Prayers to Mary

At Mass, Mary and the saints are commemorated during the Eucharistic prayers. Their intercession is requested on behalf of all people, that we may model our lives on theirs and be admitted into their number. Mary is first among the saints, and therefore the first choice for the faithful who ask the saints to intercede on their behalf. Many prayers of the medieval Church that address Mary directly still survive today.

Mary as Intercessor

Catholics commonly ask Mary to intercede for them in prayers for friends and family who are ill and in trouble. This practice dates from the medieval conception that both God and Jesus are stern judges of sinners while Mary embodies compassion and mercy. It was believed that her influence alone could convince Jesus to hear the prayer of a poor sinner. The practice survives despite the modern belief that Jesus is the true mediator between God and mankind.

Like the Church, which is seen as feminine, Mary is referred to as the enemy of the serpent, the New Eve, and even the Bride of Christ (in a spiritual sense), all symbols of the New Covenant between people and God created by the work of Jesus.

Mary's role as a symbol of the Church also reinforces her role as intercessor on behalf of sinners. Like the Church, Mary helps bring us closer to Jesus. In her submission to God's will and her faith during the final days of Jesus' life, she presents a model of how to worship and how to live a faithful life. Contemplating the mystery of Mary's life is a correct attitude for a Catholic approaching God in prayer.

Hail Mary

The Hail Mary is one of the most ancient prayers of the Church. It begins with the words of the angel to Mary, telling her of Jesus' coming birth, as drawn from Luke's Gospel. The second part is an ancient petition. The prayer dates from the time when worship of Mary was growing and touches on many of the themes of Marian theology. It elevates Mary as Mother of God, it implies the belief that Mary was conceived free of sin, and it asks her to intercede for the sinner, now and throughout our lives:

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.

The Hail Mary is a versatile prayer used during the Rosary, as a penance and as prelude or conclusion to other prayers. The repetition of a prayer aids in meditation as it encourages the penitent to put daily concerns out of mind and concentrate on his or her relations with God. The Hail Mary reminds humans of their sinfulness and that they should be living a life more like Mary's, who is a model of faith and is free of sin.

Hail, Holy Queen

Hail, Holy Queen is part of the Rosary devotion to Mary and entreats her mercy for poor sinners:

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To Thee do we cry poor banished children of Eve. To Thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us. And after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of Thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary, pray for us, O Holy Mother of God; that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.

The title of Queen is derived from Mary's relationship to Jesus, who is King and Lord. It also refers to a passage in the Book of Revelation, describing the image of a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon at her feet and a crown of twelve stars. Theologians are divided on whether this passage describes Mary.

The Litany of Loreto

The Litany of Loreto, a repetitive prayer that concentrates on the many virtues of Mary, addresses her as Mother, Virgin, Queen, the Mirror of Justice, Seat of Wisdom, Vessel of Honor, Mystical Rose, Gate of Heaven, and Morning Star — for a total of fifty honorifics. As each epithet is made, the congregation responds with the words “pray for us.”

There are also prayers written from Mary's point of view. The Magnificat, or Canticle of Mary, is a prayer of praise to the traditional God of the Old Testament. In the voice of Mary, the prayerful recall the covenant between Abraham and God and give praise and thanks for his protection through the ages.

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