The Hail Mary
"All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed"
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee;
blessed art Thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
The Hail Mary, after the Our Father which is the greatest of all private prayers because it was given directly to us by Christ Himself, is the most pleasing to God. It is also called the Angelic Salutation because the Archangel Gabriel was the first to salute Mary with it. In praying the Hail Mary we are going to Mary as a child goes to its mother when it is in need and asking Her to help us by Her prayers.
Saint Paul says that Christ is the head of His Church, (Ephesians 1:22) and the Church is Christ's body, verse 23, and that we are members of His body. (1 Corinthians 12:12) As in the order of nature, a woman brings forth a child with a head, body, and members, so also in the order of grace, Mary is our spiritual Mother by adoption because as She has brought forth Christ the Head, it is also Her place to bring forth His Body and its members, the Church. This is the meaning of Psalm 86 verse 5. "This man and that man were born in Her." The first man is Jesus Christ, the Man-God born in the order of nature; the second man is mere man born in the order of grace.
It is important to understand this because when Mary prophesied that "from henceforth all generations shall call Me blessed" (Saint Luke 1:48), She was predicting a special honor to be paid to Her from that time to the end of the world, and this for two reasons. First, because of Her great dignity of being Mother of God "Mother of My Lord" (Saint Luke 1:43), and secondly, because She is our spiritual mother we have a special obligation as Her children to honor Her with the Eternal Father "Honor thy father and thy mother" (Exodus 20:12). So in praying the Hail Mary we salute Mary, as the Archangel Gabriel. "Salute Mary who hath labored much among you." (Romans 16:6), and join Saint Elizabeth in calling Her blessed: "Blessed art Thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb." (Saint Luke 1:42) One should pray the Hail Mary often each day along with the Our Father. As the Scripture says that they who honor their father and mother will live a long life, (Ephesians 6:2), so we can conclude that those who honor the Eternal Father and Our Blessed Mother daily with these two prayers will live a long life in eternity.
Millions of Catholics often say the Hail Mary. Some repeat it hastily not even thinking on the words they are saying. Saint Louis de Montfort says this is especially true when saying the Rosary. It is really pathetic to see how many people say the Rosary — they say it astonishingly fast and mumble so that the words are not properly pronounced at all. We could not possibly expect anyone, even the most unimportant person, to think that a slipshod address of this kind was a compliment and yet we expect Jesus and Mary to be pleased with it. Small wonder then that the most sacred prayers of our holy religion seem to bear no fruit, and that, after saying thousands of Rosaries, we are still no better than we were before! These following words may help some say it more thoughtfully.
As this article demonstrates, there is great power in praying the "Hail Mary" well. The first "Hail Mary" was said by St. Gabriel the Archangel at the Annunciation.
Give Our Lady Great Joy
They can give God's Mother great joy and obtain for themselves graces that She wishes to give them. One Hail Mary well said fills the heart of Our Lady with delight and obtains for us indescribably great graces. One Hail Mary well said gives us more graces than a thousand thoughtlessly said. The Hail Mary is like a mine of gold that we can always take from but never exhaust. Is it hard to say the Hail Mary well? All we have to do is to know its value and understand its meaning. Saint Jerome tells us that "the truths contained in the Hail Mary are so sublime, so wonderful that no man or angel could fully understand them." Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Prince of Theologians, "the wisest of saints and holiest of wise men," as Leo XIII called him, preached for 40 days in Rome on the Hail Mary filling his hearers with rapture. Father F. Suarez, the holy and learned Jesuit, declared when dying that he would willingly give all the many learned books he wrote, all his life's labors, for the merit of one Hail Mary prayerfully and devoutly said. Saint Mechtilde, who loved Our Lady very much, was one day striving to compose a beautiful prayer in Her honor. Our Lady appeared to her, with the golden letters on Her breast of: "Hail Mary full of grace." She said to her: "Desist, dear child, from your labor for no prayer you could possibly compose would give me the joy and delight of the Hail Mary." Saint Louis de Montfort said of the Hail Mary, "It is the most beautiful of all prayers after the Our Father. It is the most perfect compliment which you can make to Mary, because it is the compliment which the Most High sent Her by an archangel, in order to win Her heart."
Saint Mary Will Reward You
A certain man found joy in saying slowly the Hail Mary. The Blessed Virgin in return appeared to him smiling and announced to him the day and hour that he should die, granting him a most holy and happy death. After death, a beautiful white lily grew from his mouth, having written on its petals: "Hail Mary." Cesarius recounts a similar incident. A humble and holy monk lived in the monastery. His poor mind and memory were so weak that he could only repeat one prayer which was the "Hail Mary." After death, a tree grew over his grave and on all its leaves was written: "Hail Mary." These beautiful accounts show us how much devotion to Our Lady was valued, and the power attributed to the Hail Mary devoutly prayed. Each time that we say the Hail Mary we are repeating the very same words with which Saint Gabriel the Archangel saluted Mary on the day of the Annunciation when She was made Mother of the Son of God. Many graces and joys filled the soul of Mary at that moment. Now when we say the Hail Mary we offer anew all these graces and joys to Our Lady and She accepts them with immense delight. In return, She gives us a share in these joys.
