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Our readers asked:

Who wrote the Hail Mary prayer?

Ginny Kubitz Moyer Answers:

Actually, we owe the first half of it to the angel Gabriel and to Mary’s cousin Elizabeth. “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee,” are the words of the angel when he greets Mary at the Annunciation (Luke 1:28). During the visitation, Mary’s cousin Elizabeth welcomes her with the words, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” (Luke 1:42). The joining of the two salutations in prayer appears to have become a widespread practice in the mid-eleventh century, though there is evidence of it showing up in eastern rites as far back as the sixth century.

The second part of the “Hail Mary” is where we ask for Mary’s intercession: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.” Various forms of this go back to the fourteenth century; the wording as we use it today became official in 1568.

So in answer to your question, it’s fair to say that the Hail Mary prayer evolved out of Scripture, as well as the lived reflection of the Church in the centuries that followed. Its popularity is a testament to the continuing appeal of Mary as a helper and guide. If we want a heavenly intercessor on our side, who is better than Mary, the mother who has a personal interest in seeing her son’s work continue? As the Catechism says, “We can pray with and to [Mary]. The prayer of the Church is sustained by the prayer of Mary and united with it in hope.” (CCC2679)

The Author : Ginny Kubitz Moyer
Ginny Kubitz Moyer is the author of the award-winning book Mary and Me: Catholic Women Reflect on the Mother of God. She lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area and blogs at randomactsofmomness.com.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Eric Ryder

    “Praying (not worshiping), simply means communicating in reverence to
    another. Therefore we can pray for each other (whether asleep in the
    Lord or alive here on Earth). We can ask each other (whether asleep in
    the Lord or alive here on Earth) to pray for us to the Father and to the
    Son and to the Holy Ghost. With all sincerity in Christ, hope this helps.”

    gerund or present participle: praying
    address a solemn request or expression of thanks to a deity or other object of worship.

    Where in the meaning of praying does it mean to simple communicate with reverence to another? You seem to confuse praying for someone, which is biblical, to praying to them.

    The Bible nowhere mentions anyone asking
    for someone in heaven to pray for him. The Bible nowhere describes
    anyone in heaven praying for anyone on earth. The Bible gives
    absolutely no indication that Mary or the saints can hear our prayers.
    Mary and the saints are not omniscient.

    Whenever the Bible mentions praying to or
    speaking with the dead, it is in the context of sorcery, witchcraft,
    necromancy, and divination—activities the Bible strongly condemns. In the one instance when a “saint” is spoken to, Samuel in 1 Samuel 28
    Samuel is not exactly happy to be disturbed.

    God does not answer prayers based on who is praying. God answers prayers based on whether they are asked according to His will. 1 John 5:14-15).

  • Eric Ryder

    “Where in the bible does it say to only trust in the bible alone?”
    “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book: If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues
    that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the Book of Life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which
    are written in this book”
    —Revelation 22:18-19

    His Word is absolutely sufficient in itself (Psalm 119:160).

    The Biblical message breathed out by God is revelation in written form. (2 Timothy 3:15-16). The Biblical claim is that what God has inspired was His written word (2 Peter 1:20-21). When the Lord Jesus Christ said, “the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35), He was speaking of God’s written word.
    “For example, your 1st question is “Show me in the bible where you can pray to a saint?” – First we have to agree what a “Saint” is. As Catholics, we believe we are all saints”
    The Bible nowhere instructs believers in Christ to pray to anyone other than God. The Bible nowhere encourages,
    or even mentions, believers asking individuals in heaven for their prayers. Saint’s have no more access to Jesus than we do as Christians.

    Hebrews 4:16 tells us that we, believers here on earth, can “approach the throne of grace with confidence.”

    First Timothy 2:5 declares, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

    There is no one else that can mediate with God
    for us. If Jesus is the ONLY mediator, that indicates Mary and the saints cannot be mediators.

  • Anthony Bartolomey

    No where in your rambling did you even answer one of my questions. Please respond to the questions at hand. You line of succession argument is not in scripture.

