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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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  • 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

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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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