A Whole Bunch of “Hail Marys”

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

Even casual football fans know that a “Hail Mary” pass is a last minute, desperate attempt to score points before the time runs out. It’s what a team does in a hopeless situation, when there are no other reasonable options.

Over the years, some folks have thought that using a Catholic prayer to describe a football play is a bit sacrilegious. But I always considered it to be a compliment to our Catholic devotion, an affirmation of something that we Catholics have known for a long time – that when things get really bad we turn to Mary for help.

It’s the same instinct that prompts us to pray, in the Memorare, “Never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.” And in the Salve Regina, we, the poor banished children of Eve, cry out to Mary as we “send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.”

Now, if one “Hail Mary” can work miracles on the football field, think of what a whole bunch of them can do, and that’s exactly what we have in the Holy Rosary. Perhaps that’s why Catholics have found it to be such a powerful source of consolation and peace over the years. How often Catholics have prayed the Rosary, with a simple but beautiful faith, turning to our Blessed Mother at important moments in their lives, knowing that she, more than anyone else, would understand. By tradition, many Catholics are buried with the Rosary in their hands, with the hope that it would identify them as a special friend of Mary as they approached the Gates of Heaven.

The Rosary is a spiritual powerhouse. It keeps us connected to Christ and His Mother, as we meditate on the mysteries of His life and hers. It is a “Compendium of the Gospel,” St. John Paul said, “a prayer of great significance, destined to bring forth a harvest of holiness.” And indeed it has.

So, the next time you’re watching a football game, and the announcer describes a “Hail Mary” pass, just remember where that phrase came from and why it makes so much sense.

Something to think about: Has the Rosary been a part of your family’s devotion? Do you have any favorite “Rosary stories?”