    • Jonathan Russell

      The Bible stopped being written shortly after the death of Jesus Christ. That’s a good thing. The words Pope and Catholic came after it stopped being written. They are how ever words used to describe the people that translated and bound the book that you refer to as the Bible. Catholic is just another way to say the only christian church started by God. Peter the first Pope of the Catholic Church wrote parts of the Bible while walking the earth by Jesus’s side. The Bishops of the Catholic church Translated it into Latin Edited out the scrolls that where not inspired by God and bound it into a book in the year 192. The Gutenburg Bible is the first known Bible that was produced on a printing press in the year 1454. Between the years 192 and 1454 every single copy of the Bible that existed on earth was written by hand by a Catholic monk in a Catholic monastery. If any Christians are correct in their belief today then the Catholics have been correct all along. If not for the Catholic Church you would have no existing scripture to refer to. In short the words Pope and Catholic are not written in the Bible but as it’s creators you can believe that their effort is in every letter of every word of every verse in the paper it’s self, in the glue, and through out the binding of it. You are welcome. It is ludicrous to believe that you can intemperate it any better than the experts. You would fair better trying to teach fish how to swim. My recommendation to you is that you stop banging it and start reading it and it will bring you home to the only true church of Christ.

      • Anthony Bartolomey

        The books of the bible started being written as early as 35ad. Paul started in 47ad, James 45ad, mark 45ad with Luke and john. Early papyrus as early as 100ad. Revelation written in 95ad. You said the bible stopped being written after the death of jesus, what?

        Also the Pope in 1200 said that people shouldn’t read the bible then in 12 29 it was forbidden. This happened because catholics wanted control over the population. This is against any scripture. Paul went to the gentiles even though it was frowned upon. Peter went to them as well but needed Paul to rebuke his wrongdoing.

        You say it’s Ludacris to think I know better than the experts. We read the bible to discern between biblical and unbiblical teachers. There are many I follow that are experts, none of them are catholic. None of them have idols of saints, which the bible says that all believers are saints. None of the biblical experts ever pray to someone other than God because the bible says so. If I were you I would run to my bible and open it and start reading day and night (joshua 1:8). Discerning between an unbiblical teaching and a biblical one is in scripture many times but you will never know it unless your in the word. The Galatians only had one letter to go off of for how long. Did they have anyone telling them don’t read it because you could never understand it? I think not.

      • Jonathan Russell

        I suppose it’s possible that your so called experts wrote, edited, bound, hand copied, translated, preserved, and distributed the bible for 2000 years devoting their entire life to the Word of God and not having room for friends and family because the Word was the entirety of their life. So I won’t discredit them with out knowing for sure. That’s what my experts did. It would be a shame and a sham if your experts cherry picked a few verses, maybe read it a little bit, listed it as one of their interests on facebook, grabbed a 6 week online doctorate of divinity, declared them self an expert and went on preaching as if they where an authority.

      • Anthony Bartolomey

        Your never going to listen because you refuse to. I don’t cherry pick anything I read the word of God. How do you know if the word was preserved? You match it to the original Greek or Hebrew and guess what, it does. You will never know if someone is teaching you the truth or not if you don’t read the bible, period. Believe in imperfect men all you want but the Bible still stands true. By the way no one person alive today has been distrubting the bible for 2000 years and it’s stupid to make a comment like that.

  • Mike Gallagher

    It appears I made a mistake about the translation in latin of the Ave Maria (The Hail Mary)yesterday,i was going by the music of Franz Schubert ,the english translation on the sheet music mislead me .i looked it up on my computer and it is in accordance with the prayer.(i appologise)

  • Mike Gallagher

    On the subject of the prayer “of the Hail Mary”in Schubert’s ave Maria,schubert takes the words from sir walter Scott’s Ivenhoe.from a page inthe story. the words translated in english have nothing to do with the prayer itself. the music however is beautiful to listen to

    • Jonathan Russell

      Walter Scott borrowed the words from the Angel Gabriel.

