"Why say Hail Marys?"


I was explaining to my friend that the Rosary was developed by peasants who had no access to the Bible, so instead chanted 150 Hail Marys instead of the Psalms for their prayers.

He then brought up a sensitive point that I don’t want to misrespond to. He asked, “if the Virgin Mother is so holy that she prays for all Christians, then why say a Hail Mary? Why would she pray more for you when you show reverence for her? Shouldn’t she be impartial, as a prayer warrior in Heaven?”


“Why say Hail Marys?”

Because it is pleasing to God to honor Mary!


You need to point out the scriptural basis for the Hail Mary. If it was wrong for us to say it then it would appear that it would also be wrong for Gabriel the Archangel to do so would it not?

Also, I think you botched your explanation a little because I had read somewhere that it was (at different times and uses) a counter for psalms or Pater Nosters (Our Fathers).

But there were other prayers to be counted more nearly connected with the Rosary than Kyrie eleisons. At an early date among the monastic orders the practice had established itself not only of offering Masses, but of saying vocal prayers as a suffrage for their deceased brethren. For this purpose the private recitation of the 150 psalms, or of 50 psalms, the third part, was constantly enjoined. Already in A. D. 800 we learn from the compact between St. Gall and Reichenau (“Mon. Germ. Hist.: Confrat.”, Piper, 140) that for each deceased brother all the priests should say one Mass and also fifty psalms. A charter in Kemble (Cod. Dipl., I, 290) prescribes that each monk is to sing two fifties (twa fiftig) for the souls of certain benefactors, while each priest is to sing two Masses and each deacon to read two Passions. But as time went on, and the conversi, or lay brothers, most of them quite illiterate, became distinct from the choir monks, it was felt that they also should be required to substitute some simple form of prayer in place of the psalms to which their more educated brethren were bound by rule. Thus we read in the “Ancient Customs of Cluny”, collected by Udalrio in 1096, that when the death of any brother at a distance was announced, every priest was to offer Mass, and every non-priest was either to say fifty psalms or to repeat fifty times the Paternoster (“quicunque sacerdos est cantet missam pro eo, et qui non est sacerdos quinquaginta psalmos aut toties orationem dominicam”, P. L., CXLIX, 776). Similarly among the Knights Templar, whose rule dates from about 1128, the knights who could not attend choir were required to say the Lord’s Prayer 57 times in all and on the death of any of the brethren they had to say the Pater Noster a hundred times a day for a week.

To count these accurately there is every reason to believe that already in the eleventh and twelfth centuries a practice had come in of using pebbles, berries, or discs of bone threaded on a string.



My :twocents: …
Your friend could well ask, If God is so holy that he blesses everyone, then why pray to Him? Why would He bless you more when you show reverence for Him? Shouldn’t He be impartial, as the Creator of all?

God loves everyone and blesses every person with sufficient grace to be saved. However, above this minimum amount of grace, God blesses people as He wills, giving more grace to some, especially to those who ask, and less to others.

Similarly, the Virgin Mary loves all her spiritual children with a mother’s love and prays a sufficient amount for each of them. However, above this minimum amount of prayer, the Virgin Mary prays for people as she wills, praying more for some, especially for those who ask, and less for others.


This statement exemplifies the problem Protestants have with Catholics’ veneration to Mary.


The new mysteries Pope John Paul II added messes up that correlation, so I’m not sure it will fly anymore. In a way, that’s unfortunate- it sure was an easy way of explaining it.

I’m not sure that’s the reason in the first place. Some say Mary herself gave instructions to St. Dominic on how to pray the rosary.


To be clear, Protestants are not opposed to the content of the Hail Mary (with the exception of the “pray for us” bit). The biggest problem is that it constitutes “vain repetitions”, which are explicitly condemned in scripture. Not one Roman Catholic Apologist has ever made a convincing argument on this point as far as I know.

As for the Psalms bit…perhaps. Still, today we do have bibles, and thus it would stand to reason that it’s better to spend our time praying the Psalms, or studying scriptures, than to repeat the same prayer, what, 40 times in the same 10 minute period?


The biggest problem is that it constitutes “vain repetitions”, which are explicitly condemned in scripture. Not one Roman Catholic Apologist has ever made a convincing argument on this point as far as I know.

The angels in Heaven shouting “holy holy holy Lord” day and night is pretty repetitious. The focus of the sentence is “vain,” because it doesn’t mean anything; Jesus was targeting pagans who actually thought that praying with more words would actually yield a better response from their gods.


Jesus’ target was not targeting pagans, but using a comparison to target appropriate Christian prayer.
Mat 6:7 In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.
8 Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Can you explain (to us -Protestants) why Catholics feel it necessary to ask Mary for the same thing several times within a “few minutes” -

Also, verse 8 makes it clear that God already knows our needs, even before we ask. Asking God for assistance is not the same as offering continual praises.


