The faithful have always recognized the value of the Blessed Virgin’s
maternal presence and have had recourse to her for every kind of grace
By highlighting the human dimension of the Incarnation, devotion to
Mary helps the faithful "to discern the face of a God who shares
the joys and sufferings of humanity", the Holy Father said at the
General Audience of Wednesday, 5 November. The Pope spoke of various
Marian prayers, particularly the Hail Mary, the Angelus and the Rosary.
Here is a translation of his catechesis, which was the 69th in the
series on the Blessed Mother and was given in Italian.
1. Down the centuries Marian devotion has enjoyed uninterrupted
development. In addition to the traditional liturgical feasts dedicated
to the Lord's Mother, there has been a flowering of countless
expressions of piety, often approved and encouraged by the Church's
Many Marian devotions and prayers are an extension of the liturgy
itself and have sometimes contributed to its overall enrichment, as is
the case with the Office in honour of the Blessed Virgin and other pious
compositions which have become part of the Breviary.
The first known Marian invocation goes back to the third century and
begins with the words: "We fly to thy patronage (Sub tuum
praesidium), O holy Mother of God...". However, since the 14th
century the most common prayer among Christians has been the "Hail
By repeating the first words the angel addressed to Mary, it leads
the faithful to contemplate the mystery of the Incarnation. The Latin
word "Ave" translates the Greek word "Chaire": it is
an invitation to joy and could be translated "Rejoice". The
Eastern hymn "Akathistos" repeatedly stresses this
"rejoice". In the "Hail Mary" the Blessed Virgin is
called "full of grace" and is thus recognized for the
perfection and beauty of her soul.
Rosary has important place in Marian devotion
The phrase "The Lord is with thee" reveals God's special
personal relationship with Mary, which fits into the great plan for his
covenant with all humanity. Next, the statement "Blessed art thou
among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus" expresses
the fulfilment of the divine plan in the Daughter of Zion's virginal
Calling upon "Holy Mary, Mother of God", Christians ask the
one who was the immaculate Mother of the Lord by a unique privilege:
"Pray for us sinners", and entrust themselves to her at the
present moment and at the ultimate moment of death.
2. The traditional prayer of the "Angelus" also invites
Christians to meditate on the mystery of the Incarnation, urging them to
take Mary as their point of reference at different times of their day in
order to imitate her willingness to fulfil the divine plan of salvation.
This prayer makes us relive in a way that great event in human history,
the Incarnation, to which every "Hail Mary" refers. Here we
find the value and attraction of the "Angelus", expressed so
many times not only by theologians and pastors but also by poets and
In Marian devotion the Rosary has taken on an important role. By
repeating the "Hail Mary", it leads us to contemplate the
mysteries of faith. In nourishing the Christian people's love for the
Mother of God, this simple prayer also orients Marian prayer in a
clearer way to its goal: the glorification of Christ.
Pope Paul VI, like his Predecessors, especially Leo XIII, Pius XII
and John XXIII, held the recitation of the Rosary in great esteem and
wished it to be widely spread among families. Moreover, in the Apostolic
Exhortation Marialis cultus, he explained its doctrine by
recalling that it is a "Gospel prayer, centred on the mystery of
the redemptive Incarnation", and stressing its "clearly
Christological orientation" (n. 46).
Popular piety frequently adds a litany to the Rosary. The best known
is the one used at the Shrine of Loreto and is therefore called the
"Litany of Loreto".
With very simple invocations it helps us concentrate on Mary's
person, in order to grasp the spiritual riches which the Father's love
poured out in her.
3. As the liturgy and Christian piety demonstrate, the Church has
always held devotion to Mary in high esteem, considering it inseparably
linked to belief in Christ. It is in fact based on the Father's plan,
the Saviour's will and the Paraclete's inspiration.
Having received salvation and grace from Christ, the Blessed Virgin
is called to play an important role in humanity's redemption. Through
Marian devotion Christians acknowledge the value of Mary's presence on
their journey to salvation, having recourse to her for every kind of
grace. They especially know that they can count on her motherly
intercession to receive from the Lord everything necessary for growing
in the divine life and for attaining eternal salvation.
As the many titles attributed to the Blessed Virgin and the continual
pilgrimages to Marian shrines attest, the trust of the faithful in
Jesus' Mother spurs them to call upon her for their daily needs.
Mary is not indifferent to her children's needs
They are certain that her maternal heart cannot remain indifferent to
the material and spiritual distress of her children.
By encouraging the confidence and spontaneity of the faithful,
devotion to the Mother of God thus helps to brighten their spiritual
life and enables them to make progress on the demanding path of the
4. Lastly, we would like to recall that devotion to Mary, by
highlighting the human dimension of the Incarnation, helps us better to
discern the face of a God who shares the joys and sufferings of
humanity, the "God-with-us" whom she conceived as man in her
most pure womb, gave birth to, cared for and followed with unspeakable
love from his days in Nazareth and Bethlehem to those of the Cross and