  • Mike Gallagher

    The Bible contains many mysterious things we must take largely on faith.

  • Marie

    Mary doesn’t have godly powers to hear any prayer. Only God can hear you. Isaiah 42:8 “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols.

    • Anson david

      but in the scripture we can also see Jesus performing a miracle with the intercession of Mary (Jesus turns water into wine)

    • Jonathan Russell

      Marie, according to the Pope you are wrong. But who gave the pope the authority to declare you wrong? The pope before him did, and the pope before him, and the one before him in a unbroken line of succession all the way back to when Jesus Christ him self gave that authority to St. Peter the Apostle or Pope Peter the 1st as he is also known who founded the church of Jesus, the Catholic church as instructed directly by Jesus in Mathew 16:18-19 in the year 33. The new Pope just said that Dogs and Cats can go to heaven and it is now so because God him self gave the papacy that power. If you disagree with that do you mind if i ask you on what authority?

      • Anthony Bartolomey

        Well the Pope has no authority to change the bible. The authority to use is the bible.
        1. About praying to anyone other than Christ. Paul had people bow down and worship him and he tore his clothes and rebuked them. In revelation John bowed down to an angel and the angel rebuked him and told him to worship God. We do not bow down and pray to anyone else.
        2. You said St. Peter which is accurate if you also call the rest of the body of Christ saints. We who are in Christ are all saints and I strongly believe that the Catholic faith has that wrong and may even have some idols.
        3.dogs and cats do not go to heaven. That would allow every beast on earth the ability which means the cow I ate today and the mosquito I killed. No where in scripture does it back that claim. The new pope also claims evolution and talks about aliens so I do not support him as a biblical figure because he contridicts scripture.

      • Jonathan Russell

        The Catholic faith was the only Christianity for the first 1500 years of Christianity. It is the Church that Jesus him self started. The fathers of the church (Catholic bishops every one) took a bunch of scrolls in the year 192 and reviewed them to see which were inspired by God. They put them together in a book called the Latin Vulgate which was the very first Bible. In other words the catholic church put the bible together and it remained unchanged for 1500 years until Martin Luther, King Henry the 8th and King James and a bunch of other Heretics defiled it and broke off from the faith because it disallowed their sins. That’s just the history of it. I strongly recommend that you read Mathew 16: 18-19, That is where Jesus him self gave the keys to the kingdom of Heaven to the first pope of the Catholic Church St. Peter the Apostle. It is undeniable if you believe in the word of God. Jesus gave the pope the authority to decide who gets into Heaven personally in red ink in your Bible, go read. Again your disagreement is based on what Authority and from who? Jesus said to Peter “What you bind on earth is bound in Heaven and what you loose on earth is loosed in heaven” I didn’t read anything about him saying that to Marie or Anthony… could be mistaken… I guess… The Pope with the authority that Jesus gave him to specifically “Loose in heaven” said dogs and cats get in. If you have more authority than Jesus maybe you have a case. otherwise I would not question what our lord Jesus Christ says.

      • Anthony Bartolomey

        Peter was never a pope. He had a wife. He also started the first chuch of Christians not catholics or baptists and so on(insert random demonization here).

        If you consider Peter the first pope than how come no other popes after him had the same abilities? Peters shadow could heal someone, his shadow. Also if what you say is true about Peter being able to send people to heaven or to condemn them, why in acts or any other book does he not do so? Why does he request to be crucified upside down because he isn’t worthy to be punished like Christ?

        Also never in scripture does it mention a pope or catholics so please stop. The Pope has zero authority to say who does and does not go to heaven because he is a man. We also have a mountain of Hebrew and Greek text from around 150 ad. You can look up words in the bible in Greek or Hebrew to get the orginal meaning whenever.

        Also peter was given the keys to heaven(the truth of the gospel) to bring it to the people after Jesus went to heaven. He never condemned anyone nor did he ever want to be worshipped. He did once threaten a man not to buy the holy spirit with money and told him to go repent. Peter always was humble and even helped convert gentiles. He was never to be worshipped, only God.

