We all recite the Hail Mary, but how many of us know its true meaning? What is the prayer really saying?
In the book, “Mary, Mother of All” (“María, Mamma di tutti”), Pope Francis himself teaches us the meaning of the words of this essential prayer.
Full of Grace
The Angel Gabriel calls Mary “full of grace” (Lk 1:28); in her, the pope explains, “there is no room for sin, because God has chosen her from all eternity to be the mother of Jesus, and has preserved her from original sin.”
“The Word became flesh in her womb. We, too, are asked to listen to God, who speaks to us, and to accept His will. The Lord always speaks to us.”
The Lord is with you
What happened in a unique way in the Virgin Mary, Francis says, “happens on a spiritual level in us as well when we welcome the Word of God with a good and sincere heart, and put it into practice. It happens as if God were to become flesh in us; He comes to live in us, because He makes His home in those who love Him and obey His Word. It’s not easy to understand this, but, yes, it’s easy to feel it in your heart.”
“Do we think that the incarnation of Jesus is only a past event, that it doesn’t affect us personally? Believing in Jesus means offering Him our body, with the same humility and courage as Mary.”
Blessed are you among women
How did Mary live her faith? “She lived it,” the pope answers, “in the simplicity of the many daily occupations and worries of every mom, such as providing food and clothing, and taking care of the house… Precisely this normal existence of the Virgin was the ground on which a singular rapport and profound dialogue between her and God, between her and her Son, developed.”
Blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Mary is receptive, but not passive, Francis explains.
“Just as she receives the power of the Holy Spirit at a physical level, but then gives flesh and blood to the Son of God who takes form in Her, so also on a spiritual level, she receives grace and responds to it with faith. For this reason, Saint Augustine says that the Virgin ‘conceived in her heart before in her womb.’ She conceived faith first, and then the Lord.”
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Holy Mary, Mother of God
The Mother of the Redeemer, the pope continues, “precedes us and constantly confirms us in the faith, in our vocation, and in our mission. With her example of humility and readiness to obey God’s will, she helps us to translate our faith into a joyful proclamation of the Gospel, without borders.”
Pray for us sinners
In order to explain the meaning of this passage of the prayer, Francis relates an anecdote:
“I remember how once, at the Shrine of Luján, I was in the confessional, in front of which there was a long line. There was also a young man who was very modern, with earrings, tattoos, all those things… And he had come to tell me what was going on with him. It was a big problem, very difficult. And he said to me, ‘I told my mom all of this, and my mom said: Go to the Blessed Virgin and she will tell you what to do.’ Now, that’s a woman who had the gift of counsel. She didn’t know how to solve her son’s problem, but she pointed out the right path: go to the Blessed Virgin, and she will tell you. This is the gift of counsel. That humble, simple woman gave her son the best advice. In fact, the young man said to me, ‘I looked at the Blessed Virgin and I felt that I should do this, this, and this…’ I didn’t need to talk; his mom and the young man himself had already said everything. This is the gift of counsel. You moms, who have this gift: ask that it be given to your children. The gift of counseling your children is a gift of God.”
Now, and at the hour of our death
Let us entrust ourselves to Mary, Pope Francis says, “so that she, as the Mother of our first-born brother, Jesus, can teach us to have the same maternal spirit towards our brothers, with a sincere ability to accept, to forgive, to strengthen, and to infuse confidence and hope. And this is what a mom does.”
Mary’s path towards Heaven began “with that ‘yes’ she spoke in Nazareth, in reply to the heavenly Messenger who announced to her God’s will for her. In reality, that’s exactly how it is: every ‘yes’ to God is a step toward Heaven, toward eternal life.”