When I gave a women’s retreat in Houston earlier this month, I spoke to the attendees about my go-to prayer. It was in the context of looking at Mary’s life as I did in my book, Imitating Mary: Ten Marian Virtues for the Modern Mom, and I received the same response as I did on previous occasions. Faces lit up, eyebrows raised, and smiles broadened.
Why? Because it’s a prayer that so simple and familiar to us but that few ever think to fall back on in times of distress.
They have no wine.
Four words that speak volumes in any situation – at least for me.
When the bride and groom ran out of wine at their Cana wedding, Mary noticed their distress and implored her Son’s assistance. (see Jn 2:1-11) “They have no wine.” Her compassion for the young newly weds moved her to action.
I’ve used those same words as my go-to prayer for years and years in a wide variety of contexts and needs. It’s the prayer that spontaneously trips off my lips when I’m so grieved, or scared, or frustrated, or… just plain empty.. that I can’t put proper words to what’s going on inside of me.
Sometimes, it’s someone else with a need, “Mother, they have no wine.” Sometimes it’s my family with a need, “Mother, we have no wine.” Often, it’s me who is needy. “Mother, I have no wine.” Each time, I ask our Blessed Mother to intercede for the person in need, to compel her Son to perform yet another miracle.
The Catholic Church teaches that Mary is a powerful intercessor for the needs of humanity.
This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation . . . . Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix. (CCC, 969)
When Mary gave her fiat – her unconditional yes – to becoming Jesus’ mother at the Annunciation, she also gave her yes to becoming our mother in the order of grace. At the same moment she conceived Jesus physically in her womb, she conceived us spiritually. Since then, our every need, every detail about our lives, has been her constant concern. She prays with us, and for us, to her Son, who loves her like no merely human son could love his mother.
They have no wine.
Time and again, from horrid spiritual darkness to a radiator leak on the van, to a case of writer’s block, to a college kid about to take an exam… Mother, I, they, we, have no wine.
Mary listens to my pathetic plea and petitions her Son for me. At times, I see the results promptly. Other times, I receive a delayed response. Sometimes, I never see a result – at least not the result for which I’d hoped. But always, always, I immediately feel Mary’s closeness to me, I sense her concern, am assured of her love for me, and experience a subtle calm overcome me. Mother, I have no wine.
This, I think, is what delights my audiences when I share my secret little go-to prayer. They know the Gospel story, and they can envision my message about it. What’s more, they can envision themselves reaching out to Mary in the same way. And they can be confident that she’ll reach out to them, arranging to have their water turned into wine.