        Here is the point. If you bow down and worship or pray to anyone but God, then you are breaking a holy commandment. Do not pray to saints or Mary, just get down and pray to Jesus. He is the conduit for which we talk to God and ultimately the only one who can grant us salvation because of what he did for us. No man ever did what Jesus did.

      • ChrissyWysocki

        Should we, as Christians (and Catholic worshipers also of Christ) really be arguing? The Churches have enough enemies on the earth.

        Let’s do as Jesus asked and be united in body and spirit. Satan divides a house.

      • Anthony Bartolomey

        It’s not about argueing, it’s about the truth of scripture. Christians should be able to talk openly about scripture.

        Show me in the bible where you can pray to a saint.
        Show me in the bible where being a saint is exclusive.

        Why don’t Catholics have David intercede for them? Why not Abraham or Issac or Jacob or Joseph or Moses?

      • Daniel

        The pope also kissed the quran, I wonder; was he wrong in doing that? If no, are the other popes in unbroken lines in error concerning the quran since they were convinced that islam is of the antichrist?

  • Thomas O’Keefe

    Emergence of “Mary worship”
    (80:7.7) It was during this age in Crete that the mother cult of the descendants of Cain attained its greatest vogue. This cult glorified Eve in the worship of the “great mother.” Images of Eve were everywhere. Thousands of public shrines were erected throughout Crete and Asia Minor. And this mother cult persisted on down to the times of Christ, becoming later incorporated in the early Christian religion under the guise of the glorification and worship of Mary the earth mother of Jesus.

    The above quote is from the “Urantia Book” but most ancient history books can verify the existence of the ancient MOTHER CULT that existed in Asia Minor.

    • Jonathan Russell

      The Hail Mary that you are so against was first uttered by the Angel Gabriel in Luke 1: 26-28 it’s in your Bible go read.

      • Anthony Bartolomey

        No its not. She is called a favored one. No where does Gabriel pray to her.

      • Jonathan Russell

        Gabriels words, exactly, have become the Hail Mary prayor. Ironic that I have to defend it to football fans who them self, at the end of a close game, can from time to time, find them self withing for a “Hail Mary”.

  • quincy jones

    what i don’t understand is why does the catholic church magnifies mary sooo much when the bible doesn’t: if you think about it people come into the catholic body because of how they portrait themselves as the first and only church but that’s not the point of christianity…. CHRIST IS THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN GIVE US SALVATION ,yet there are those that believe father son and holy spirit are of the same nature and purpose and therefore they ask mary to interceed for us which is not even biblical…….what also is not biblical is the mary was assumed into heaven,that was declared by Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1950: “The Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin
    Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body
    and soul into heavenly glory” (MD 44). this is not biblical

  • Ginny Kubitz Moyer

    Mary certainly doesn’t supersede the Holy Spirit. Catholics can and do pray to the Holy Spirit, but it is different from their prayers to Mary. As God, the Holy Spirit is capable of actually taking action in our lives. The Church teaches that Mary prays for us, but doesn’t make things happen herself; that’s God’s work. Praying to Mary, or any saint, is thus akin to asking a good friend to pray on our behalf … in her case, a friend who is especially close to Christ by virtue of being his mom, and being in heaven with him.

    • Don Genio

      The Bible does not say or suggest that we pray or talk to dead people such as Mary or the saints!

