Pope Francis and an Italian priest-theologian sat down to talk about this prayer and their conversation will inspire you. Ave Maria: The Mystery of a Most Beloved Prayer is a book-length conversation of Pope Francis with Fr. Marco Pozza, in the same vein as their earlier dialogue on the Our Father.
Line by line, the pope and the theologian consider this prayer, which is taken straight from the mouth of the Angel Gabriel, Our Lady’s cousin Elizabeth, and the supplication of the Church.
The homey conversation makes for a great, easy read (especially in May) that will surely bring you insights into the prayer and help you to pray it more fervently.
Read more: There’s a hidden prayer in the final petition of the Hail Mary Aleteia shares with you a passage from , which comes about when Fr. Pozza asks the pope about a painting they both admire: Caravaggio’s Ave Maria Madonna di Loreto, which is housed along side a shrine to another famous and holy mother, St. Monica. Caravaggio | Public Domain
Fr. Pozza notes how the painting is kept at the church of St. Augustine in Campo Marzio in Rome. He says he stops there often, and is “moved by these swollen feet [of the pilgrims], these threadbare garments, these clasped hands, these reverent knees. I see myself there …. I look at Mary, who is there on the threshold and holds her Son in her arms.”
Pope Francis interjects, noting that the little Jesus of the painting is not so little anymore. In fact, Caravaggio has depicted him perhaps the size of a three- or four-year-old.
The pope remarks, “He is more than one year old” and the priest asks Francis why he, too, is so bewitched by this image of Mary.
Because of its reality, its concreteness. She is a mother with a Son who is growing up in her arms, who is heavy, but she still looks at him with tenderness. She looks at these pilgrims who are passing by, who will never see her again. She looks at us when we go there.
When I used to come to Rome as a bishop, I would stay just down from the Via della Scrofa, at the residence for clergy. And every morning before going to the Vatican, I went to the church of Saint Augustine to visit two women, Our Lady of Pilgrims, and another woman I admire a lot, Saint Monica.
Monica was a real woman of the Church, a mother who knew how to be a mother like Mary and to take the cross upon herself.
It moves me to see this image right now. And these pilgrims, they are us, with our life: We greet her, we tell her not to forget us, with hands clasped, supplicants. It is Our Lady of Pilgrims.
And Saint Monica too — I dare to say it because I’m so fond of her — had her own Magnificat. When she told her son Augustine that now she could die because she had realized her desire of seeing him a Christian, she used these words: “ Cumulatius hoc mihi Deus meus praestitit.” In other words, God has given me this in abundance. It is the Magnificat of Monica: that church is these two women, the women who sang the Magnificat, each at her own level.
Ave Maria here. Read more: Prayer to St. Monica: Help my child turn to Christ! Read more: Pope remembers his mother: Strong in suffering and always able to stretch the family funds