It caught my eye—a small booklet, tucked in the fold of a chair in the corner. I normally wouldn’t have seen it, but it was sticking out just enough to be seen. I picked it up. The blue-and-white cover bore the title, Devotions in Honor of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. I thumbed through the booklet, scanning a few of the prayers it contained. My eyes caught a line about “my eternal salvation,” so I backed up and started from the beginning:

O Mother of Perpetual Help, thou art the dispenser of all the goods which God grants to us miserable sinners, and for this reason he has made thee so powerful, so rich, and so bountiful, that thou mayest help us in our misery. Thou art the advocate of the most wretched and abandoned sinnerswho have recourse to thee. Come then, to my help, dearest Mother, for I recommend myself to thee. In thy hands I place my eternal salvation and to thee do I entrust my soul. Count me among thy most devoted servants; take me under thy protection, and it isenough for me. For, if thou protect me, dear Mother, I fear nothing; not from my sins, because thou wilt obtain for me the pardon of them; nor from the devils, because thou are more powerful than all hell together; nor even from Jesus, my Judge himself, because by one prayer from thee he will be appeased. But one thing I fear, that in the hour of temptation I may neglect to call on thee and thus perish miserably. Obtain for me, then, the pardon of my sins, love for Jesus, final perseverance, and the grace always to have recourse to thee, O Mother of Perpetual Help.

At first I could not believe what I had just read. So I ran back through the last few lines. Was this prayer really saying that the petitioner did not fear his or her sins, the devils, and Jesus?? That’s what it said. I shook my head in disbelief.

A few years later I found myself in a radio studio in Boston, Massachusetts, doing a radio discussion with a former Protestant turned Roman Catholic named Gerry Matatics. The topic was Mary and the saints. Mr. Matatics and I were scheduled to do two public debates at Boston College over the course of the next week. But today we were live on the air taking calls on the subject of prayers to Mary and the saints. As I packed for the trip I found the little blue and white booklet and decided to bring it along. Now I reached into my bag and brought it out. Surely quoting this prayer would bring a strong reaction from Mr. Matatics. Surely he’d deny that such a prayer is proper, and that the people who had written it were just going overboard in their piety. The talk show host involuntarily gasped as I read the final lines, and as I put down the booklet I looked across at my opponent, waiting for the expected reaction. The host, likewise, turned to Mr. Matatics. He was quiet for a moment, and then spoke. “Mr. White, he began, I can only hope that someday you, too, will pray that prayer.”

And so it was pressed home to me yet once again how deeply entrenched in Roman Catholic belief and practice is devotion to Mary. And, I realized again how utterly unlike my own Christian experience such a devotion to anyone other than Christ Himself really is. The prayer offended me, and yes, years later, after reading dozens of more books on Marian doctrine and piety, it still does. But I now know why the prayer exists as it does, and the foundation upon which such devotion is laid.
Mary: Another Redeemer?, pp. 19-21.

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