Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary
The Memorare is a very popular Marian prayer that is sometimes attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), Confessor, Abbot, and Doctor of the Church. While some of his writings do indeed echo the words of the Memorare, he did not in fact compose it. The prayer was first popularized not by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, but by another Bernard, namely Fr. Claude Bernard (1588-1641). More than likely the association of St. Bernard of Clairvaux's name with the prayer is a case of mistaken identity with Fr. Claude Bernard.
Fr. Claude Bernard, known as the "Poor Priest", zealously dedicated himself to the preaching and aiding of prisoners and criminals condemned to death. Trusting his charges to the care and intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Fr. Bernard employed the Memorare extensively in his work of evangelization to great effect. Many a criminal was reconciled to God through his efforts. At one time he had more than 200,000 leaflets printed with the Memorare in various languages so he could distribute the leaflets wherever he felt they would do some good.
Part of the reason Fr. Claude Bernard held the prayer in such high regard was because he himself felt that he had been miraculously cured by its use. In a letter to Queen Anne of Austria, wife of Louis XIII, he wrote that he was deathly ill once. In fear of his life he recited the Memorare and immediately began to get well again. Feeling unworthy of such a miracle, he attributed the cure to some unknown natural cause. Sometime later, Brother Fiacre, a discalced Augustinian, came to call upon Fr. Bernard. The good brother begged Fr. Bernard's pardon for disturbing him, but he desired to know how Fr. Bernard was getting along. Brother Fiacre then went on to say that the Virgin Mary had appeared to him in a vision, told him of Fr. Bernard's illness, told him how she had cured Fr. Bernard of it, and that he was to assure Fr. Bernard of this fact. Fr. Bernard then goes on to write in his letter that he was ashamed of his ingratitude in attributing the cure to natural causes, and asked for God's forgiveness in the matter.
Further evidence of association of the Memorare with Fr. Claude Bernard can be found in the Bibliotheque Nationale at Paris where 18 engraved portraits of this holy priest have the prayer engraved below the picture. The prayer there is basically identical in substance with the Memorare we have today and the heading simply says: ORAISON DU R. P. BERNARD A LA VERGE (Prayer of Rev. Fr. Bernard to the Virgin). In as much as some of these engravings are contemporary portraits of Fr. Bernard, his association with the prayer is very clear. It is easy to see how sometime after his death the Prayer of Fr. Claude Bernard became the Prayer of St. Bernard , and in most people's minds the Prayer of St. Bernard of Clairvaux.
While we have Fr. Claude Bernard to thank for promoting the Memorare, he is certainly not its original author. First, Fr. Bernard stated that he learned the prayer from his own father. Secondly, the prayer was known to and used by St. Francis de Sales who is 21 years older than Fr. Bernard. Thirdly, and most importantly, the prayer appears as part of the much longer 15th century prayer, Ad sanctitatis tuae pedes, dulcissima Virgo Maria .
Ad sanctitatis tuae pedes, dulcissima Virgo Maria is a rather long prayer that appears in a number of printed books and manuscripts from the last quarter of the 15th century and onwards. It appears in such works as the Hortulus Animae (15th cent.), the Antidotarius Animae (15th cent.) of Nicholas de Saliceto (Cistercian abbot of Bomgart, near Strasbourg), and the Precationum piarum Enchiridion, compiled around 1570 by Simon Verepaeus. The Memorare is an integral part of the text in each case. Exactly when the Memorare was extracted from this longer prayer has not yet been determined, but it likely occurred in the later part of the 16th century, around the time of Fr. Bernard and his father.
Since the later part of the 16th century several variants of the Memorare have appeared such as that found in the Coeleste Palmetum below. It is also found embedded in the Ave augustissima. The exact wording of the prayer stabilized during the 19th century to that given below and was first indulgenced by Pope Pius IX in 1846.
A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who recite the Memorare.
|MEMORARE, O 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.||REMEMBER, O most gracious 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 with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.|
From the Raccolta, #339 (S. C. Ind., Dec. 11, 1846; S. P. Ap., Sept. 8, 1935) Encr. Ind. #32. For information about Fr. Claude Bernard, see Claude Bernard, dit "le Pauvre Pretre", Commandeur de Broqua, 12ed, Lethielleux, 1913. De Broqua was the postulator for the cause of Fr. Bernard's canonization.
Below is a version of the Memorare from a 1741 edition of the Coeleste Palmetum. Not only does it contain the elements of the Memorare, but also phrases from the Sub Tuum Praesidium, Salve Regina, and the Ave Maria
|MEMORARE, o piissima Virgo Maria, non esse auditum a saeculo, quemquam ad tua currentem praesidia, tua implorantem auxilia, aut tua petentem suffragia a te esse derelictum. Ego tali animatus fiducia, ad te Virgo virginum Maria Mater Iesu Christi, confugio, ad te venio, ad te curro, coram te gemens peccator et tremens assisto: noli, Domina mundi, noli aeterni Verbi Mater verba mea despicere, sed audi propitia et exaudi me miserum ad te in hac lacrimarum valle clamantem. Adsis mihi, obsecro, in omnibus necessitatibus meis, nunc et semper, et maxime in hora mortis meae. O clemens, o pia, o dulcis Virgo Maria! Amen.||REMEMBER, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided by thee. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, Mary, Virgin of virgins, Mother of Jesus Christ; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful, sorrowful and trembling. O Mistress of the World and Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer wretched me crying to thee in this vale of tears. Be near me, I beseech thee, in all my necessities, now and always, and especially at the hour of my death. O clement, o loving, o sweet Virgin Mary. Amen.|
|Below is part of the Ad sanctitatis tuae pedes, dulcissima Virgo Maria in which the Memorare appears. The basic text is taken from the 1518 Paris edition of the Antidotarius Animae. The part in brackets is not found in the Antidotarius Animae, but it does appear in other sources such as the Precationum Enchiridion. It is clear that the underlying text of today's Memorare is embedded in this prayer.|
|Ad sanctitatis tuae pedes, dulcissima Virgo Maria, corpore prostratus et corde, supplex oro ut aliquid a te rogare me doceas, quod te audire et Filium exaudire delectet. Indignus sum gratia et cunctis miserationibus tuis minor, peccatis meis obstantibus. A te, Sanctissima, audiri et a Filio tuo benignissimo exaudiri non mereor. Noli tamen ad te clamantem et vitam emendare cupientem pia repellere quae manum gratiae porrigere soles ad te suspiranti. Memorare, piissima, non esse auditum a saeculo, quemquam ad tua currentem praesidia aut tua petentem suffragia a te derelictum. Tali animatus confidentia ad te, Virgo Maria, confugio, ad te curro, ad te venio, coram te gemens et tremens assisto. Noli, Virgo Immaculata, a me peccatore faciem tuam abscondere, sed ad me clementer respice. [Noli, Mater Verbi, mea despicere verba, sed audi propitia et exaudi oris mei verba.] Noli, mater omnium, ab omni benignitate tua me excludere, sed benigne fac mecum propter nomen tuum sanctum. Noli, mater gratiae, Filii tui gratiam mihi denegare, sed gratifica me gratiae illi quem tu, gratia plena, peperisti. . . .|
Ref: Thurston, Herbert S.J., Familiar Prayers: Their Origin and History, 1953.