Can someone explain what these lines from the "Hail, Holy Queen" prayer truly mean?


Hi, whenever I pray the rosary, I make sure that I understand completely that we are not praying to Mary, but instead asking for her intercession.

All the prayers involved in the Rosary fit in with the teaching that we pray for her intercession and not to her, except for one, which I cannot seem to fit in properly.

Here is the text that I pray whenever I pray the Salve Regina:

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
hail our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve;
to thee do we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate,
thine eyes of mercy toward us;
and after this our exile,
show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

I have some questions for some lines.

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,

I understand that the hail here refers to salutations, rather than worship. However, why do we call Mary the “Mother of Mercy” when the Mercy is not hers to give but Jesus’s? Or does Mercy refer to Jesus here?

hail our life, our sweetness and our hope.

I do not understand why we hail Mary as our life when Jesus was the one who won that for us.

Turn then, most gracious advocate,
thine eyes of mercy toward us;

Why do we say that Mary has “eyes of mercy” when as I said, the mercy is not hers to give? Wouldn’t pity be a better word?

I am very particular about Mary as a Catholic because I was formerly a protestant. I know for sure that we are not supposed to be worshipping her or anything of that sort and that we only honor her as the Mother of our Savior, but these lines just do not fit.

Can anyone please share their interpretations of this prayer? Thanks in advance

Sorry I think I posted this in the wrong forum, I am new here. Please move this to either the Spirituality forum or the Ask an Apologist (is that even a forum?) if that is more appropriate.


We are asking her to lead us to Christ.

Show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, “Jesus”

You left out this one line which is what everything else leads to.

Jesus once again is the center of the prayer and the purpose of the prayer.

We honor her and ask her to lead us to Christ - we are praying for the grace to open our eyes to Christ in our lives…

This one line is the most important in the prayer.

Your too focused on the praise of Mary to see the true intent of the prayer.

We pray at the end of the prayer

Pray for us oh holy mother of God
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ


Hi, thank you very much for your reply. I recognize that these prayers always lead us to Jesus eventually, but as I said, I have just converted from protestantism (where we do not honor Mary as Catholics do) so the concept of honoring Mary in Catholicism is very sensitive for me, which is why I chose to focus on those particular lines in this question.

I just want to be sure that what we are praying indeed is in line with the teaching that we honor Mary only and not worship her (which I was led to believe before I converted)


The Hail Mary is similar in the center of the pray and the hinge point of the prayer we praise Jesus.

Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, “Jesus” and everything leading up to that is from the bible.



You cannot accidentally worship Mary.

Veneration is not adoration.

It is right and just to call her Mother.

Mother of God.

Jesus is God, God is Mercy, Mary is the Mother of Mercy.

Our Father’s Simple Plan.



Yes, it is a reference to the Blessed Virgin being the Mother of God.

hail our life, our sweetness and our hope.

I do not understand why we hail Mary as our life when Jesus was the one who won that for us.

“There is a very close parallel between Mary’s part in the formation of the human body of Christ and her part in the formation of the Mystical Body of the “whole Christ”…
Thus Mary has a continual part to play in our lives; and our relation with Mary is not sharply divided into the three stages of dependence…Her spiritual operations in our supernatural life, which correspond respectively to her cooperation in the embryonic, the infant, and the more developed stages of Our Lord’s human life, are performed both simultaneously and continuously where a member of His Mystical Body is concerned. In fact in all stages of the spiritual life, we are, in a measure, just as spiritually dependent upon Mary as the divine Child in her womb was naturally dependent on her for the growth of His natural life.”

Dom Eugene Boylan, O.C.R. - This Tremendous Lover

Turn then, most gracious advocate,
thine eyes of mercy
toward us;

Why do we say that Mary has “eyes of mercy” when as I said, the mercy is not hers to give? Wouldn’t pity be a better word?

Would you rather have someone look at you with pity or mercy? There is a difference.


Mother of Mercy, Jesus is Mercy and she is His Mother. (sorta like saying Mother of God.)

Our life, our sweetness and our hope. She is all that. She co-operated with God to bring Jesus to us and He gave us new life, Eternal life! So through Her we have Hope for Eternal life.

Eyes of Mercy, she has mercy on her other children. Don’t we have mercy on each other too. Hope this helps. God Bless, Memaw


You might find this quotation from Bellarmine included in the Catholic Encyclopedia “Intercession” helpful to bear in mind.

However, we should here bear in mind Bellarmine’s remarks: "When we say that nothing should be asked of the saints but their prayer for us, the question is not about the words, but the sense of the words. For as far as the words go, it is lawful to say: ‘St. Peter, pity me, save me, open for me the gate of heaven’; also, ‘Give me health of body, patience, fortitude’, etc., provided that we mean ‘save and pity me by praying for me’; ‘grant me this or that by thy prayers and merits.’ For so speaks Gregory of Nazianzus (Orat. xviii — according to others, xxiv — “De S. Cypriano” in P.G., XXXV, 1193; “Orat. de S. Athan.: In Laud. S. Athanas.”, Orat. xxi, in P.G., XXXV, 1128); in “De Sanct. Beatif.”, I, 17.

The Salve Regina is indeed calling Blessed Mary our “Life, Sweetness and Hope,” not the mother of them. This is unambiguous from the Latin grammar. However, when we say in the prayer that Mary is our salvation, it does not mean that Mary died on the cross. However, it is a fact that we receive salvation through her intercession before God.


But we are praying to Mary.


That is true. To pray means to ask, which we do. We are praying that she pray for us.


I think you have a good handle on where your prayers are directed. For intercessions and help, who could be a better cheerleader than BVM? I pray through Mary and not to Mary.

I think prayer in it’s fullest is worship…directed straight at God, the Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

Here’s some support from USCCB

BTW let me congratulate you on your conversion!


Thanks everyone for the excellent replies :slight_smile:
Looking through it in more of a poetic way rather than literally does show just how this prayer turns out.

I just hope that other Catholics out there who pray this prayer have this in mind when they pray the Rosary, because I know that a lot of people mistakenly think that we worship Mary as Catholics…


There is a BIG difference in what Protestants mean by worship and what Catholics mean by worship. Why? Because Protestants do NOT have true worship! They believe mere prayers are worship. But that is not so. Worship as it was practiced from Abraham down until now has always meant an oblation, and offering by a Priest offered To God most High in Love, Gratitude, Praise, honor, glory and supplication for the forgiveness of our sins and our other petitions. Protestants do not have this. All they have is their prayers (petitions.)

Catholics HAVE a true Worship in Truth and Spirit, in the Sacrifice of the Mass. That is where Christians have ALWAYS worshipped their God, since Apostolic times until now. Prayers (petitions) have never been confused as worship by Catholics. It is only Protestants who are truly confused.

That is why they make such a noise about our prayers. In their world of having no true Worship, they would never taint their prayers (petitions) with anything that smacks of worshiping something else, however mistaken that is.

The only way a Christian has of Worshiping God, is by obediently obeying His Son, and uniting himself with Jesus, our High Priest, in offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, in TRUE, PERFECT AND EFFECTIVE WORSHIP of the the One True God. The Mass has perfected the old Mosaic Worship in the Temple.

Meanwhile, prayers like the Hail Holy Queen, are a continuation of our uniting ourselves with our High Priest Jesus Christ, in our daily life. To understand true Catholic Worship, is to understand very much about Christianity as it was practiced since Apostolic times.


AMEN, God Bless, Memaw



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