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Everyone’s Prayer: The Hail Mary

by Fr. David M. Knight

Friday May 31, 2024

Friday of the Eighth Week of Easter

Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Lectionary 572

Zep 3:14-18a or Rom 12:9-16/Lk 1:39-5


The “Hail Mary” is probably the prayer Catholics recite most often, although it is not an “official” prayer of the Church. (Every prayer in our liturgy is addressed to God; never to Mary or a Saint).

No one really knows who put it together or popularized it. It just “caught on” and became a part of the Catholic mentality. We could call it “everyone’s prayer,” because it sums up the blessings common to every Christian. It encourages all of us to live out our vocation.

The “Hail Mary” is just two verses of the Gospel (Luke 1:28, 42) that someone memorized and began to recite, followed by a one-line petition: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.”

To appreciate the Hail Mary, substitute your own name for Mary. Then the prayer becomes a proclamation of what all Christians are by the gift of grace:

Hail (NAME), you are favored by God.” Mary was, in fact, “full of grace,” but the phrase is a mistranslation of kekaritomene, “favored one.” All the reborn are “highly favored” by God and should draw strength and comfort from recalling it.

The Lord is with you.” He is with all of us. We proclaim it every time we say “Dominus vobiscum,” “The Lord be with you.” Or “Goodbye,” short for “God be with you.” The prayer helps us stay constantly aware of his presence and confident of his help.

Blessed are you among women/men.” Within the community of believers, each one of us is singularly and specially blessed. “There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit…To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1Corinthians 12:4-7). Like Mary, each of us is “highly favored” and singularly blessed. We need to keep ourselves conscious of it and use gratefully for others the gifts God is giving us.

And blessed is the fruit of your womb/life.” Jesus said to each of us: “You did not choose me but I chose you,” as I chose Mary. “And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last” (John 15:16). As Paul expressed it, all of us, like Mary, are “in the pain of childbirth” until “Christ is formed” in everyone we deal with. We are all “building up the body of Christ, until we become one… in the knowledge of God’s Son and form that perfect man who is Christ come to full stature” (see Galatians 4:19; Ephesians 4:13). The Hail Mary reminds us that, in everything we do, God is at work in us to bring Christ to be and to fullness in others. We are chosen to live fruitful lives.

"Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners...” We turn to Mary, remembering how holy, how great she is. She gave birth to God himself. We ask her to pray that we, who are sinners, will be able to do the smaller things God asks of us and that we aspire to do for the world.

"Now, and at the hour of our death.” We ask her to pray that we will be able to surrender to God here and now, while we are still sinners. And we ask her to help us surrender totally at the hour of our death, when our “Yes” to God will be made perfect.

Amen. So be it. This is our life. What we see in Mary is the preview and promise of the perfection we will all have when we see the Church, all of us, “coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2).

Hail, favored one of God, blessed are you.

ACTION: Find a personal way to demonstrate your appreciation and love for Mary.

PRAYER: “Hail Mary”

Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry

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