Novena in honor of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Mary, the Mother of Chastity
In thy conception, O Virgin Mary, thou wast immaculate; pray for us to the Father, whose Son Jesus, conceived in thy womb by the Holy Ghost, thou didst bring forth.
Holy Scripture and the Fathers agree in the statement that the Blessed Virgin Mary made the vow of perpetual virginity. For when the Archangel Gabriel brought God’s message to the immaculate spouse of St. Joseph, that she was to become the Mother of the Most High, she asked, “How shall this be done, because I know not man?” (Luke 1: 34) Indeed, Mary would not have been, in the full and most excellent sense of the word, the “Virgin of virgins,” had she not from her own free choice vowed her virginity to God.
During the whole Christian era there have been heroic souls who made the vow of perpetual chastity, consecrating themselves to God. Trusting in the powerful protection of the immaculate Virgin, they persevered in their resolve to bear this priceless treasure before God’s throne despite the dangers of the world, the temptations of concupiscence, and the assaults of hell, and with the help of the queen of virgins they achieved a triumphant victory.
Since the fall of Adam our senses are in rebellion against the law of God. “I see another law in my members, fighting against the law of my mind, and captivating me in the law of sin” (Rom. 7: 23). Chastity is the virtue which causes us the greatest struggles. St. Augustine says: “The fiercest of all combats is the one for the preservation of chastity, and we must engage in it every day.” Fierce as this combat is, the aid which Mary gives her children to achieve victory is all-powerful. She sustains them by her maternal love and protection. Those who lead a chaste life receive the Divine Spirit, are happy in this life, and will receive a special crown in heaven.
Among the means for the preservation of chastity, the following are specially recommended: The assiduous and constant practice of self-denial; the frequentation of the sacraments; the daily invocation of Mary for her aid and protection; scrupulous avoidance of the occasions of sin. St. Chrysostom writes: “He errs who believes that he can overcome his sensual propensities and preserve chastity by his own efforts. God’s mercy must extinguish nature’s ardor.” Have recourse to the intercession of the immaculate Virgin and rest assured that you will obtain this mercy.
Prayer of the Church
O God, who through the immaculate conception of the Virgin didst prepare a worthy dwelling-place for Thy divine Son; grant that, as in view of Thy Son Thou didst preserve her from all taint, so Thou wouldst vouchsafe unto us that cleansed from all sin by her intercession we too may arrive at Thine eternal glory. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us,
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.
Holy Mary, pray for us.
Holy Mother of God, pray for us.
Holy Virgin of virgins, pray for us.
Mother of Christ, pray for us.
Mother of divine grace, pray for us.
Mother most pure, pray for us.
Mother most chaste, pray for us.
Mother inviolate, pray for us.
Mother undefiled, pray for us.
Mother most amiable, pray for us.
Mother most admirable, pray for us.
Mother of good counsel, pray for us.
Mother of our Creator, pray for us.
Mother of our Redeemer, pray for us.
Virgin most prudent, pray for us.
Virgin most venerable, pray for us.
Virgin most renowned, pray for us.
Virgin most powerful, pray for us.
Virgin most merciful, pray for us.
Virgin most faithful, pray for us.
Mirror of justice, pray for us.
Seat of wisdom, pray for us.
Cause of our joy, pray for us.
Spiritual vessel, pray for us.
Vessel of honor, pray for us.
Singular vessel of devotion, pray for us.
Mystical rose, pray for us.
Tower of David, pray for us.
Tower of ivory, pray for us.
House of gold, pray for us.
Ark of the covenant, pray for us.
Gate of heaven, pray for us.
Morning star, pray for us.
Health of the sick, pray for us.
Refuge of sinners, pray for us.
Comforter of the afflicted, pray for us.
Help of Christians, pray for us.
Queen of angels, pray for us.
Queen of patriarchs, pray for us.
Queen of prophets, pray for us.
Queen of apostles, pray for us.
Queen of martyrs, pray for us.
Queen of confessors, pray for us.
Queen of virgins, pray for us.
Queen of all saints, pray for us.
Queen conceived without original sin, pray for us.
Queen of the most holy rosary, pray for us.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world: Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world: Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world: Have mercy on us, O Lord.
Pray for us, O holy Mother of God. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray
Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord God, that we Thy servants may enjoy perpetual health of mind and body, and by the glorious intercession of the Blessed Mary, ever Virgin, be delivered from present sorrow and enjoy everlasting happiness. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!
