Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism

``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

The Three Hail Mary Devotion


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.

The Hail Mary -- the heart of the Rosary and of the Angelus, and one of the prayers most associated with Catholics -- stems from the first chapter of Luke's Gospel, more specifically, the 28th verse's record of the archangel Gabriel's encounter with the Virgin at the Annunciation --

And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

-- and the fortieth to fiftieth verses' account of the Visitation -- the meeting of Our Lady and St. Elizabeth, the mother of St. John the Baptist, while they both were pregnant with their sons:

And she entered into the house of Zachary, and saluted Elizabeth. And it came to pass, that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:  And she cried out with a loud voice, and said: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord.

And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. Because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid; for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.  Because He that is mighty, hath done great things to me; and holy is His name. And His mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear Him.

Lord Christ's Holy Name was added to the Ave by St. Bernardine of Siena, and the petition to the Virgin to pray "for us sinners now and at the hour of our death" was added by at least 1495, appearing first in print in Girolamo Savonarola's "Esposizione sopra l’Ave Maria." But even before the Ave came to its finalized modern form, Gabriel's greeting to Mary was prayed, a practice formalized first by St. Mechtilde.

St. Mechtilde's Visions

St. Mechtilde was born to a noble family in Saxony, around the year 1241. Very sickly at birth and not expected to survive, she was rushed to be baptized. The priest, though, reassured her family by telling them, "What do you fear? This child most certainly will not die, but she will become a saintly religious in whom God will work many wonders, and she will end her days in a good old age."

The priest's words proved prophetic, and Mechtilde followed her older sister, Gertrude, into the Benedictine convent in Helfta. There, she was entrusted with the care of another Gertrude -- a five-year old girl who would become known as St. Gertrude the Great. The young St. Gertrude grew up to co-write a book -- Liber Specialis Gratiae ("The Book of Special Grace") -- about Mechtilde's life and the blessings with which God endowed her. The book

was nearly finished when St. Mechtilde became aware of it. While she was hearing Mass a mysterious voice made one of the culprits known to her and at the same time asked her this question: "What shall be her reward for what she has written?"

Very much astonished St. Mechtilde asked her friend if she had been in the habit of writing down what she told her. She, not wanting to acknowledge it, made some excuse, telling the Saint to ask our Lord about it. St. Mechtilde, having thus been made aware of the truth, was so grieved as to be inconsolable. She therefore went to our Lord, her ordinary refuge, and told Him confidingly of her sorrow. Our Lord appeared to her at once, holding the book on His Heart with His right hand. He kissed it, and said to her: "All that is found written in this book has flowed from My divine Heart, and will return to it."

St. Mechtilde asked our Lord if now she should cease communicating to others the graces she received from
God. Our Lord answered: "Give Me to others with the liberality of My generous Heart. Give Me to others according to My goodness and not according to thine."

She answered: "What will they do with this book after my death and what good will result from its being
written?" The Lord replied: "All those that seek Me therein with a true heart shall rejoice; those that love Me will be more inflamed with My love; and those in sorrow shall be consoled."

Mechtilde again asked what name the book should bear, and our Lord answered: "They shall call it The Book of Special Grace." So our Lord Himself approved of the book being written and also watched over it, so that no error should appear in it.

This book, which you can read under the title "Love of the Sacred Heart" in this site's Catholic Library, recounts Mechtilde's temporal blessings, such as the beautiful voice for which she became known as "the Nightingale of Helfta," and, especially, the insights and visions she was granted as a great mystic and, above all, as a lover of the Sacred Heart.

In one of those visions, she was told by Our Lady, "I request you to say, every day, Three Hail Marys in honour of the power, wisdom and love with which the Holy Trinity deigned to fill my heart. If you do that I promise you final perseverance."

The Virgin told her that for "any soul who faithfully prays the Three Hail Marys, I will appear at the hour of death in a splendor of beauty so extraordinary that it will fill the soul with heavenly consolation." More specifically, she said,

The first Hail Mary will be in honor of God the Father, Whose omnipotence raised my soul so high above every other creature that, after God, I have the greatest power in Heaven and on earth. In the hour of your death, I will use that power of God the Father to keep any hostile power from you.

The second Hail Mary will be in honor of God the Son, Who communicated His inscrutable wisdom to me. In the hour of your death, I will fill your soul with the light of that wisdom so that all the darkness of ignorance and error will be dispelled.

The third Hail Mary will be in honor of God the Holy Ghost, Who filled my soul with the sweetness of His love and tenderness and mercy... In your last hour, I will then change the bitterness of death into Divine sweetness and delight.

SS. Anthony of Padua, Bonaventure, Alphonsus Liguori, John Vianney, Leonard of Port Maurice, Gerard of Majella, Gemma Galgani, and many other Saints adopted the practice.

How to Make the Three Hail Marys Devotion

To make this devotion, mentally praise the Most Holy Trinity, and simply pray three Aves. Do this once in the morning upon rising, and then again in the evening before bed, preferably after making your Nightly Examination of Conscience.

To pray it as St. Alphonsus Liguori did, after each of the morning Aves, add "O my Mother, preserve me from mortal sin during this day"; after each of the evening Aves, add "O my Mother, preserve me from mortal sin during this night."

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