig, The letters c, t, and g in this name are "mortified" and so are we at our invincible ignorance of the grand old tongue which reverences the Blessed Virgin Mary so much as to pronounce her very name differently from other Marys.