After the fall of Adam, man’s senses became rebellious to reason. As a consequence, chastity is the most difficult of all the virtues to practice. Saint Augustine says: “Of all inner conflicts the most arduous are concerned with chastity. These battles are of daily occurrence, but victory is rare.” May God be praised eternally, however, because in Mary he has given us such a shining example of this virtue. “Mary is with good reason called the Virgin of virgins,” says Saint Albert the Great. “Without the advice or example of others, she was the first to consecrate her virginity to God.” In this way, she led to God all who imitated her virginity, as David had foretold: After her shall virgins be brought…into the temple of the king (Ps 44:15). Without advice and without any example! Saint Bernard says: “O Virgin, who taught you to please God by your virginity and to lead an angel’s life on earth?” Saint Sophronius replies: “God chose a pure virgin for his mother, that she might be an example of chastity to everybody.” That is why Saint Ambrose calls Mary “the standard-bearer of virginity.”
Because of Mary’s purity the Holy Spirit declared that she is as beautiful as the turtledove: Your cheeks are beautiful as the turtledove’s (Cant 1:9). “A most pure turtledove” is what Aponius calls her. For the same reason, Mary is also called a lily: As the lily among the thorns, so is my love among the daughters (Cant 2:2). On this passage Denis the Carthusian remarks: “Mary was compared to a lily among thorns because all other virgins were thorns, either to themselves or to others; but the Blessed Virgin was not so, either to herself or to others.” She inspired everybody who saw her with chaste thoughts. Saint Thomas confirms this when he says that the beauty of the Blessed Virgin incited to chastity all who looked at her. Saint Jerome maintains that Saint Joseph remained a virgin as a result of living with Mary. Writing against the heretic Helvidius who denied Mary’s virginity, Saint Jerome said: “You say that Mary did not remain a virgin. I say that not only did she remain a virgin, but that even Joseph preserved his virginity through Mary.” Saint Gregory of Nyssa says that the Blessed Virgin loved chastity so much, that to preserve it she would have been willing to renounce even the dignity of Mother of God. This seems evident from her reply to the archangel: How shall this happen, since I do not know man? (Lk 1:34). And from the words she added then: Be it done to me according to your word (Lk 1:38), signifying that she gave her consent on the condition that, as the angel had assured her, she should become a mother only by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit.
Saint Ambrose says that “anyone who preserves chastity is an angel; anyone who loses it is a devil.” Our Lord assures us that those who are chaste become angels: They…shall be as the angels of God in heaven (Mt 22:30). But the unchaste become hateful to God, like devils. Saint Remigius used to say that the majority of adults are lost by this vice.
We have quoted Saint Augustine as saying that a victory is very seldom gained in this combat. Why is this? Because the means by which the victory may be gained are very seldom used. These means are threefold, according to Bellarmine and the masters of the spiritual life: fasting, the avoidance of dangerous occasions of sin, and prayer. 1. By fasting we mean especially mortification of the eyes and the appetite. Although our Blessed Lady was filled with divine grace, she nevertheless practiced mortification of the eyes, according to Saint Epiphanius and Saint John Damascene. Her glances were always modest and she never gazed fixedly at anyone. She was so unassuming, even from childhood, that everyone who saw her was charmed by her reserve. Saint Luke remarks that when she went to visit Elizabeth, she went with haste (Lk 1:39), in order to avoid the public gaze. Philibert relates that it was revealed to a hermit named Felix that as far as her food was concerned, when she was a baby she took milk only once a day. Saint Gregory of Tours maintains that she fasted throughout her life. Saint Bonaventure explains this: “Mary would never have found so much grace if she had not been moderate in her meals, for grace and gluttony do not go together.” In short, Mary was mortified in everything, so that it was true to say of her: My hands dripped with myrrh (Cant 5:5).
The second means is avoidance of the occasions of sin: He that is aware of the snares shall be secure (Prov 11:15). Saint Philip Neri coined the expression: “In the war of the senses, cowards conquer.” By cowards he means those who flee from dangerous occasions. Mary fled as much as possible from the gaze of men. Remember Saint Luke’s remark that, in going to visit Elizabeth, Mary went with haste into the hill country. One author calls attention to the fact that Our Lady left Elizabeth before Saint John was born: And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her own house. Now Elizabeth’s time was fulfilled that she should be delivered, and she brought forth a son (Lk 1:56-57). Why did Mary not wait for Saint John’s birth? Because she wanted to avoid the hubbub and excitement that usually accompany such an event.
The third means is prayer. The Wise Man said: And as I knew that I could not otherwise be continent except God gave it…I went to the Lord and besought him (Wis 8:21). Mary revealed to Saint Elizabeth of Hungary that she did not acquire any virtue without effort and without continual prayer. Saint John Damascene calls our Immaculate Mother “a lover of purity.” She cannot endure those who are content to be unchaste. And if anybody appeals to her to be delivered from unchastity she will certainly help him. All he has to do is call upon her confidently. The Venerable John of Ávila used to say that many have conquered impure temptations merely through devotion to Mary Immaculate.
O Mary, most pure dove, how many are now in hell on account of impurity! Most gracious Lady, obtain for us the grace always to fly to you in our temptations, and always to invoke your name, pleading: “Mary, Mary, help us!” Amen.