The Hail Mary prayer is one of the most sublime prayers, repeating the words of the Angel Gabriel to Our Lady and petitioning her to assist us now and in our final hour on earth.
This prayer alone is so full of truths of the Catholic faith that many saints, like St Thomas Aquinas, St Jerome, St Francis, St Alphonsus de Liguori, St Dominic, Bl Alan and many others have written volumes on Our Lady and the Angelic Greeting.
Here are just a few inspirational statements of some of the Saints to give you an idea of the magnitude and depths contained in the Hail Mary:
Fr. Suarez, S.J.: "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 Thomas Aquinas: preached for 40 days in Rome on the Hail Mary, filling his hearers with rapture.
St Jerome: "the truths contained in the Hail Mary are so sublime, so wonderful that no man or Angel could fully understand them."
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst 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.
The Angelic Salutation is just that. A salutation. A greeting. The original form of the Hail Mary only contained the greetings from the Archangel Gabriel and St Elizabeth. Our Lord's Name was later added.
In response to complaints that the prayer didn't hold any petition so it couldn't be correctly called a prayer, it was the habit of individuals to add their own petition at the end, frequently asking Our Lady for help and assistance at the time of death. There are records of different forms being adapted for different regions and countries.
Finally, in the 1500's the form as we know it was more universally used.
Here is a humorous little quip for you. I am of Irish ancestry, so there is no prejudice intended here. ;-)
From the New Advent site: "Finally it may be noticed that in some places, and notably in Ireland, the feeling still survives that the Hail Mary is complete with the word Jesus. Indeed the writer is informed that within living memory it was not uncommon for Irish peasant, when bidden to say Hail Marys for a penance, to ask whether they were required to say the Holy Marys too."
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