When I began the project of looking closer at the Hail Mary on my blog many years ago, I never dreamed it would be a book. That project inspired a whole new way of praying for me, and it made me slow down.
The book inspired by the blog series, Word by Word: Slowing Down with the Hail Mary, is now available (just in time for the Month of the Rosary!), and I’m excited to share more with you from some of the contributors who have agreed to be interviewed here.
In Word by Word, each contributor wrote a brief reflection about every word of the Hail Mary. The idea was that, in reflecting on the prayer one word at a time, we would all slow down and pray it differently, more meaningfully, and closer to Jesus.
Today, I’m excited to welcome Brandon Vogt, who I’m pretty certain doesn’t sleep (and not just because he has little kids) and who is doing as much to build the Kingdom as anyone else I can name. His latest project is RETURN, an initiative that everyone who knows someone who’s away from the Church should check out (um, isn’t that ALL of us?).
Brandon, what’s your relationship with the Hail Mary as a prayer? How does it help you grow closer to Mary and, through her, Jesus?
Growing up as an Evangelical Protestant, I was always suspicious of rote or scripted prayers. I thought they weren’t really from the heart and they smacked of the “vain repetitions” Jesus warned against. That’s how I saw the Rosary. But that was before I actually prayed it, or prayed it with people who were clearly much holier and well-grounded than I was.
I warmed up to the Rosary over time and it’s now become my go-to devotion. Two things effected that shift. First was realizing, through praying it myself, that the Rosary is unreservedly Christo-centric. Christ is the center, spiritually and literally, around which all the beads and mysteries turn. Second, I saw people I deeply admired, including mentors and friends, but especially saints such as John Paul II, Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, Fulton Sheen, Francis de Sales, and others, who considered the Rosary a tremendous source of blessing. I wanted to be like them so I committed to praying the way they prayed. That included the Rosary.
Through the Rosary, I now see Mary as a welcoming gateway to Christ. And the Rosary is the key to unlock the gate. In the Scriptures and in our lives, Mary always leads people to her Son. It’s her mission and pleasure.
Your reflection was on the word LORD. Tell us a bit about what this word means to you in the context of the Hail Mary.
The title “Lord” is such a provocative word in the New Testament. Time travel to the first century and ask the average person, “Who is the Lord?” and you’d inevitably hear, “Caesar; Caesar is Lord (kyrios).” But then here comes Gabriel, and later Paul, audaciously claiming, no, a different Lord has arrived–and he doesn’t live in a palace on the Palatine Hill.
Now, picture yourself as a Roman citizen and up trots a centurion, who rides to your house to announce personally, just to you, “Hail! Caesar is with you.” What comfort and security! Imagine then what this young peasant girl must have thought hearing, “The LORD is with you.” Not Caesar, not Quirinius, not any political leader or military commander–the LORD of your fathers and the universe is with you.
Understanding “LORD” in this way, as a provocative challenge to worldly lordship, makes the Rosary a rallying cry to overthrow all the false lords of our world. Through the Rosary we’re reminded there is only one LORD God, and he’s with Mary. And through her, he’s also with us.
What’s your top tip for slowing down as you pray the Hail Mary…or any prayer, for that matter?
Pray in small doses. It’s easy to get intimidated and think, “Aw, I’m too tired to pray a whole rosary tonight” or “Our kids are so rambunctious; they’d never sit down for FIVE decades of the Rosary!” I totally understand. I’m just as tired and my family is just as crazy.
But why not pray one decade? When I pray the Rosary in the mornings, I make that my goal: one decade. If I’m more alert, or have more time, I’ll do more. Likewise our goal at home, with four young kids, is one solid decade per night. Sometimes we get two, and a few nights we’ve hit three or more. But setting the bar at a realistic level ensures we’ll at least pray something rather than not at all. And that’s what’s important.
If you’re interested in purchasing Word by Word, consider stopping in at your local Catholic bookstore first. It’s also available online, and if you use our Amazon link, CatholicMom.com gets a small percentage of the sales.
Copyright 2015 Sarah Reinhard