Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art though among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Hail Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death. Amen
I am not a Catholic, but this prayer became an anchor for me last summer. It was last summer that I completed my required unit of Clinical Pastoral Education, and I elected to serve at a hospital known for its high level of trauma. CPE is something that seminary students complete to satisfy the requirements of their denomination for ordination.
All my life I have shied away from trauma and I wanted to know if I could sit with someone in the midst of it. CPE was a very sacred experience, and it changed me forever, but not in ways that I had anticipated. I was concerned about how I would respond to trauma, but it turns out I need not have worried about that. What did confounded me however was encountering other theologies and learning how to offer comfort within the theological worlds of those who were traumatized.
At seminary we are all on the same page theologically – at least for the most part. We exist within a bubble, with very little exposure to the real world. And so our ideas become ingrained and it is difficult to imagine ways of seeing God that are different from our own. Of course we pride ourselves on being very open-minded; and we think that we are indeed ecumenically correct, but in the hospital, where the rubber meets the road, I had to learn in my heart that God moves through it all, and despite our best efforts, none of us have God “figured out.”
I encountered many different perspectives; some that I had always considered just flat-out wrong; but theological perspective has no place in the ER or in intensive care. What is needed is raw, unedited God, and what I had to learn was how to illuminate God’s presence using whatever language the other person needs to hear. We talk about meeting people where they are, and it was here that it became more than a concept for me.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. I don’t know why but one day I resolved to memorize the Hail Mary and start using it. Over and over I said the Hail Mary and before I knew it, it began to work its way into my heart. We Protestants don’t really give Mary her due, but it’s not really about Mary; it is about learning to open our hearts wide enough so that we can recognize and receive God’s presence in whatever context we happen to find ourselves. Hail Mary gently helped me to find my way to that place.
I still say the Hail Mary from time to time. I love its gentle and comforting rhythm. But more than anything I love knowing that God is accessible to me through many different avenues and I don’t have to make distinctions between “right” and “wrong” theologies. Our theologies are not God – only God is God.