The Hail Mary

I learned the Hail Mary sitting on a mattress on the floor, in the upstairs room of the last apartment I lived in before I got married. I was newly Catholic and I had a special intention. I was convinced the Blessed Mother would work a miracle if only I bugged her enough about it.

As I stumbled through the rosary that first time, without the benefit of the audio aids that would later help me to get the flow, rhythm, and words, I didn’t have a shock of understanding. The lights didn’t flicker. Nothing exploded in a shower of sparks.

But I kept plugging along, struggling and wrestling. The rosary became my companion on commutes, and I discovered a CD that helped me learn the words. I kept rosary in my purse and I learned how to tick off the prayers on my fingers when I didn’t have or couldn’t use a rosary.

Time passed and that intention was updated with something else. Then I put the rosary away for a while, only to pick it up again.

Now that I’ve had the rosary as my companion for years, I notice that when I’m troubled, when I can’t find the words, or when I’m afraid, I latch onto the Hail Mary. Does saying it just occupy the part of my mind that needs activity? Possibly. But I think there’s more to it.

MaryA few years ago, I woke in the middle of the night. I was on a trip without my husband, and the baby and toddler were both snoring beauties. Nothing was amiss, except an urge—so strong it was almost someone TELLING me—to pray for my safety.

I don’t know how long I laid there, terrified. All I could pray was a litany of Hail Marys—it was the only thing that came out. I had never had an experience where a memorized prayer was a way of praying when fear completely clouds the mind…except in my dreams.

I don’t often have nightmares, but when I’m pregnant it’s no-holds-barred with nighttime adventures. During one of my pregnancies, I remember feeling petrified and waking myself up by praying Hail Marys.

You might say it’s become my blankie prayer.

Just as my children cling to their worn-soft faded blankies, so I cling to my Blessed Mother’s skirt through this prayer. When my heart aches, I cry out a Hail Mary. When I need held in my sorrow, it’s a Hail Mary that comes out. Worried or troubled, the words I can’t find on my own shape into the words of the Hail Mary.

I wrap my babies in soft blankets, bundling them against hurt, and God has wrapped me in the blankie prayer that I’ve become as comfortable with as the old quilt from my childhood, the one on my daughter’s bed. I hold my children after they fall and put bandages on their scrapes, just as God wraps his arms around me through the love of his mother, which I’m always reminded of when I say a Hail Mary.

The next time you pray the Hail Mary, think of Mary’s arms wrapped around you, holding you close. Picture Jesus beside you, smushed face-to-face with you. Snuggle in and pray all you can.


image credit:

Sarah Reinhard


When Sarah Reinhard set off in her life as a grown-up, she had no idea it would involve horses, writing, and sparkly dress shoes. In her work as a Catholic wife, mom, writer, parish employee, and catechist, she’s learned a lot of lessons and had a lot of laughs. She’s online at and is the author of a number of books.

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  • DeaconJay2010

    Sarah, I know exactly what you mean and couldn’t agree more.

  • Polly King

    I learned to pray it long before I became Catholic, and developed a very strong bond with Our Blessed Mother, who I believe was leading me to the Church through her son. It is my “blankie prayer” for sure — great analogy. Good to know others feel the same way about it I do!

  • Zeebus

    This has happened to me more than a few times, though the urge wasn’t to pray for safety but rather the souls in purgatory. It’s almost overwhelming.

  • avt

    I sleep with the rosary in my hand and believe it not when I awake the next morning it is still in my hands. I feel that I am holding Mary had the whole night thru.

  • Francis

    For years now I may wake up in the middle of the night uncomfortable and feel the need to pray the rosary. It may be one rosary or or more before the urgency subsides and I can return to sleep. Hopefully someone some place in this world is helped or some soul is released into Heaven. It is like a blanket that surrounds you but can’t be explained until you experience it.
    God bless.

  • Angela Tuuri

    Thanks Sarah for this lovely writing. I too have an affinity to pray the rosary in times of need. I am a member of Our Lady’s Prayer group that meets weekly and one important part is praying the rosary. I have also designed an inspired medal called the Grace and Mercy medal. I thought that you might be interested in it since it is devoted to the rosary. It is available on my website at

  • Richard III

    Many times I have half-awakened to find myself mumbling and mentally reciting the “Hail Mary”, and at the same time thinking that I had fallen asleep in the middle of the Rosary. As far as I can tell (I’ve never really thought about it until now), it doesn’t happen after nightmares (I woke up in this state last night after a strange but not troubling and now hard to recall dream), or at least does not happen only after nightmares. And I have fallen asleep in the middle of nighttime Rosaries before, but not in a while, since I’ve tried to do it earlier in the day.

    Amazing article, Mrs. Reinhard. Thanks for sharing your experience and insights.