I can’t explain the rosary sufficiently but will try my best. The rosary is the prayer of the Gospel. The body of the rosary (the Hail Mary) is scriptural and the soul (the mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption represented by the decades) is also scriptual.

The rosary is a form of prayer that uses the mind and imagination to meditate on the truth of the Gospel and uses the will to love it and form resolutions to live it. So, what’s the problem?

Shouldn’t we all read, meditate, and love the Gospels?

Why not pray, meditate, and love the Gospels?


Ryan :slight_smile:


If your question is not rhetorical and you are asking what problem Protestants have witht hte rosary,

The answer is a ratio of about Ten Hail Mary’s to one Our Father.

I personally have a problem any time more attention and time is given to a created being over God.

As for meditating on the Gospels or any other Scriptures, I can do that while reading them and praying before, after and ocassionally in the middle of my reading.


I know this is a loaded question but . . . . . . . .

If you counted every reference to a created being and every reference to God in Luke 1:1-80, and found that more time and attention was paid to created beings, would you personally have a problem with it? :wink:


Ryan :slight_smile:


Name one person in the NT who you think is mentioned more than Jesus.


What is wrong with saying aloud bible verses 50-53 times? Is that a vain repetition?

And what is wrong with asking Mary to pray for us to his Son?
Jesus made Mary our Mother (John 19:27). We can whine and beg like children :wink:


Then you misunderstand the Rosary. It’s not just saying Hail Mary 10 times, it is spending the time that it takes to say 10 Hail Marys, meditating on a certain part of the Gospel. The Hail Mary itself is the “background music” if you will, for the main part of the Rosary which is meditation on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, while asking Mary to pray for us because we believe her to be a mighty prayer warrior!

When I say a Hail Mary, I think of two things. One is her Fiat. You know, when the Angel Gabriel told her she was going to bear a Son, the Messiah, and she said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to thy word.” Secondly I think of what she told the servants at the wedding in Cana. “Do whatever He tells you.” Do you not think that if we all said, “I am the Lord’s servant” and did whatever He told us that the world would be a much better place? :slight_smile:

The Rosary is a private devotion, you know. A person can be a devout, faithful Catholic and never say a Rosary their whole life. It’s not required.

As for meditating on the Gospels or any other Scriptures, I can do that while reading them and praying before, after and ocassionally in the middle of my reading.

Sure you can, because you live in an age where most homes have multiple Bibles. In the age when the Rosary was being developed, most people didn’t have their own Bible nor could they afford one.

If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the Rosary and the Hail Mary prayer itself, I’ve read a couple of great books on the subject.
A Seeker’s Guide to the Rosary
Rosary: Mystery, Meditation, and the Telling of the Beads
(“Telling the Beads” means “Saying your Prayers” btw)


Maybe she prays more for you when you show her the least respect.

Shouldn’t she be impartial, as a prayer warrior in Heaven?"

Do you know that she isn’t ?

Plus the Hail Mary is reading part of the Bible, so who has a problem with reading the Bible ?


So, the crux of the issue seems to be, what does “vain repetitions” really mean. Thayer’s Greek dictionary has some light to shed on this…*battologeō - to repeat the same things over and over, to use many idle words, to babble, prate. Some suppose the word derived from Battus, a king of Cyrene, who is said to have stuttered; others from Battus, an author of tedious and wordy poems.
Now, let’s have a look at the context. Jesus was speaking against the hypocritical pagans, and admonishing his followers to do things differentlyMatthew 6:5-9 Amplified
5 Also when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward in full already.
6 But when you pray, go into your [most] private room, and, closing the door, pray to your Father, Who is in secret; and your Father, Who sees in secret, will reward you in the open.
7 And when you pray, do not heap up phrases (multiply words, repeating the same ones over and over) as the Gentiles do, for they think they will be heard for their much speaking.
8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.
9 Pray, therefore, like this: Our Father Who is in heaven, hallowed (kept holy) be Your name.

Obviously, the passage continues, offering a model for prayer. Some say it’s a formula to pray (though that seems unlikely to me), while others believe that it is an outline, a template, encouraging us to praise God and ask for things that are in his will for both ourselves and others.

That’s not a prayer.

And let’s consider exactly what Jesus said – he said that the pagans think “they will be heard for their much speaking”, which is obviously a reference to the “heaping up phrases” bit previous to it. Why do you say 40 (or perhaps more) Hail Mary’s? Why not say just one? Do you think that it causes you to be heard more because of your “much speaking”?

In fact, Jesus clarifies something – our father knows what we need before we even ask (and therefore, there’s no reason to repeat things over and over). By comparison, let’s look at I Kings 18. This is the “showdown” between the prophets of Baal and Elijah, the single prophet of the one true God.

