Ask the students to reflect on the words of the “Hail Mary” as if they are hearing them for the first time. Quiet the room. Make sure the students sit with their backs straight, either on a chair or on the floor. Remind them that the first part of the prayer is contained in Scripture; the second part was added later as a formula of petition to Mary. Say: “As you hear the words, imagine you are hearing them for the first time. Let them sink in slowly so that you can reflect on their meaning. Play some background music (perhaps the “Ave Maria” or other Marian hymns). Then use the following script, praying each phrase of the Hail Mary in your own heart and slowly reading the reflections.

Script (based on Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2676-2677)

Hail Mary. (Pause.) God, through the messenger of Gabriel, greets Mary. A poor girl of an out-of-the-way village, Nazareth, Mary was probably an early adolescent when she heard this greeting. We are able to greet Mary in the same way and to exult in the same joy in Mary that God had for her.  

Full of grace, the Lord is with thee. (Pause.) These two phrases are related. The reason Mary is full of grace is because the Lord is with her. The grace with which Mary is filled is the very life of God who is the source of all grace. Because she is full of grace, Mary is completely devoted to God who has come to dwell in her and whom she is about to bring into the world.

Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. (Pause.) These are the words with which Mary's cousin Elizabeth greets her. We join Elizabeth in greeting Mary this way. Elizabeth is the first of countless numbers of people from every generation who have called Mary “blessed.” Mary is blessed because she believed and accepted for herself God's words to her. As the patriarch Abraham was the father of all believers, Mary has become the Mother of all the faithful, including a new generation of Gentile believers who are welcomed and received by her Son, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God. (Pause.) This beings the second movement of the prayer. Because she has given the world Jesus, Mary is the Mother of God. She is also our Mother as Jesus spoke from the cross to his beloved disciple John:” Behold your mother,” Jesus said. We are deeply indebted to God for having given us Mary as our Mother. We, too, marvel with Elizabeth at this great gift, echoing her words: “And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” When we bring our prayer to Mary, like her, we give ourselves over to the will of God for ourselves. We say with Mary, “thy will be done.”

Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour our death. (Pause.) We acknowledge ourselves as poor sinners as we reach out to our Mother of Mercy. We give ourselves to Mary, first for today, and with an eye to the future when we will entrust our lives to Mary at the hour of our death. We pray in the confidence that she will lead us to her Son, Jesus, in paradise.