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"Hail Mary"
Part Three
By Gary F. Zeolla

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.

Part One of this article discussed the first half of the Catholic “Hail Mary” prayer. Part Two discussed the line “Holy Mary, Mother of God.” This third and final part will discuss the rest of this prayer.

“pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death”

On various Catholic Web sites, the explanation of this line is that in asking Mary to “pray for us” it is similar to asking a friend to pray for us. And the Bible does encourage us to ask others to pray for us. Paul, for instance ends his First Epistle to the Thessalonians by requesting of them, “Brothers [and sisters], be praying for us” (5:25).

However, when I go to a friend and ask him or her to pray for me, I know they can hear me. I am talking to them face to face. Or maybe I am talking to them on the phone. Or if I email or write them, and they respond back, then I know they heard my request. But what about Mary? She’s in heaven; I’m on the earth. Can she hear me? How would I know if she did?

Moreover, if I were to ask Mary to pray for me, it would not be just me asking her but possibly millions of other people worldwide asking her at the same time. I don’t know about the reader, but I find it difficult to listen to and understand two people talking to me at once, but millions?

When I pray to the Father in the Name of the Son, I know He can hear me because He is omniscient and omnipresent. He can hear me no matter where I am. And He can hear and understand millions even billions of people speaking to Him at once. Moreover, Jesus told us, “But when you are praying, enter into your private room, and having shut your door, pray to your Father, the [One] in secret, and your Father, the [One] seeing in secret, will reward you in the open.” (Matt 6:6).

But what about Mary? She is not omniscient. She is not omnipresent. And there is no Biblical promise that she can hear and respond to requests directed to her. And there is no Biblical example of believers praying to Mary. So you can pray to her if you so choose, but there is no guarantee that she can even hear you, let alone do anything to help you.

So personally, I will stick with the Biblical and logical pattern of praying to the Father in the Name of the Son. And if I feel I need someone else to pray for me, I will go to another living believer and ask for his or her prayers.

Of course, this whole issue could have been discussed at the beginning of this series. The whole idea behind the “Hail Mary” is that of praying to Mary. But since there is no guarantee that she can hear the prayer, then praying the “Hail Mary” is an exercise in futility.

The Worship of Mary

In the extended quote in Part Two of this article from The Catholic Concise Encyclopedia, it was stated that Mary receives “the second highest degree of honor, hyperdulia” (Broderick, p. 234). According to the same source, hyperdulia is “the veneration proper to the Blessed Mother alone, being the highest form of veneration, short of adoration” (p.191).

So according to official Catholic doctrine, Mary should receive the second highest degree of honor possible, but this honor is to be short of her actually being “adored” or worshipped. But does the average Catholic understand this distinction?

A while back, I saw a scene on the TV news that could only be described as being incredible. The scene occurred in a Latin American country on one of the many Catholic “feast days” honoring Mary.

A statue of Mary had been placed on a platform, and the platform was being carried through the streets on the backs of several men. People were dancing around the platform, while many more lined the streets. As the statue passed by, the people on the sides of the streets were prostrating themselves, face down on the ground before this statue.

The Catholic Church can call this hyperdulia, veneration, or whatever it wants, but what I saw that day was Mary, or more correctly, a stature of Mary, being worshipped. The whole scene was reminiscent of the scene at the foot of Mount Sinai when the Israelites were worshipping the golden calf (Exod 32:1-6).

Now, I have no idea if any Catholic priests or other church officials were involved in the procession or if the Catholic Church even approved of it. But I do know that the actions of these common Catholics were perfectly understandable given what has been covered in this series.

As has been seen, the Catholic Church does officially encourage the adulation of Mary. The Catholic Church does have numerous feast days set aside to honor Mary. The Catholic Church does encourage people to pray to Mary. The Catholic Church has showered Mary with titles like Co-Redemptrix; Mediatrix of all Graces; Blessed Mother, Queen of Heaven, and, of course, Mother of God. With all of this, it would seem perfectly logical for Mary to be the object of worship.

But, of course, Mary is not to be the object of worship. And the problem here is not the misunderstanding of a group of Catholics but the whole official Catholic attitude towards Mary. If she were not being given such undo attention by Catholic officials, then scenes like the above would not occur. Created creatures should never be given such praise, as the following scene from The Revelation makes clear:

8And I, John, [am] the one hearing and seeing these [things]. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to prostrate myself in worship before the feet of the angel, the one showing these [things] to me. 9And he says to me, “See [that you do] not! I am a fellow-slave of you and of your brothers the prophets and of the ones keeping the words of this scroll. Prostrate yourself in worship before God!” (Revelation 22:8-9).

Conclusion

The first half of the “Hail Mary” is Biblical in that the stanzas are taken from Scripture. But in the second half of the prayer, unbiblical notions and teachings occur. But most of all, the whole concept of praying to Mary in the first place in misguided.

Jesus Christ is the One and Only Mediator we need before the Father. We can go to Him directly. We do need nor require the assistance of Mary. As the writer to the Hebrews so elegantly puts it:

14Therefore, having a great High Priest [who] has passed through the heavens-Jesus, the Son of God-let us be holding fast our confession. 15For we do not have a High Priest [who is] unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but [One] having been tried in all [respects] in the same way [we are, yet] without sin. 16Therefore, let us be approaching with confidence [or, a joyful sense of freedom] to the throne of grace, so that we shall receive mercy and find grace for well-timed help (Hebrews 4:14-16).

References:
All Scripture references are taken from the Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament of the Holy Bible. Copyright 1999-2004 by Gary F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light ministry (www.dtl.org).

Broderick, Robert C. The Catholic Concise Encyclopedia. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1956.

Scripture Workbook
For Personal Bible Study and Teaching the Bible
By Gary F. Zeolla

The above article originally appeared in the free Darkness to Light newsletter.
It was posted on this Web site March 12, 2004.

Catholicism

Catholicism - Mary and the Saints

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