Ave Maria, gratia plena,
Benedicta tu in mulieribus
Et benedictus fructus ventris tuae, Jesus.
Sancta Maria, mater Dei,
Ora pronobis peccatoribus
Nunc et in hora mortis nostrae.
Hail Mary, full of grace,
The Lord is with thee,
Blessed art though amongst women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death.
I remember vividly singing Ave Maria my first year of high school at a Winter choir concert. The arrangement was different from the traditional with four or more parts woven together. The interesting thing about choir concerts is the high use of Latin. I sang songs entitled "Adoramus Te" and "Kyrie Eleison" having little idea what they meant or that some words were used every day in Mass, yet I never sought the meanings behind such beautiful music. Looking back, a lot of my life in relation to Catholicism has frequently been that way. I knew the Catholic Church was there, but I was a stranger to it. I knew stereotypes, but even then, no matter how accurate my assumptions were, I didn't know them well.
Some people have told me one of the easiest ways, if not the easiest way, to learn Latin is to follow along at a Latin Mass. Since English is a romance language highly based on Latin, one can decipher words surprisingly easily sometimes. In the above example, "benedicta" and "benedictus" are like "benefit:" the word must have some meaning of "good." "Mortis," is the like the Spanish "muerte" for "death."
Yet with all of these verbal associations, I didn't realize the song I sang six years ago was the Catholic Rosary until this Summer. It makes me wonder how many times I unknowingly sang the Rosary or how many other people have sung "Ave Maria" without knowing what they're really saying.
As deep as my surprise has been at every turn of learning new facets of the Faith, the base of the Rosary has surprised me in even more ways. My first Rosary was quietly uttered on a late night walk with my boyfriend who instructed me while praying for his uncle who had just passed away. I was nervously fumbling with beads, the nervous part of which is usually attached to any activity I am just learning how to do. This new contemplative prayer was mysterious and fascinating to me in a way that prompted my praying the Rosary in daily succession.
I didn't realize then how great a gift the Rosary was. I prayed it when I woke up or recited "Hail Mary" in my head at work to keep mentally occupied and focused. Soon in times of distress or nerves or anticipation, I would pray the Rosary to calm myself. Before exams I would pray it. During hours-long rushes at work I would pray it. Before going to my first RCIA class I prayed it (I am not very good at initial social interactions and the thought of meeting many people all at once, adding in the fact that at least half would be Catholics who knew their stuff when I felt so ignorant, made my palms sweat and my heartbeat spike). In these times of inner calamity, each shift in beads, each reflection on the lives of the Savior and His Mother, each earnest desire to get to know this mysterious woman more stilled my nerves, slowed my heartbeat until calm flooded my body.
As a Protestant, I spent the majority of my life hardly acknowledging Mary. She would come up around Christmas naturally, but her role would be small and brief. How good she was to accept God's child, but now it was time to talk about the shepherds. She has been a stranger to me for so much of my life. Coming to the Church and being introduced to the Rosary has completely changed that. I imagine it is much a similar feeling as once orphans must have when they encounter their long lost mother. Just as I have an earthly and a Heavenly father, I also have an earthly and a Heavenly mother. I love my earthly mother incredibly (if you're reading, hi Mom! It's pretty cool you're reading my blog. :) ). But it blows my mind to think I have a Heavenly mother who cares for me as any mother for her child, who will guide me and who will pray for me. I hope I can be a good daughter to both.
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection,
implored your help or sought your intercession,
was left unaided.
Inspired with this confidence,
I fly to you, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother;
to you do I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate,
despise not my petitions,
but in your mercy hear and answer me.