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. Amen.

Millions of Catholics often say the Hail Mary. Some repeat it hastily not even thinking on the words they are saying. These following words may help some say it more thoughtfully. They can give God's Mother great joy and obtain for themselves graces that she wishes to give them.

One Hail Mary well said fills the heart of Our Lady with delight and obtains for us indescribably great graces. One Hail Mary well said gives us more graces than a thousand thoughtlessly said.

The Hail Mary is like a mine of gold that we can always take from but never exhaust. Is it hard to say the Hail Mary well? All we have to do is to know its value and understand its meaning.

St. Jerome tells us that "the truths contained in the Hail Mary are so sublime, so wonderful that no man or Angel could fully understand them."

St. Thomas Aquinas, the Prince of Theologians, "the wisest of Saints and holiest of wise men," as Leo XIII called him, preached for 40 days in Rome on the Hail Mary, filling his hearers with rapture.

Father F. Suarez, the holy and learned Jesuit, declared when dying that he would willingly give all the many learned books he wrote, all his life's labors, for the merit of one Hail Mary prayerfully and devoutly said.

St. Mechtilde, who loved our Lady very much, was one day striving to compose a beautiful prayer in her honor. Our Lady appeared to her, with the golden letters on her breast of: "Hail Mary full of grace." She said to her: "Desist, dear child, from your labor for no prayer you could possibly compose would give me the joy and delight of the Hail Mary."

A certain man found joy in saying slowly the Hail Mary. The Blessed Virgin in return appeared to him smiling and announced to him the day and hour that he should die, granting him a most holy and happy death.  After death a beautiful white lily grew from his mouth having written on its petals: "Hail Mary."

Cesarius recounts a similar incident. A humble and holy monk lived in the monastery. His poor mind and memory were so weak that he could only repeat one prayer which was the "Hail Mary." After death a tree grew over his grave and on all its leaves was written: "Hail Mary."

These beautiful legends show us how much devotion to Our Lady was valued, and the power attributed to the Hail Mary devoutly prayed.

Each time that we say the Hail Mary we are repeating the very same words with which St. Gabriel the Archangel saluted Mary on the day of the Annunciation, when she was made Mother of the Son of God. Many graces and joys filled the soul of Mary at that moment.

Now when we say the Hail Mary we offer anew all these graces and joys to Our Lady and she accepts them with Immense delight. In return she gives us a share in these joys.

Once Our Lord asked St. Francis Assisi to give Him something. The Saint replied: "Dear Lord, I can give You nothing for I have already given you all, all my love." Jesus smiled and said: "Francis, give Me it all again and again, it will give Me the same pleasure."

So with our dearest Mother, she accepts from us each time we say the Hail Mary the joys and delight she received from the words of St. Gabriel. Almighty God gave His Blessed Mother all the dignity, greatness and holiness necessary to make her His own most perfect Mother. But He also gave her all the sweetness, love, tenderness and affection necessary to make her our most loving Mother. Mary is truly and really our Mother.
As children when in trouble run to their mothers for help, so ought we to run at once with unbounded confidence to Mary.

St. Bernard and many Saints said that it was never, never heard at any time or in any place that Mary refused to hear the prayers of her children on earth.

Why do we not realize this most consoling truth? Why refuse the love and consolation that God's Sweet Mother is offering us?

Is it our lamentable ignorance which deprives us of such help and consolation.

To love and trust Mary is to be happy on earth now and afterwards to be happy in Heaven.

Dr. Hugh Lammer was a staunch Protestant, with strong prejudices against the Catholic Church. One day he found an explanation of the Hail Mary and read it. He was so charmed with it that he began to say it daily. Insensibly all his anti-Catholic animosity began to disappear. He became a Catholic, a holy priest and a professor of Catholic Theology in Breslau. 

A priest was called to the bedside of a man who was dying in despair because of his sins. Yet he refused obstinately to go to confession. As a last recourse the priest asked him to say at least the Hail Mary after which the poor man made a sincere confession and died a holy death.

In England, a parish priest was asked to go and see a Protestant lady who was gravely ill, and who wished to become a Catholic. Asked if she had ever gone to a Catholic Church, or, if she had spoken to Catholics, or if she had read Catholic books? She replied, "No, no." All she could remember was that, during her childhood, she had learned from a little Catholic neighbor girl the Hail Mary, which she said every night. She was Baptized and before dying had the happiness of seeing her husband and children baptized.

St. Gertrude tells us in her book, "Revelations" that when we thank God for the graces He has given to any Saint, we get a great share of those particular graces.

What graces, then, do we not receive when we say the Hail Mary while thanking God for all the unspeakable graces He has given His Blessed Mother?
The Hail Mary or "Ave Maria" (in Latin) is without a doubt one of the most beautiful and familiar prayers of the Universal Church. Though many Christians do not realize this, the Hail Mary is very much rooted in Scripture. Let me say first that prayer is, by definition, a call, cry, plea, or petition made to God. It does not necessarily have to be found explicitly in the Bible. Prayer is always a dialogue with God, and many of our most treasured prayers, including the Hail Mary, are assuredly inspired by or find their basis in Scripture.

The words of the Hail Mary are as follows: "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. Amen." As may be easily recognized, the prayer can be said to have two parts, the first being a salutation, or greeting, and the second a petition, an earnest or urgent request.

Who was it that greeted Mary by saying, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee?" It was not a pope, a bishop, or church leader; it was the archangel Gabriel, the one who "stands before God" (Luke 1:19). Luke tells us the splendid and wondrous story of the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38).

Although translations may vary, there can be no doubt that this first statement of greeting in the Hail Mary comes to us from the Gospel of Luke (Luke 1:19). Gabriel said these words, and he was a messenger sent directly from God. Thus, it is uncomplicated to see how the early Christians would adopt these beautiful words by the angel as soon as devotion to Mary sprang forth in the Church.

The second part of the greeting also comes from Scripture. Let us recall the words of Elizabeth when Mary visited her. When she heard Mary's greeting, Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb (Luke 1:42). The Christians later added the name of Jesus in order to identify more exactly that He was the "fruit of Mary's womb." Thus, it is evident that the first half of the Hail Mary is taken directly from words found in the Bible, words spoken by the angel of the Lord and by Elizabeth, Mary's cousin, who also was chosen by God to give birth to John the Baptist, the one who would prepare the way for the Savior.

Something else in the account of the Visitation leads us into the second half of the Hail Mary, which we said is a petition. The first thing we notice, though, is that this part begins by declaring Mary to be holy. Again, we see in Luke's Gospel that the Blessed Virgin says this about herself in her Canticle or "Magnificat" "from now on will all ages call me blessed" (Luke 1:48). The word "blessed" and "holy" have the same meaning.

Very interesting also in Luke's narrative is that he recounts Elizabeth as saying, "And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled" (Luke 1:45). The Greek word for Lord is "Kyrios" and this word is used many times in the New Testament to refer to God the Father (Luke 1:6; Luke 1:9; Luke 1:11). There is substantial evidence, therefore, that the believers in Christ came to recognize Mary as the Mother of God. The Church, at the Council of Ephesus, later declared this officially in 431 AD.

Finally, we come to the very last part, "pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death." Wanting to make the Hail Mary truly a prayer, a petition was eventually added, and thus it appeared in its completed form by the mid-sixteenth century. The Hail Mary is without question a very biblically rooted prayer, a salutation and petition to the Blessed Virgin from whom the Redeemer of mankind was born. It is a prayer for all Christians.