In his General Audience on Ash Wednesday, March 5, 2014, Pope Francis highlighted the special protection and help of the Blessed Virgin for the journey of Lent:
“Let us give thanks to God for the mystery of his crucified love; authentic faith, conversion and openness of heart to the brethren: These are the essential elements for living the season of Lent. On this journey, we want to invoke with special trust the protection and help of the Virgin Mary: May she, who was the first to believe in Christ, accompany us in our days of intense prayer and penance, so that we might come to celebrate, purified and renewed in spirit, the great paschal mystery of her Son.”
These words of Pope Francis help us to appreciate one reason why Mary is the perfect companion for Lent: She is the model of the perfect disciple because she entrusted herself completely to God. At the Annunciation, Mary tells the angel: “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). In 1974, Pope Paul VI taught that Mary is “worthy of imitation because she was the first and the most perfect of Christ’s disciples” (Marialis Cultus, No. 35).
Lent is a perfect time to renew our devotion to Mary as our spiritual mother who cares for us in the midst of challenges and difficulties. One of the oldest known prayers to Mary is called the Sub Tuum Praesidium (“Under Thy Protection”), which goes back to the third or fourth century. One translation of it reads:
We fly to Thy protection, O Holy Mother of God;
Despise not our petitions in our necessities,
but deliver us always from all dangers,
O Glorious and Blessed Virgin. Amen
Let Mary be our guide this Lent.