The Hail Mary Prayer is one of the first prayers that you learn as a young Catholic. A devotional prayer to the Mother of God, we pray the Hail Mary to ask for grace and love from God, through Mary’s intercession.
“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.”
But what does the Hail Mary prayer actually mean? And what does it mean to devote yourself to Mary?
The Hail Mary Prayer
In the Annunciation, the angel Gabriel greets Mary with the words, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28). During the Visitation, Elizabeth says to Mary, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Luke 1:42).
These verses were strung together as a form of greeting for Christians in the 11th century and were later built upon to form the Hail Mary prayer that we know and love. Read the full history of the prayer in the Catholic Encyclopedia.
Meaning of the Prayer
“Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.”
The first half of the prayer is a salutation. We are praising and thanking God for blessing the Virgin Mary as the mother of Jesus, His son. At the same time, the prayer offers respect and honor to Mary for giving herself to the Lord so freely and completely.
“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.”
The second half of the prayer continues to honor Mary and her place beside the Lord in Heaven by asking for her intercession. It recognizes our innate tendency toward sin, but also a deep desire to change and to receive God’s blessings both now and in the afterlife.
What the Hail Mary Prayer Means to Me
Fr. Jonas Verdeflor, OMV shares a personal story of how he’s built friendships over the years through the Rosary and Hail Mary prayer.
“The Virgin Mary introduces me to people through her prayer. In 2015, when I wanted to pray the Rosary in Spanish, my mother suggested the parish down the road. There, I participated with a Spanish Rosary group. I eventually got to know Altagracia, the leader of the group. She allowed me to lead a decade or two of the Rosary and later she would attend my priestly ordination.
Currently, I pray the Rosary in Italian to learn the language. How many people will I meet in Italy with the Rosary? Who knows? Mary will bring me to the right people.” — Fr. Jonas Verdeflor, OMV
Oblate Devotion to Mary
The Oblates of the Virgin Mary share a special connection to Mary. Our founder, Father Lanteri insisted “the Congregation of the Oblates is not my work, but the work of Mary Most Holy… She is its foundress, its mother, and its teacher.”
Imitating Mary’s virtues, Oblates pay special attention to the quality of all their actions, including (and especially) simple tasks in our daily lives. Our devotion finds expression in the Oblate motto, “Mariam cogita; Mariam invoca,” which translates to, “Think of Mary; call out to Mary.”
What is it about Mary?
Fr. William Neubecker, OMV shares his thoughts:
“I was going through my conversion, and in October of 1972, I was leaving home for the first time and heading culturally in a different direction. It was scary, emotional, and heartbreaking as I left my family and friends, family business, and the USA to travel to Rome to join a religious congregation, the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, in order to follow Jesus Christ and live the Gospel in a particular way.
The flight to Rome from New York with several new colleagues was also scary, as the antique chartered plane fought against dangerous turbulence over the Atlantic Ocean through a very violent thunderstorm that sent stored luggage crashing to the aisles. Rosaries were said – no heading back now! The next morning, we flew over St. Peters’ Basilica in Rome and safely landed. After an hour’s drive, we arrived at our destination, a Sanctuary to Our Blessed Mother. As we drove onto the grounds of the sanctuary, peace and security flooded me as I heard a hymn to Mary being played through speakers. If Mary is here, I thought, then I’m in the right place.
What is it about Mary? The founder of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, Venerable Pio Bruno Lanteri, who had an affectionate love for the Mother of Jesus Christ, once wrote: “Holy Virgin, Mother of God and my Mother, I ask two things of you which are both equally necessary to me: give me your Son, because He is my treasure and without Him I am poor; give me to your Son because he is my wisdom, my light and without Him I am in darkness. All to Jesus by Mary, All to Mary for Jesus.”
What is it about Mary? St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe believed that since Mary was instrumental in bringing about the first coming of Jesus Christ, she would also be instrumental in preparing humanity for His second coming.
What is it about Mary? She brings us to her Son and she brings her Son to us.
Fifty-one years later, and looking back, it occurs to me that it has not always been smooth sailing nor without many challenges. But thank you, Mary, for bringing me to Jesus and bringing Jesus to me through so many people now in my heart, and through so many beautiful experiences lived. What an amazing journey!” — Fr. William Neubecker, OMV
Other Devotions to Mary
Aside from the Hail Mary, there are many prayers and meditations that you can use to connect with Mary, honor her, and ask for her intercession.
- The Magnificat, also referred to as the Song of Mary, is based on Mary’s response to Elizabeth during the Visitation in the Gospel of Luke
- The Rosary includes the Apostles’ Creed, Our Father, and Hail Mary prayers, as well as Scripture readings for each of the four mysteries
- The Angelus prayer commemorates the Incarnation of Christ through Mary
- The Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a gift to the Carmelites from Mary, the scapular is used for prayer and devotion to Mary to “venerate her, love her and trust in her protection” (Sisters of Mount Carmel)
- Miraculous Medals, revealed by Mary to St. Catherine Labouré, bestow graces on those who pray for Mary’s intercession while wearing the medal
- Seven Sorrows of Mary is a devotion to Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, that includes seven instances from Scripture of Mary’s suffering in relation to Jesus
- Consecration to Jesus through Mary is a devotion where you give yourself completely to Mary, typically preceded by 33 days of devotional preparations
From the Bookstore
These titles from the OMV Bookstore cover various aspects of our love and devotion to Mary, Mother of God.
- “Total Consecration Through The Mysteries Of The Rosary” by Fr. Ed Broom, OMV
- “Beholding Beauty: Mary and the Song of Songs” by Fr. Gregory Cleveland, OMV
- “Praying the Rosary with Venerable Bruno Lanteri” by the Oblates of the Virgin Mary
- “Compendium of Marian Devotions: An Encyclopedia of the Church’s Prayers, Dogmas, Devotions, Sacramentals, and Feasts Honoring the Mother of God” by Fr. Ed Broom, OMV
The Hail Mary Prayer honors Mary, the Mother of God, and asks for her intercession with the Lord for blessings in this life and the next. It’s a way to remember and try to emulate Mary’s love and mercy in our daily lives.
Do you pray the Hail Mary prayer? What does the prayer mean to you and your faith? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.