Key To Happiness
Once Our Lord asked Saint Francis of Assisi to give Him something. The Saint replied: "Dear Lord, I can give You nothing for I have already given You all, all my love." Jesus smiled and said: "Francis, give Me it all again and again, it will give Me the same pleasure." So with our Dearest Mother, She accepts from us each time we say the Hail Mary the joys and delight She received from the words of Saint Gabriel. Almighty God gave His Blessed Mother all the dignity, greatness and holiness necessary to make Her His own most perfect Mother. But He also gave Her all the sweetness, love, tenderness and affection necessary to make Her our most loving Mother. MARY IS TRULY AND REALLY OUR MOTHER. As children when in trouble run to their mothers for help so ought we to run at once with unbounded confidence to Mary. Saint Bernard and many saints said that it was never, never heard at any time or in any place that Mary refused to hear the prayers of Her children on earth. Why do we not realize this most consoling truth? Why refuse the love and consolation that God's Sweet Mother is offering us? Is it our lame ignorance which deprives us of such help and consolation? To love and trust Mary is to be happy on earth now and afterwards to be happy in Heaven.
Dr. Hugh Lammer was a staunch Protestant, with strong prejudices against the Catholic Church. One day he found an explanation of the Hail Mary and read it. He was so charmed with it that he began to say it daily. Insensibly all his anti-Catholic animosity began to disappear. He became a Catholic, a holy priest and professor of Catholic Theology in Breslau.
A priest was called to the bedside of a man who was dying in despair because of his sins. Yet he refused obstinately to go to confession. As a last recourse the priest asked him to say at least the Hail Mary, after which the poor man made a sincere confession and died a holy death.
In England, a parish priest was asked to go and see a Protestant lady who was gravely ill, and who wished to become a Catholic. Asked if she had ever gone to a Catholic church, or if she had spoken to Catholics, or if she had read Catholic books, she replied, "No, no." All she could remember was that — when a child — she had learned from a little Catholic neighbor girl the Hail Mary, which she said every night. She was baptized and before dying had the happiness of seeing her husband and children baptized.
Saint Gertrude tells us in her book, Revelations that when we thank God for the graces He has given to any saint, we get a great share of those particular graces. What graces, then, do we not receive when we say the Hail Mary, while thanking God for all the unspeakable graces He has given His Blessed Mother?
Jesus and Mary Are Inseparable
When we say the Hail Mary we are going to the tree to receive the fruit, Jesus, Who came into the world through Her, according to the saints, "He who wishes to have the fruit of life, which is Jesus Christ, must have the tree of life which is Mary. And finding Mary we will always find Jesus, our last end, as Saint Alphonsus expresses it. "Whoever desires the fruit must find the tree; whoever wishes to find Jesus must find Mary; And entering into the house, they found the Child with Mary, His Mother." (Saint Matthew 2:11)
Saint Louis de Montfort speaking of the beauty and fruits of the Hail Mary in The Secret of the Rosary had this to say: "Saint Gabriel's greeting to Our Lady is one of the most beautiful hymns which we can possibly sing to the glory of the Most High. "I will sing a new song to you." (Psalm 143:9) This new hymn which David foretold was to be sung at the coming of the Messiah is none other than the Angelic Salutation.
Although this new hymn is in praise of the Mother of God and is sung directly to Her, nevertheless it greatly glorifies the Most Blessed Trinity because any homage that we pay Our Lady returns inevitably to God Who is the cause of all Her virtues and perfections.
"Whoever honors not the Son, honors not the Father." (Saint John 5:23) Whoever honors not the Mother honors not the Son. Jesus and Mary are so closely united that it is impossible to separate Them. "It would be easier to separate the light from the sun," says Saint Louis de Montfort. Therefore, what God hath joined together, let no man put asunder." (Saint Matthew 19:6) If we wish to have Jesus we must take the Mother. Those in Bethlehem who turned away the Mother were turning away the Son. Therefore, "take the Child and His Mother." (Saint Matthew 2:13)
Saint Ignatius of Antioch, who was a disciple of Saint John himself and was instructed by him had this to say: "No devout client of Mary shall ever perish." Saint Louis de Montfort said that "since our salvation was begun by the Angelic Salutation, it is therefore tied up in a special manner to this prayer." Therefore, call upon Her often in your many needs with the Hail Mary and like a good Mother that She is, She will help you. "Behold thy Mother" (Saint John 19:27), says Jesus to His disciples. Invoke Her often with the Hail Mary and you will store up treasure in Heaven. "He who honors his mother is as one that layeth up a treasure." (Ecclesiasticus 3:5)
"Heaven opened by the practice of The Three Hail Marys."