Lecturer’s Report for October 2020

The great prayer to Mary, The Hail Mary

The Hail Mary is probably the most ubiquitous prayer in all of Catholicism. Many pray it 100’s of times a day via the Rosary. The origins of the Hail Mary go back about 1000 years with its current version being approved in 1568 by Pope Pius V. As a child I remember learning it from my great grandmother Della, who was a Presbyterian. Mom was very busy with holiday preparations so Great Grandma volunteered.; such a sweet woman.

The Hail Mary is very biblical. The first half of the prayer is like a preamble, a setup for who we are praying to. It quotes the Book of Luke. The angel Gabriel greets the Virgin Mary, “Hail Mary, full of grace.” I have heard it preached that the word “full” means completely full, over flowing with grace, which harkens back to Mary’s Immaculate Conception. Elizabeth exclaims, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus!” This passage lifts Mary above all women (and men) and focuses our attention on our spiritual mother, Mary. Then she redirects our attention to the “Fruit of her womb, Jesus,” in whom she directs all of our prayers and petitions.

The second half of the Hail Mary is our general petition to ask for her help, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners.” Here we give Mary the lofty title, “Mother of God.” James Cardinal Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore more than 100 years ago said this, “When we call the Blessed Virgin the Mother of God, we assert our belief in two things: First – That her Son, Jesus Christ, is true man, else she were not a mother. Second – That He is true God, else she were not the Mother of God.” Thus we dare to ask the Mother of God for help. When we say, “Now and at the hour of our death,” we ask her to be with us always, now, every day and moment, until our time of death, even then to take us to her Son and intercede on our behalf before Him. We can trust in her intercession.

Once, a sister told me when praying for someone, to interject their name at, “pray for us sinners.” It personalizes the prayer and when in that person’s presence, it enhances their prayer experience. I have done this to great effect when ministering the Holy Eucharist at Menorah.

For us who can find the Rosary repetitious and monotonous, myself included, think of it as a love song to Mary. Bishop Sheen says to us, “Who among you does not like to hear the words, ‘I love you,’ over and over?” Mary never tires of us saying ‘I love you’ by praying the Hail Mary, her love song.

Let’s end this report by slowly praying the Hail Mary together.