Sr Deanna Donoghue is a member of the OLA Sisters (Our Lady of Apostles) or ‘one of the Ardfoyle nuns’. Her missionary life in Africa was spent in Nigeria and Tanzania.
“During my last years in Tanzania, I became aware of a calling to a deeper spiritual life. Yes, I was saying my prayers, reciting the Divine Office, attending Mass and other spiritual exercises. But still the call came. I began to reflect on my life and realized that while I was giving myself totally to my work, staying up at night to help a woman with a safe delivery, spending hours upon end in Ante-natal clinics etc etc. And yet I still felt called to a deeper contemplative life.
When we speak of a contemplative life we think of Mary, Mother of God. She has been my guide and inspiration. Very often we read of her ‘contemplating these things in her heart’. Mary had lots to contemplate and we surely will not have the same issues as she had.
Contemplation, how do we do this? We do it in a spirit of prayer. Some people call it ‘discernment’. It is a process, not something to be rushed or hurried. It would be true to say that all decision-making deserves this process.
We sit and bring it to Jesus in prayer and we examine it in the light of the Gospel and see its value as best serves the situation…
On the second night of the 2013 Novena, Sr Deanna shared her thoughts on Mary and Prayer and how we benefit from our prayers.
Today is the eve of the feast of Pentecost. Our Mass is that of Pentecost. We are celebrating the feast of the Holy Spirit, the gift of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit – sometimes referred to as the ‘Paraclete’, the ‘Advocate’ or the ‘great teacher’ – one who reminds us of all that Jesus spoke and did during his ministry on earth.
In the Acts of the Apostles we read: “while Mary was praying with the Apostles in the Upper room the Holy Spirit descended them.” We have all seen pictures of this scene, with the Holy Spirit descending in the form of tongues of fire.
Following this spectacular event, the Apostles went out and formed the early Church community. They taught and preached in the name of Jesus and many people were converted. Eventually they went to foreign lands and proclaimed the message there too.
Jesus promises that those who keep his word will find that God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – will come and make their home with them. The believer is no longer alone, in the silence which descends on all of us from time to time. In times of silence or darkness God is always there with us.
Who is Our Lady? Who is She for you? Queen of the Rosary? Of Apostles? Of Ireland? Of Lourdes? Our Lady of Knock? For me Our Lady is Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
Devotion to Our Lady began for most of us at our mother’s knee, in the family home, with the recitation of the family rosary. In the Donoghue family, and we were many, we all knelt down on a stone floor each evening and my father ‘gave out’ the Rosary and we took it in turns to say our decade, fingering the beads of our rosary beads. Sometimes, there were delays in starting the Rosary, as one had tocheck his homework, another of us was involved with something else. But we waited until all were gathered together for this unbroken ritual in our home each day. My mother used to pray a Novena or a Rosary for some special intention or other which she beliecev would be solved by her presenting her petition to Our Lady. Mary was an integral part ofo ur prayer life.
We attended Sodalities, processions on special holy days (Corpus Christi for example) and as we did we recited the Rosary and sang hymns in honour of Our Lady. We learned the words of the Angelus, Rosary, hymns to Mary. This was part of a tradition we grew into and was so much part of our lives that we took it for granted. We learned about the Apparitions of Mary at Lourdes, Fatima, Knock and in more recent years at Medugorje.
We learned such phrases: “Mary, Mother of God help me”, “Pray for me now and at the hour of my death”, “Mary, Mother of Jesus, intercede for me”.
How do we honour Our Lady? My favourite prayer in the Hail Mary.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you – the wonderful greeting of the Archangel Gabriel. As we come into prayer, into God’s presence, leaving aside for a few minutes our ‘daily chores’, can we hear that greeting being said to us? Yes! God is with us, we are full of grace, and we are blessed. Mary can lead us to hear and believe this greeting. God loves us and cares for each one of us. We have to grow more and more into this truth. And this will help transform our lives.
Being loved is one of the most healing and beneficial aspects to life. Next time you come to pray I suggest you sit quietly, put yourself in the presence of God and become aware of your presence in the divine presence. Think about and spend time on your own goodness, the great qualities which you have been blessed with. Hear that blessing – Blessed are you among women – don’t rush it, just take your time. Stay thinking about that for as long as it’s comfortable.
Then become aware of God’s presence and listen to His word to you. Full of grace – it can be difficult to hear this, because it is alien to us. We spend so much time listening to negative voices within us. But believe me when I say to you: God is with you, you are full of grace.
In moments of difficulty, as we all do from time to time, turn to Mary. Bring it to her. Mary, as a mother, and specifically as mother of Jesus, knows all about suffering, her own suffering and the suffering of her only son. Mary will intercede for you with her Son and you will receive His comforting grace.
Another of my favourite prayers to Our Lady is the Memorare. I have come to believe more and more in this prayer as a result of my work at Cuan Mhuire Rehabilitation Centre in Athy over the past six years. Sr Consilio, who established this and other centres for those living with alcohol and other addictions, attributes all this work to Our Lady. She has total confidence in the power of Our Lady’s intercession with God through Jesus her son. On occasion when I would ring Sr Consilio with some conern or other her reply would often be: ‘Now Deanna, we’ll just say the Memorare and leave it in the hands of Mary, Mother of God.’
Add this prayer to your list. In closing I wish each of you the blessings and graces of this Novena and a safe journey to Knock for all those who will travel there on Saturday to close our Novena. For those pilgrims I pray that your experience is good and that the weather is also good! You will have opportunities for prayer, confessions, Stations of the Cross and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. May you enjoy every aspect of the pilgrimage.
The Church needs more people like you; committed, loyal and faithful, ready to step out of the ‘BOX’ and be visible in your actions and devotion. I say congratulations.
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto 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.