prayer and salvation




(Saint Thomas Aquinas as depicted by Gentile da Fabriano, circa 1400, Public Domain, U.S.A.)


(The Annunciation by El Greco, c. 1590-1603, Public Domain, U.S.A.)     

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Luke 1:42)

INTRODUCTION: The value of good advice is, in some instances, simply priceless. When God in his Eternal Wisdom sent an angel to greet Mary, the angel addressed Mary not by a name, but by a title, saying: “Hail, full of grace” (Luke 1:28). Nothing could be more assured, therefore, than the fact that Mary is a vessel of tremendous grace. The advice given by Saint Louis De Montfort (set forth below) is that devotion to the Hail Mary prayer is of incalculable value. In other words, to love to say the Hail Mary prayer with devotion and love for Mary is a Heavenly dew certain to bring you many blessings and draw you closer to Mary’s son, Jesus Christ. Here, then, is the wonderful advice given by Father De Montfort about the immense value of the Hail Mary prayer:

  1. “[You] ought also to have a great devotion to saying the Hail Mary (the Angelical Salutation). Few Christians, however enlightened, know the real price, merit, excellence, and necessity of the Hail Mary. It was necessary for the Blessed Virgin to appear several times to great and enlightened Saints, to show them the merit of it. She did so to St. Dominic, St. John Capistran, and the Blessed Alan de la Roche. They have composed entire works on the wonders and efficacy of that prayer for converting souls. They have loudly published and openly preached that, salvation having begun with the Hail Mary, the salvation of each one of us in particular is attached to that prayer. They tell us that it is that prayer which made the dry and barren earth bring forth the fruit of life; and that it is that prayer well said which makes the Word of God germinate in our souls, and bring forth Jesus Christ, the Fruit of life. They tell us that the Hail Mary is a heavenly dew for watering the earth, which is the soul, to make it bring forth its fruit in season; and that a soul which is not watered by that prayer bears no fruit, and brings forth only thorns and brambles, and is ready to be cursed. (Hebrews 6:8).
  2. … it is an equally universal experience, that those who have… great marks of predestination about them love and relish the Hail Mary, and delight in saying it. We always see the more a man is for God, the more he likes that prayer. This is what our Lady said also to the Blessed Alan, after the words which I have recently quoted.
  3. I do not know how it is, nor why, but nevertheless I well know that it is true; nor have I any better secret of knowing whether a person is for God than to examine if he likes to say the Hail Mary and the Rosary. I say, if he likes; for it may happen that a person may be under some natural inability to say it, or even a supernatural one; yet nevertheless he likes it always, and always inspires the same liking into others.
  4. O predestinate souls! slaves of Jesus in Mary! learn that the Hail Mary is the most beautiful of all prayers after the Our Father. It is the most perfect compliment which you can make to Mary, because it is the compliment which the Most High sent her by an archangel, in order to gain her heart; and it was so powerful over her heart by the secret charms of which it is so full, that in spite of her profound humility, she gave her consent to the Incarnation of the Word. It is by this compliment also that you will infallibly gain her heart, if you say it as you ought.
  5. The Hail Mary well said, that is, with attention, devotion, and modesty, is, according to the Saints, the enemy of the devil, which puts him to flight, and the hammer which crushes him. It is the sanctification of the soul, the joy of Angels, the melody of the predestinate, the canticle of the New Testament, the pleasure of Mary, and the glory of the Most Holy Trinity. The Hail Mary is a heavenly dew which fertilizes the soul. It is the chaste and loving kiss which we give to Mary. It is a vermilion rose which we present to her; a precious pearl we offer her; a chalice of divine ambrosial nectar which we hold to her. All these are comparisons of the saints.
  6. I pray you urgently, by the love I bear you in Jesus and Mary, not to content yourselves with saying the Little Crown of the Blessed Virgin, but a whole Chaplet; or even, if you have time, the whole Rosary every day. At the moment of your death, you will bless the day and hour in which you have followed my advice. Having thus sown in the benedictions of Jesus and Mary, you will reap eternal benedictions in heaven. ‘He who soweth in blessings, shall also reap blessings’ (2 Corinthinas 9:6).”  (From: True Devotion to Mary, translation by Father Faber, as edited)

CONCLUSION: What a simple but powerful devotion! – to love saying the Hail Mary prayer. There is nothing hard about saying this prayer (so deeply rooted in Luke’s Gospel) – and yet Saint Louis De Montfort assures us that so much good will come from it! Dear friend, fall in love with the Hail Mary prayer. Oh holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death! Amen.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

P.S. The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible rightly defends the traditional translation, “Hail, full of grace,” as against some modern translations, stating: “[The Greek word used by Luke], kecharitomene, indicates that God has already graced Mary previous to this point, making her a vessel who ‘has been’ and ‘is now’ filled with divine life. Alternative translations like ‘favored one’… are possible but inadequate.”   

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                        “Prayer is the lifeline of the soul” (Sister Mary Cordero)

                          “Pray without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:17)

In his highly acclaimed Apostolic Letter, Novo Millenio Ineunte, Pope Saint John Paul II talks about “at risk Christians.” These are Christians who, in the midst of an aggressive cultural attack on the very values given to us by Jesus Christ, lack a substantial prayer life. Because they are “at risk Christians” they are liable to succumb to the spirit of the age and the false wisdom of the world (see 1 Cor. 1:20).

Saint John Paul II puts it this way:

… it would be wrong to think that ordinary Christians can be content with a shallow prayer that is unable to fill their whole life. Especially in the face of the many trials of which today’s world subjects faith, they would be not only mediocre Christians but ‘Christians at risk.’ They would run the insidious risk of seeing their faith progressively undermined, and would perhaps end up succumbing to the allure of substitutes….It is therefore essential that education in prayer should become a key-point of all pastoral planning.” (#34)

It seems to me that it would be hard to overemphasize the value and necessity of “simple, humble persevering prayer.” Without devotion to prayer it is highly likely that a Christian will be absorbed into the emerging pagan culture without even realizing it. What a battle we are in!  Moreover, we contend against dark spirits intent on our destruction (see Ephesians 6:12). How are we possibly going to survive such trials without prayer?

A very neglected but great spiritual book is The Christian Life by the German Dominican, Father Albert M. Weiss. On page 83 he talks about how “the decline of the supernatural life begins…with…the neglect of prayer.” He explains that this loss can only be “renewed” by a “zealous attention to prayer.” On page 80 he talks about the“incalculable…power of prayer.” And on page 81 he discusses how prayer withdraws us from the world and “turns [us] wholly to God.” 

In another great spiritual book, The Spiritual Life, the great Father Lallemant mentions that “Saint Ignatius [of Loyola] in his Constitutions would have us regard this familiar converse with God as the chief instrument of our own salvation and that of our neighbor….” (p. 290).  “Nothing furthers more our spiritual advancement than the time and application we devote…to the interior life.” Let us resolve, then, to spend time in interior conversation with God so that He may “make Himself known unto us.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, quoting that great advocate of prayer, Saint Alphonsus de Ligouri, says:

“Those who pray are certainly saved; those who do not pray are certainly damned.” (CCC 2744)

Are you an “at risk” Christian? If so, it is essential that you renew your Christian walk by a deep and zealous attention to prayer. The scriptures say, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12). Turn your attention often to God in prayer. Prayer is your lifeline to Eternity.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

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 2048px-Johannes_(Jan)_Vermeer_-_Christ_in_the_House_of_Martha_and_Mary_-_Google_Art_Project (1)