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 didn't know Cat Hodge's real name for many years. In fact, I still sort of think of her as "Mrs Darwin," which is how she signs her blog posts at Darwin Catholic, where she writes with her husband.
But then she moved from Texas, that Land of Many of My Favorite People, to Ohio.
In fact, she moved pretty close to me.
Which means I learned her name. She went from being Mrs Darwin to being Cat, a person with a voice I could hear! and a laugh I could listen to! and hair I could admire!
Which means that I have had her in my home, I have been in her home, and I have run into her, much to my delight, at a local conference.
It also means I realize just how precious time is and how hard it is to get together with people you want to be better friends with.
Cat, what's your relationship with the Hail Mary as a prayer? How does it help you grow closer to Mary and, through her, Jesus?
The Hail Mary is my go-to intercession. If I've promised to pray for someone, if I hear of a need for prayer, I stop and say a Hail Mary right away so that a) the need is lifted up immediately, and b) I don't make myself a liar by promising to pray and then not doing it. And the Hail Mary is perfect for interceding, because it's a prayer in which we are actually commanding Mary to do her job: pray for us! pray for us!
When I first thought of it this way, I was uncomfortable. Can we really boss Mary around like that? But this is such a venerable prayer that God must want us to ask Mary to pray for us. That's the role he's given her: to intercede for us, to mediate our prayers. We hand them to her, and she hands them to him.
Your reflection was on the word OUR. Tell us a bit about what this word means to you in the context of the Hail Mary.
It means that Mary is praying with us. "Our" can refer to all the sinners on earth, asking Mary for help, but it can also include Mary herself, joining herself to us, going through life and death with us so that we are never really alone.
What's your top tip for slowing down as you pray the Hail Mary...or any prayer, for that matter?
For the Hail Mary specifically, it helps me to remember that the apex of the prayer is the word Jesus. The first half builds up to Jesus; the second half follows from Jesus. The prayer is centered around Jesus, just as Mary's life was. Also, the phrase "full of grace" always strikes me as a very literal description of Mary pregnant with Jesus.
If you want to read more of what Cat writes, check out Darwin Catholic.
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.