Baal’s prophets prayed, morning, noon, and night, over and over, repeating themselves, and yet were not answered. The repetitions didn’t “mean nothing”. The followers of Baal were devout and truly believed the repetitions would attract their diety and cause him to act. The problem was that Baal simply didn’t exist. However, Elijah prayed to God just once and God responded.

So, do we need to repeat ourselves over and over for God to hear us? I should hope not. I wouldn’t want to follow a God so weak and frail.

Oh, and lest there be confusion, “vain repetitions” does not refer to eloquent speaking. If someone wishes to continue that claim, please provide some evidence (perhaps a Greek dictionary which says so, for instance).

I don’t know about you, but I can focus and meditate on scripture better without speaking the same memorized, standardized words over and over again.

Oh, and would you mind showing me how to figure out where any given portion of the gospel figures in to the Rosary?

Shouldn’t we all read, meditate, and love the Gospels?

Absolutely! But I don’t like to focus on just a few verses! I like to focus on the whole of scripture. There’s a lot more in scripture than just the verses covered by the Rosary, and I wouldn’t want to get into a ritual with deprived me of so much of the wealth scripture has to offer.



Why not pray, meditate, and love the Gospels?

Well, first off, not all of the gospels are appropriate to be thoughts for prayer. Second, it’s not the words, but the concepts themselves that are important. Third, I do better to absorb and understand the concept, and then put the thoughts into my own words. It helps me to more fully grasp the meaning of scripture.

Let’s be more basic. When Jesus talked about praying, he gave us the Lord’s Prayer (aka the “Our Father”). He said, “pray like this”. Either he meant “like” as in “this is a pattern, or an idea, off which to base your prayers” or, “this is a specific set of words to use”. I think the former to be more likely. However, even assuming the latter (assuming Jesus wanted a ritualized prayer), he never said, “pray like this” and then started saying “Hail Mary, full of grace…”.

So, clearly, if we’re going to be ritualizing something, we should follow the intentions of the Creator of the Universe, who said to pray in a certain way.

Go read the first few verses of Luke, and you’ll see the overall focus of the work is Jesus’ ministry and the faith established by it.


The point of reading scripture should be (though for many it is not) to learn the truth contained therein. Read it once or twice…or perhaps a few more times and compare translations if I truly don’t get what it’s saying…sure. But after that, why keep reading it over and over? No, instead it’s better to focus on the meaning and how it fits into God’s overall plan.

Oh, and by the way, “Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.” is not from scripture. Clearly you’re praying to Mary – petitioning her for prayers to God. Assuming Mary’s in heaven and can hear your prayers (a point which I do not agree with), do you think she’s so incompetent as to not hear your prayer the first time? Does she need to hear it again and again? Is she going to forget to pray for you every day? If you compare to me (someone far less holy and righteous than Mary supposedly was) – I’m not going to forget, and I certainly wouldn’t need to hear you saying it 40+ times every day. For that matter, I don’t think I’d have time to do all the praying necessary.

And what is wrong with asking Mary to pray for us to his Son?

Assuming for the moment that we agree the dead “saints” can hear and pray for you (which I don’t agree with, but is best reserved for another topic I think), there’s no problem. It’s no different than my friend asking me to pray for him. He says, “Hey PCM, I’m having trouble in my life right now. Will you please pray for me?” I say, “Sure, my friend. I’d be happy to.”

A few days later, I talk to him and find that the thing he asked me to pray about is still a problem, so I continue praying. Perhaps he asks now and then.

Now, let’s pretend I’m treated by him as Mary is treated by so many. He comes up to me and says, 10 times in a row, “PCM, pray for me.” I say “What the heck? I heard you the first time.” He then says some other stuff (scriptural stuff), and then repeats the decade. I get dismayed, and tell him, “I already know to be praying for you. Spend your time studying scripture, or meditating on God’s grace and how you can trust him to help you through this.”

Do you see the difference? Can you at least try to understand the Protestant viewpoint?

Jesus made Mary our Mother (John 19:27). We can whine and beg like children :wink:

Disagreed, but even if that were the case – don’t mothers get annoyed when children whine and beg repeatedly?

But then, when you pray the Rosary, do you sincerely feel and “really mean” every prayer you pray? I doubt it – you’re trying to pray, and remember what words you have to pray, and at the same time, you’re supposed to be meditating (that requires active focused thinking to be successful, by the way) on the “mysteries”. Now you tell me – how is all that, at the same time, truly beneficial. Even if you can manage to do it all together, you’re certainly not putting your full focus and intent onto any one of those activities – instead your focus is split.



Oh, and for those who say “It’s not required.” – that doesn’t mean it’s not worth discussing. It’s still either good or bad, and most who are opposed to it don’t really care whether the RCC makes something official or not. The point is that Roman Catholics do it and think it’s great.


I was just playing with you Ginger2. There are more references to many other people, but I doubt any one person is mentioned more than Jesus.


Ryan :slight_smile:

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