This year, author and blogger Sarah Reinhard hosted a series called “Looking Closer at the Hail Mary.” She asked 40 Catholic writers (myself included) to participate, taking one word of the prayer and writing a reflection on that word. She posted these reflections over a six month period of time. My post focused on the word “Now” and is included below:
1.at the present time or moment.
2.without delay; immediately; at once.
Now has always been one of my favorite words. Procrastinators don’t like this word. As a wife, mother, NFP teacher, Marriage Preparation instructor and writer with numerous deadlines, I live this word daily.
My mother also loved the word “now.” One of her commonly-used expressions was “Now means now…not five minutes from now.” Of course, if you ask my kids, I also use this expression more often than they’d like.
“Now” means “without further delay.” Now I must change my baby’s diaper or his bottom will get a painful rash. Now I must feed my children or they will go hungry and become ill. Now, I must finish this post so that I can move on to the next deadline. Well, you get the drift.
The Hail Mary is a beautiful and powerful prayer. In the first part, we recite the words of the angel Gabriel, then those of Elizabeth. In the second part, we are asking Mary to pray for us. And to pray for us Now.
Mary said yes to God immediately (without delay). She didn’t say “Maybe later.” She said, “Be it done to me according to thy word.” Mary nurtured and protected the unborn, then newborn, then child Jesus. She watched her son suffer in agony and die a brutal death and held his brutalized body in her arms after death. She knows intimately what it is like to watch a loved one suffer and die.
“Now and at the hour of our death.” Nineteen years ago next week, I had occasion to pray these words with desperation as I drifted in and out of consciousness in the back of an ambulance. I was weak, scared and in excruciating pain, the result of a tumor that was rapidly growing inside my abdomen and causing massive internal bleeding. At the time, I was the young mother of three small boys: 10 months, 3 and 5 years of age. I was afraid of dying but, more importantly, I didn’t want my little boys growing up without a mother.
“Now and at the hour of our death.” I prayed those words with such fervency because I realized that “Now” might very well be the same as “the hour of my death.”
In the back of that ambulance 19 years ago, the moment I prayed those words, I no longer felt afraid; I no longer felt concerned for my boys. It was as if all the worry and fear were stripped away and an all-encompassing peace permeated every cell, every artery, every muscle in my body. Most importantly, this peace filled and comforted my troubled soul. I sensed a presence around me, almost cradling me. It happened so quickly that it took me by surprise.
Obviously, I did not die that day. But I caught a glimpse of death and a glimmer of heaven….I asked for help Now because I needed it immediately. Jesus and His Blessed Mother were (and are) dependable and work quickly.
Now is a good time to take stock in our spiritual life. Now is a good time to take care of our bodies, our minds and, most importantly, our souls.
And I know, without a doubt, that when it is my time to return home to heaven, Mary will be there with me, at that exact moment, praying that her Son gives me that all-encompassing grace I need for the journey home.
Photos copyright 2012 Josh Hrkach
Text copyright 2012 Ellen Gable Hrkach