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Franciscan Spirit Blog

Ave Maria: Calling On Mother Mary

May 4, 2021
Ave Maria: Calling On Mother Mary | Image by Goran Horvat from Pixabay
Whether we recite the Hail Mary by itself or repeatedly in the rosary, it reminds us of the respect we show the woman chosen by God to give birth to his son.

The Hail Mary has always been one of my favorite prayers and the one that I rely upon the most when I feel the need for assistance from the Mother of God. One of the first prayers I was taught, it reminds me of my grandmothers, May crownings and Marian songs.

I’m named after my grandmothers, Mary Huber and Johanna Niklas, both of whom were devoted to praying the rosary. When I was a child, my widowed Grandma Huber sometimes stayed at our house and shared my double bed with me. I remember her keeping me awake as she murmured her final rosary of the day. Grandma Niklas was also very devoted to praying the rosary, especially during her final years as a victim of a stroke. One of her sisters made rosaries, which were bestowed on grateful relatives (including this writer) and sent to missions.

My daughter, Jenny, and I both earned the Marian Award when we were Girl Scouts. I don’t remember what I wore for my ceremony, but I recall making Jenny a dress out of sky-blue fabric, the color used by many artists to depict Mary’s garb. But frankly, because of my birthday being close to the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I often envision the lovely lady dressed in turquoise blue.

During the 1950s when I attended St. James the Greater in rural Cincinnati, we celebrated May crowning every year by donning our finest clothes and carrying homegrown flowers as we processed into the old church to honor Mary with special hymns and prayers.

Praying the rosary and decorating home May altars with flowers were traditions I continued with my own children and grandchildren.


Inspired Music

When my daughter was in the eighth grade, she was selected to crown the Blessed Virgin at our parish, St. Martin of Tours. There’s something about May crownings that still gives me goose bumps, especially when I hear those familiar Marian hymns from my childhood and the contemporary “Hail Mary, Gentle Woman” by Carey Landry.

And what is it about any version of “Ave Maria” sung at a wedding that causes such emotion? These hymns were inspired by the ancient prayer that honors Mary.

But the song this baby boomer hums as a prayer to Mary is Paul McCartney’s “Let It Be.” I’ve heard that McCartney had his earthly mother in mind when he wrote the song. But when this mother is in a crisis situation, I tend to ask my heavenly mother’s assistance by chanting the only words of the song that I remember: “When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be.”

On the separate instances when my two sons, Ritch and Tim, were near death, those lyrics and the Hail Mary were my frequent and desperate plea to heal the fruit of my womb. Like Mary, I know what it is like to keep vigil during the final hours of my firstborn son’s life.


Popular Devotion

The first lines of the Hail Mary are found in Luke’s Gospel, when the Angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will be the mother of God. That is followed by Elizabeth’s greeting to her pregnant cousin. The second part is a plea for Mary’s protection now and at the time of our death.

According to The New Catholic Encyclopedia, the Hail Mary did not become a popular form of devotion until the 11th century. The prayer was gradually developed from the sixth century to the 16th, when it was adopted for general liturgical use. In time, the Hail Mary became almost an appendix to the Our Father.

There is some debate over how the rosary, which depends on the repetition of the Hail Mary, developed, but St. Dominic and his followers are credited with spreading it, beginning in the 13th century. Whether we recite the Hail Mary by itself or repeatedly in the rosary, it reminds us of the respect we show the woman chosen by God to give birth to his son.


Hail Mary

Hail Mary, full of grace,
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among 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.

Keep reading!

A Prayer to Mary

Seven Days with Mary

Honoring Mary in Your Garden

A Franciscan Perspective on the Virgin Mary

Nourishing Love: A Franciscan Celebration of Mary by Murray Bodo


Tue, 05/04/2021 - 09:08 AM
What a great reflection. I have found so much peace in the presence of Our Lady.
Wed, 05/05/2021 - 08:21 AM
I appreciate the reference to LET IT BE. I went to Our Lady of Wisdom Academy, a Catholic high school staffed by the Daughters of Wisdom, & our high school closed at the end of our junior year in June 1970. Back in the "free & easy" early post Vatican II days we often did what is now considered liturgically incorrect: we sang secular songs that we considered appropriate at Mass. We were able to choose the songs we wanted at our Ring Day Mass, & a group of my classmates selected LET IT BE. So the first time I ever heard LET IT BE by Paul McCartney was when I learned it for our Ring Day Mass. The connection was obvious: "Mother Mary" was Our Lady (it wasn't until much later that I learned that Paul McCartney was referring to his earthly mother who died young--hopefully he now sees the connection to Our Lady as well, whether or not he saw it before), & she spoke words of wisdom: Our Lady of Wisdom. And Our Mother Mary's timeless words of wisdom are "let it be", because that was her "fiat", her response to the Angel Gabriel when she accepted her holy calling & awesome responsibility of becoming the Mother of the Incarnate Son of God Personally I tend to avoid the rosary because I find it tedious to repeat the HAIL MARY 50 times. But one of the positive results of the COVID-19 pandemic is that we are advised to wash our hands for a period of 20 seconds, & it has been suggested that the 20 seconds of hand washing are equivalent to praying a HAIL MARY or an OUR FATHER. So frequently when I am washing my hands I am also "redeeming the time" by praying either one OUR FATHER or one HAIL MARY & I frequently choose to pray one HAIL MARY. Sometimes I even pray it twice.

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