When I began the project of looking closer at the Hail Mary on my blog many years ago, I never dreamed it would be a book. That project inspired a whole new way of praying for me, and it made me slow down.
The book inspired by the blog series, Word by Word: Slowing Down with the Hail Mary, is now available, and I'm excited to share more from some of the contributors who have agreed to be interviewed here.
In Word by Word, each contributor wrote a brief reflection about every 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.
I first met Jaymie Stuart Wolfe through her work as my amazing editor for the very first book I wrote, Catholic Family Fun. Jaymie is the reason that book is any good...she added a lot of wisdom, insight, and down-to-earth readability to what I had cobbled together.
Jaymie's an accomplished and award-winning writer, as it happens. Her latest book, Adoption: Room for One More?, is newly released (and staring at me from my to-read pile).
Jaymie has a gift for combining practicality with enthusiasm in ways that both motivate and inspire. I know that sounds like marketing copy, and maybe it is, but it's also true...Jaymie's been a dear friend and mentor to me in the years I've known her, and I count it a blessing that she's part of this project. Now let's find out what she has to say about it!
Jaymie, what's your relationship with the Hail Mary as a prayer? How does it help you grow closer to Mary and, through her, Jesus?
As a convert to Catholic faith, the Hail Mary wasn’t something I grew up with. Nor was the prayer something I immediately gravitated to. Over time, though, it has become the the first prayer that comes to me when I’m upset, or fearful, or uncertain. I find that when life is harder, I feel closer to Mary. I rely on her prayers more when I find it hard to pray myself. My favorite Marian titles are Loom of the Incarnation, Help of Christians, and Undoer of Knots.
Being mom to eight kids, (now mostly grown up), pushed me into Mary’s arms, but not in the way a child runs to her mother. My relationship with Mary has been more what I imagine it would be like to have an older sister, one who has been where I am. I know many of my deepest struggles are not unfamiliar to Mary. She can show me what God is asking of me and what He wants to give to me in those moments. She can show me how to live the Cross in a beautiful and grace-filled way.
Though I can’t claim to pray the Rosary every day, I try. I marvel that in the Rosary we pray the Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious mysteries on the same beads. That is how we experience life. One thing, sorrow or joy, might be more present—but the other aspects are always there. When I pray the Hail Mary’s on the beads, I am inviting Mary to be part of my life as it is, in the here and now. Because Mary’s whole life is focused on Jesus, she ushers me into the life of her Son. She affirms that He is with me, just as He is and was with her.
Your reflection was on the words FULL and THE. Tell us a bit about what each word means to you in the context of the Hail Mary.
“Full” is what we all want. I want a full tank, a full plate—and let’s face it, a bank balance that has something in it! But when it really comes down to it, focusing on those things leaves me feeling very empty. And that is where God meets me. For if I bring my emptiness to Him, He will give me a heart that’s full, a life that is full, and an eternity that is filled with his promises, both made and kept.
Mary was full in all the right ways. She was full of God’s grace. That was possible because she was not full of herself. Her entire life was shaped to hold God, to evelop the Savior. That is what I hope God will do for me and in me when I pray. I pray that He will fill me with the grace that pushes my selfishness out of the way and hollows me into a vessel.
“The” is a funny little word to write about. It appears more than once in the Hail Mary, yet each time it means something different. That’s the purpose of a definite article, and not every language has them. A definite article is used to distinguish the one you’re talking about from every other one that is somewhat like it. Mary is unique. She is a woman like us, but she received a grace no one before her or after her will ever receive. She is the Blessed Mother; the Mother of God; the Queen of Heaven.
What's your top tip for slowing down as you pray the Hail Mary...or any prayer, for that matter?
To slow down a prayer, I like to sing it. Sometimes it’s a familiar song, sometimes it’s something I’m composing on the spot, sometimes I will just chant the words. Another thing I do to slow down a prayer is to allow a space of silence after each line. And, sometimes I’ll try to pray a short prayer in a language other than English. It might mean dusting off my High School French or college Latin, or even making an attempt in a language I’ve never studied.
Be sure to check out Jaymie's website for more about her work. To know her is to dance and skip and break into song, believe me. :)
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.