  • Blobee

    One morning I was scheduled for an 8:00 am flight to Houston for a business trip, so my alarm rang at 4:30 am. As I was getting ready I was overwhelmed with a desperate need to pray the Hail Mary, much like you recount waking in the night, nothing obviously wrong, yet feeling somewhat scared, and urged to pray the Hail Mary over and over and over, like a litany. I wasn’t afraid of a plane crash, nor feared going on my trip, but I felt something was very urgent. I prayed that way even as I waited for the cab to take me to the airport, and I clearly remember watching the wheels of the other cars on the highway as I rhythmically prayed the Hail Mary. Even as I checked in at the airport, went through security to my gate, and sat waiting for boarding I prayed. It was as if my spirit inside was praying, even as I went through the routine. I can’t even imagine how many Hail Mary’s I prayed between 4:30 am and 8:00 am. Anyway, we boarded the plane, and were awaiting takeoff, when suddenly the pilot came onto the loudspeaker saying we were heading back to the terminal. When I asked the flight attended why, he said, “Because of what happened in New York.” I said, “What happened in New York?” but he had already breezed by my seat. Then the passenger across the aisle’s cell phone rang. She answered it. It was her daughter. She was crying. The woman said out loud, to all of us who could hear her, “Two planes just crashed into the World Trade Center in New York. It appears to be a terrorist attack.” The date was September 11, 2001.

  • Blobee

    It’s as if Our Lady’s prayer warriors are called into battle at a moment’s notice; as if she needs our help right then, and calls to our spirits to help her. I love her so much!

  • Lynne

    Several years ago we had a stairwell in our building at work that most of used because of the location, cutting off several minutes to get to work in the morning from our cars and quick access out of the building at nite. The only problem was the stairwell was built during WWII and codes are much different now. The threads were very narrow in depth and the risers were much too large. It was extremely scary, yet we all used this concrete accident-waiting-to-happen every day. One day I decided to say a Hail Mary every time I used the stairwell. I quickly got into the rhythm, first part of the prayer, reach the landing, finish the second part of the prayer and I was out of the stairwell. I shared it with others, and I swear you could see others praying as they climbed or descended the stairs. Then I decided to start praying from my car into the stairwell and vice versa at nite. I could pray 3 Our Fathers, 3 Hail Marys and 3 Glories. Also, whenever I have to have MRIs ( which can be frequent due to kidney disease), I synchronize saying Hail Marys with the pings of the MRI.

  • H

    I read a true story on Spirit daily about a young college girl who promised
    her grandmother that she would pray the Rosary daily when she was away at
    college. I believe her grandmother was concerned for her safety. Well, it turned
    out that her grandmother’s advice was golden!

    Serial killer, Ted Bundy, had just killed 2 girls in this girl’s dorm. All of a sudden, he broke into her room with a club to bludgeon her to death, but she spread her hands open to protect herself & she was holding her Rosary. Bundy was about to hit her, but an unseen force protected her. He fled from her room. The poor girl was catatonic
    following the incident. A priest prayed with her at the hospital & helped

    Years later, that same priest went to the prison to talk to Bundy when he
    was on death row. He confessed that he was held back by some unseen force when
    he came into her room. Had she not had her Rosary in her hand, she most likely
    would have been killed! Talk about a “safety blanket”!

    You can read the story in more detail here:

  • Blackie

    Happy days -If the World taught Our Children to have faith and The Holy Rosary – What a different place it would be – Our Heavenly Mother teaching Earthly Mothers How to live We would live life and walk into heaven wrapped in ‘soft blankets’ -Great story God bless

  • Online72

    Such a nice way to think of prayer and our Mother. Thank you for sharing.

  • Cecelia

    I received an urgent prayer to pray for the intentions of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I prayed, I prayed, I prayed for many days. Feeling unsure of weather to continue the prayers, I asked….. the car in front of me had a personalized license plate….9-11 – I took that for my answer as it was just a few days away. Mary does call her prayer warriors in times of trouble.

    Keep Praying!!

  • Larry Peterson

    The “blankie prayer” I LOVE that—NICE

  • Richard III

    A devil once informed an exorcist that every sincerely prayed Hail Mary is like a sledgehammer blow to the heads of demons, and the more sincerely the prayer is prayed, and the more distinctly pronounced the words are, the harder the blow. And every Rosary prayed helps to make up the chain with which Satan will be bound before being thrown into the Fires of Hell at the End of the World. Keep praying, people!

  • Sue

    God bless you — I love this!

  • JimmyChonga

    Sarah, please remember me in your prayers – I’m suffering a LOT of “oppressive stress” and have been under this “darkness” since the first of the year. I have doubled-down on sanctifying my life and have committed myself to accept whatever fate might result from these external attacks against my business, my character, my integrity. I find that the only relief from my stress at night is when I petition Our Precious Lady to hold my hand, hug and hold me, until the storm passes. It is the most calming and stress-relieving “surrender-of-self” that I can possibly imagine. I joke that if Heaven is to have me, it will be because I have managed to sneak under Our Lady’s veil and passed through unnoticed into the “other side”. Loved your article and insight – and can vouch for your perspective! Viva!

  • missy fillion

    May I suggest you pray a prayer of protection such as this one as many times a day as necessary as well as what you have been doing? I try never to go to sleep without saying it. There are many variations. (my variation continues by adding I claim authority over me Including dreams, thoughts,body, mind and soul, my family, possessions, property, all the powers and forces of nature, our city state and country as conquered territory for the kingdom of heaven. No unholy forces or powers are granted rights here. )

  • Sarah

    I often imagine myself under Our Blessed Mother’s mantle of protection. So safe. So secure. And it is there, under her flowing veil, that I meet Jesus. We are SO blessed that Jesus gave us Mary to be our Mama, too!

  • Momof7

    I have been saying the Hail Mary and the Our Father for years in the same way! There is nothing more soothing! Excellent article!