      • SCB

        When we “die” in Christ we are not “dead” but alive before Christ and His throne. Is this not correct? Yes.. So, we can all agree that Mary, declared by Elizabeth as “Mother of our Lord”, “Blessed” by Angel Gabriel. and self declared as “all generations calling me Blessed” is alive in Heaven.
        Biblically, there is evidence of interaction between those who have passed and us here on earth. The Transfiguration for example. Moses and Elijah appear. There are accounts in Jesus’ parables where one who passes observing others and asking to have someone communicate to the living. The books of Maccabees goes even further to show example of communication with those who are alive in Heaven.
        So if they are alive, even more than we are, and we ask others to pray for us while here, which a blessing in itself. Why would God make the experience in Heaven less than what we have here? Is heaven not more perfect than here? Why would that blessing be taken away? Not good theology.
        The spiritually separated and not saved in Christ are “dead” when they pass on though. We can agree to this.
        Jesus, as a successor of the throne of David, has a Queen Mother as all the kings of the OT had. She is favored by God as stated in scripture. Those queen mothers of the OT were an example to us of Mary’s place next to her Son as favored in Heaven. Amazing study if you would dig in a bit. :)
        As shown in many pictures of Mary and Joseph, they and the other Saints in Heaven are typically shown leaning into Christ as a sign to us to lean into Him as well. They all point to Christ.
        God Bless and Christ Is Born! Glorify Him!

      • Anthony Bartolomey

        Because God is so busy he cannot hear us?

      • Stivvy

        Thank you for your sarcastic response as you know that is not true. So not at all. He is available to us at all times.

        The point is to be part of the family of God and we all can pray for each other asking God the Father to hear our need and to show Him (not for His sake but rather to show our unity and love for each other) that we care enough to ask on behalf of each other. As any loving brother and sister would do for each other.

        As we can pray for each other, those before the throne already can also as they are more alive than we are if we truly believe Heaven is greater than our experience here on earth. We don’t lose privilege when we go home to God we gain privilege. So if we are family here why would that not continue or even be of a greater value then?

        All makes sense to me. BTW, I will pray for you. Please pray for me.

      • Stivvy

        Thank you for your sarcastic response as you know that is not true. So not at all. He is available to us at all times.
        The point is to be part of the family of God and we all can pray for each other asking God the Father to hear our need and to show Him (not for His sake but rather to show our unity and love for each other) that we care enough to ask on behalf of each other. As any loving brother and sister would do for each other.
        As we can pray for each other, those before the throne already can also as they are more alive than we are if we truly believe Heaven is greater than our experience here on earth. We don’t lose privilege when we go home to God we gain privilege. So if we are family here why would that not continue or even be of a greater value then?
        Al makes sense to me. BTW, I will pray for you. Please pray for me.

  • William Roy

    If we want a heavenly intercessor on our side, who is better than Mary, you have asked… well, what about the Holy Spirit who is always with us and never leaves us and is 1/3 of the triune God and sent by Jesus to be with us when He left us? Or does Mary supersede the person of the Holy Spirit?

    • luis

      In Luke ch.1 vs-28 it says Rejoice highly favored one, not hail highly favored one!!! Almighty God doesn’t like anyone to change scripture to worship Our Blessed mother, pray for her, not to her!!! Salvation comes through Jesus Christ, no one can come to the Father except through Our Lord and Savior!!! AMEN!!!

      • Patrick Murphy

        Prayer in any form is about sending and receiving spiritual energy. Spiritual energy transcends all levels of existence.IE you may say a prayer for a recently departed loved one and the loved one may say a prayer back. The energy or “power” of the prayer comes directly from God. This isn’t rocket science folks. No matter what your faith, no two people in that faith can agree on exactly what to believe. Yes, you share a common belief but we debate everything (details).
        In the end, its what you believe that matters . . . May God grant you all peace, love, grace,forgiveness and enlightenment.

      • Francis Zanger

        Luis, what Luke 1:28 says depends on what translation you are using… remember, the Angel will have greeted Mary in Aramaic, not English. The Gospel of Luke was written in Greek, which means that, even allowing for God’s inspiring Luke’s writing, it still wasn’t exactly what the angel said, as it’s unlikely Mary would have understood Greek.

        Perhaps you’re right, that Almighty God doesn’t not like anyone to change Scripture, but given that none of Scripture was written in English, we’re going to have to change it if we want to be able to read it. Every translation is a bit different from every other one– sometimes a lot different– so are you quite sure you can tell us whether God might prefer rejoice over hail, or even the Latin Ave?

        And in any case, do you agree with Luke 1:48– that “all generations shall call (her) blessed”?

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