It's been quite a few years since the project of looking closer at the Hail Mary took place on my blog. The exciting news this month is that it's been turned into a beautiful little volume, Word by Word: Slowing Down with the Hail Mary, to help everyone, wherever you find yourself praying.
This month, I'm excited to share more with you from some of the contributors who have agreed to be interviewed here.
In the book, each contributor wrote a brief reflection about one word of the Hail Mary. The idea was that, in reflecting on the prayer one word at a time, we would all slow down and pray it differently, more meaningfully, and closer to Jesus.
Lisa, what's your relationship with the Hail Mary as a prayer?
The Hail Mary is huge in my life. It's a major part of my daily meditation on the mysteries of the Rosary, but the words of the Hail Mary come to me in all sorts of moments, throughout the day: when I stop what I'm doing to intercede for a friend--or a stranger, as I struggle through a moment of temptation, whenever I'm suffering, when anxiety threatens to derail me from my work. Mary is my "Mama," and I turn to her throughout the day. She always turns my heart to Jesus, and I want to love her as much as he does.
How does it help you grow closer to Mary and, through her, Jesus?
I love that Jesus created his own mother. It makes me laugh, because we humans all have the urge, from time to time, to remake each other in our own image. But of course, that would be disastrous.
Mary, who is in perfect harmony with her Son, became the most pure gateway for Jesus to enter the world--and then she turned right around and became the gateway for us to return to Jesus.
When I first came back to the Church and began praying the Rosary daily, I started calling Mary "the fast lane to Jesus," because she wooed me back from the brink of total disillusionment in my life and taught me to bring all my wounds to her Son. I went through a period of rejecting God and being unable to hear anything from any man.
Christ knew that his human maleness was off-putting for me, so he worked very creatively: I love Jesus today because, in his supreme humility, he sent his mother to guide me back to his heart and his mercy. She used a succession of women, like the beads of a Rosary, to provide pieces of the puzzle that led to my conversion and healing. Jesus and Mary love each other so much! They work together very effectively.
Your reflection was on the word FOR. Tell us a bit about what this word means to you in the context of the Hail Mary.
I love the expression "being for someone." I remember having a tough time mothering my daughter, when she was an infant and still having meltdowns all the time because of painful stomach troubles.
I found La Leche League and read some of their incredibly loving books; those readings helped me to love my daughter more and take better care of her. Our relationship blossomed, and we got very close.
When she was about a year old, I met up with an old friend I hadn't seen in years, and my daughter played on the rug while we chatted. My friend watched me interact with my little girl and witnessed our bond. At one point, she turned to me and said, "I love that you are so FOR her."
That really touched me, because Mary is so FOR us, as Jesus is FOR us. Both of them operate out of total self-donation, and their lives bear witness to the redemptive suffering they endured to bring about our salvation.
The theology of the body shows us that our bodies were made for self-gift, and this is the true meaning of our lives. We are FOR Christ, so we are for each other. Loving as God loves is the only way to understand our lives. Mary understood that and lived it out.
What's your top tip for slowing down as you pray the Hail Mary...or any prayer, for that matter?
St. Therese of Lisieux wrote that when she felt spiritually dry, she would pray a Hail Mary or an Our Father very slowly, concentrating on each word. Every time she did that, her joy returned immediately.
I think sometimes we just need to yield to God's call on our hearts to pray and aggressively put the brakes on everything else going on around us. To withdraw into prayer and really be present, even for a single minute, to the person we are speaking to, rather than rattling off words, takes humility and resolve.
It can be tough to pull out of the vortex of our own self-importance to yield to the presence of God and pray. But Jesus submitted himself to prayer for many hours a day and often through the night. If Our Lord embraced dependency trust, taking time to stop and submit himself to the Father's love, so should we!
Lisa has a new book of her own out, True Radiance: Finding Grace in the Second Half of Life. It's a joy to read and a book that I think every woman should read, whatever their age. :) She also blogs at "Water into Wine" and is active on Facebook and Twitter.
If you're interested in purchasing Word by Word, consider stopping in at your local Catholic bookstore first. It's also available online, and if you use our Amazon link, CatholicMom.com gets a small percentage of the sales.
Copyright 2015 Sarah Reinhard
About the Author
When she’s not chasing kids, chugging coffee, or juggling work, Sarah Reinhard’s usually trying to stay up read just one…more…chapter. She writes and works in the midst of rural farm life with little ones underfoot. She is part of the team for the award-winning Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion, as well as the author of a number of books. You can join her for a weekday take on Catholic life by subscribing to Three Shots and follow her writing at Snoring Scholar.