Slowing Down with the Hail Mary
Sarah A. Reinhard
Ave Maria Press
I received an email asking me if I would be interested in reviewing this book. Knowing Sarah I jumped at the opportunity without even asking any questions. Once I got the book I realized it was an anthology of sorts. This amazing books takes the prayer of the Hail Mary and breaks it down word by word. I must say it was an amazing journey and one I plan on taking again. I know I will reread this book likely a number of times!
There are 42 contributors to this project, some I knew about before and had read their words and was greatly excited to read their contributions. A few I had heard of but had yet to read and some I had never heard of. I can say I have already got books by three of the contributors just from how powerful their pieces in this volume were. The contributors in the order they appear are:
Fr. Patrick Toner
Deacon Tom Fox
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe
Carol Ann Chybowski
Mary C. Gildersleeve
Nancy Carpentier Brown
Maria Morera Johnson
Fr. James Tucker
Ginny Kubitz Moyer
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe
Lisa M. Hendey
Val J. Bianco
Miriel Thomas Reneau
Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle
Ellen Gable Hrkach
Shelly Henley Kelly
Fr. Patrick Toner
and an amazing Appendix Titles for Mary by Deacon Tom Fox
The contributions are an amazing mix, from clergy, laity, men and women, married, single with and without children. As I was reading numerous times I took quotes and emailed them to friends thinking how perfect the quote would be for a person at that point in time. I highlighted almost 50 passages during my first read through and will use some of those in the rest of this review to highlight how excellent this book really is.
Sarah in the introduction states: "You might say it's become my blankie prayer. Just as my children cling to their worn-soft, faded blankies, so I cling to my Blessed Mother's skirt through this prayer. When my heart aches, I cry out a Hail Mary. When I need to be held in my sorrow, it's a Hail Mary that comes out. When I'm worried or troubled, the words I can't find on my own shape up as a Hail Mary." This echoes with me so much. She goes on to say "I pray it unconsciously, the way my children grab my hand without even knowing it when we're walking side by side. It's a comfort to me, and I'm so blessed to have it. When I don't have words for the desires of my heart, I always have the Hail Mary. When I'm lonely or sad or just at odds with the world, I have the Hail Mary. In the Hail Mary, I find so very many spiritual delights, not the least of which is how it leads me, irrevocably, closer to Mary's Son." I find that I am the same way, it is my default prayer, my first in the morning and my last at night. Next Sarah exclaims: "Of course, I couldn't resist considering my favorite prayer in light of this word-by-word approach. What would it be like to pray the Hail Mary deliberately, carefully weighing the importance and significance of every one of the forty-two words?"
I have found from the time I have read the introduction to this book my prayers especially The Hail Mary and The Our Father my prayers have slowed down. Sometimes even pausing with every word. I have also slowed down my three children as they pray their nightly prayers. Sarah says: "There's a new message for me each time I approach the Hail Mary slowly. A calmness is cultivated that forces me to live in the present moment in a way so few things in my modern life of gadgets and responsibilities require." I am finding this also as I slow my prayers down, and this book has been a great tool for that. Finally She states: "We'll take a journey together through the Hail Mary, word by word. The prayer will expand as we work our way from Hail to Amen. You may find yourself uncomfortable, inspired, confused, or even overwhelmed. Embrace that experience and let Mary guide you to her Son through it." So come along see what else really hit me from the book and hopefully from these samples you will find that deeper connection to Mary and through her to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Carol Ann Chybowski in the first chapter on 'of' asks us to reflect on these questions: "As you pray, ask yourself: What am I of? Where do I come from? And to whom do I belong?" Do you relflect upon these questions.
Jennifer Fitz in her chapter on 'women' stated "And if some of us women are called to biological motherhood-the business of bringing forth newly created bodies and souls-all of us are called to spiritual motherhood. Grandmother, aunt, sister, daughter, colleague-whatever our title, we have a lifelong mission. An eternal mission, as the intercession of the saintly women in heaven attests." To me this was one of the most powerful passages in the book. I have shared it with a few friends and family and all the women I shared it with were touched.
Later in the book it says "As Catholics, we have been raised to understand Mary in that endearing way. We embrace her not only because of the important role she played but also because we know she can sympathize with our family problems." Michelle Buckman in penning these words might know how many mothers and fathers these words will impact but they have greatly impacted me.
Recalling a story Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle says this "Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whom I knew personally for about ten years, had a very close relationship with Mary and taught me a simple yet profound prayer that I pray often: "Mary, Mother of Jesus, be a Mother to me now." Mother Teresa stressed that Mother Mary wants to mother us sinners and wants us to call upon her often. She wants to be our Mother. Mary, Mother of Jesus, be a Mother to me now!" This chapter on 'sinners' was amazing and what I really needed to read that day.
"The Hail Mary is a beautiful and powerful prayer. In the first part, we recite the words of the archangel Gabriel and then those of Elizabeth. In the second part, we ask Mary to pray for us. And to pray for us now." Ellen Gable Hrkach in her chapter on 'now' pens these words. How many of us pray in the now, or even live in the now. This was one of my favorite chapters in the book. (Not that there was a bad one, but some impacted me more now than others.) Ellen goes on and later says "Now is a good time to take stock in our spiritual life. Now is a good time to take care of our bodies, our minds, and, most importantly, our souls." Will you do so?
Susie Lloyd in her chapters on the last 'the' uses a number of examples from Winnie the Pooh I am looking forward to reading her chapter with my children and seeing if they get it. It is a splendid little chapter.
Fr. Patrick Toner writing on 'amen' says: "The Church teaches lex orandi lex credendi, or "what you pray is what you believe." The Amen at the end of any prayer is like signing your name to the Declaration of Independence: you've put your life on the line. Live all of your Amens." What do you believe, what do you pray, how do you pray?
This book was wonderful. Unlike most books I read it slowly over a few weeks and have already gone back and started it again. It is an excellent read and I highly recommend it!
Books by Sarah A. Reinhard:
Welcome Baby Jesus
Welcome Risen Jesus
A Catholic Mother's Companion to Pregnancy
Catholic Family Fun
Word by Word
Do I Really Have to Give Something Up for Lent?
Author Profile and interview with Sarah A. Reinhard