What does It Mean to Say Ten Hail Marys?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

The Hail Mary is an important prayer to many Christian denominations, but it holds a special place for Catholics in particular, as it is an important part of reciting the rosary. The rosary is a group of beads split into sections of ten, with a separation between the end of tenth bead in each section, followed by a solitary bead, another separation, then a sequence of ten more beads. Saying ten Hail Marys is essentially saying a section of the rosary. In addition to the groups of ten, the rosary has a cross and five separate beads that begin the contemplative prayer.

The Hail Mary is an important part of reciting the rosary.
The Hail Mary is an important part of reciting the rosary.

This prayer is repeated ten times in each section of the rosary, with the beads helping the person praying keep track of where he or she is. As well as speaking or silently thinking the prayer, Catholics use the repetition as a way to meditate on Christ. They might devote a section of the rosary to certain thoughts, or to family members. For example, often prior to a Catholic funeral, a rosary and prayer service may be held.

Repetition of prayers is a way to produce a meditative state.
Repetition of prayers is a way to produce a meditative state.

The prayer is as follows:

   Hail Mary, full of grace,
   The Lord is with thee,
   blessed art thou among 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.

Saying ten Hail Marys is essentially saying a section of the rosary.
Saying ten Hail Marys is essentially saying a section of the rosary.

The Hail Mary both asks for the prayers of Mary, as one might ask anyone to pray for him or her. Mary is very significant in Christian teaching and is often besought as having great compassion. It was also thought, when the beliefs of Hell and Purgatory were once a very vital part of Catholicism, that only the prayers of those in Heaven could eventually help one trapped in purgatory. Someone who asks for Mary’s prayers is asking for one of the best souls in heaven to pray for him or her.

Catholics use the Hail Mary repetition as a way to meditate on Christ.
Catholics use the Hail Mary repetition as a way to meditate on Christ.

It is commonly misunderstood that the prayer elevates Mary to the status of Godhood, but this is not the case. Instead, the person is merely asking for Mary’s attention and prayers. Since Christians believe in an afterlife, it is not uncommon to talk to one’s dead relatives or to the saints and ask for their prayers. This is different than supplications to God.

Repetition of prayers is a quite common way to produce a meditative state in which a person may have more access to the divine. Most people do not have to fumble over this prayer, since they know it by heart. The repetition allows them to shut off the conscious part of their mind and achieve union with God in a very different way than a more consciously produced prayer.

As well as saying the Hail Mary, the rosary also includes the Our Father, The Glory Be, and The Apostle’s Creed in several repetitions. There are also special prayers said for different separations between the decades of beads.

The rosary necklace has beads and a cross, and both carry much religious symbolism connected to the Hail Mary prayer.
The rosary necklace has beads and a cross, and both carry much religious symbolism connected to the Hail Mary prayer.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


I'm not Catholic myself, so I would never be asked to repeat such a prayer as a matter of penance. My observation, though, is that asking people to repeat a mantra or a pledge or a prayer many times over is a way to imprint the importance of that thought on their hearts.

Asking me to say the pledge of allegiance or write a sentence on a board one time isn't going to leave much of an impression on me. It won't instill more patriotism or teach me anything about talking during class. I can always mumble the pledge or dash off a single sentence. But if I'm compelled to say it or write it to the point of discomfort, it might just sink in.

I think this is the philosophy behind saying ten Hail Marys as part of a larger penance. It becomes difficult after a while. The words take on a different meaning or purpose after the eighth or ninth repetition. I believe the take-away from saying so many prayers in a row is that some things are worth taking seriously.


@Erica: You seem to have more wisdom than you are taking credit for. That in and of itself is one example, but then you said an example prayer was not the Lords Prayer, as I've heard it referred to.

You are correct: Jesus says pray in this manner, not pray repetitively, so it is a guideline on how to pray to be heard by the Father, in his will, not ours, remembering who He is the creator of heaven and earth and the fullness thereof.

He is not the author of confusion, He is always in control and all power belongs to Him. Always trust Him, not man, but God first and always. God's word is true. "In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was god." There are no saints mentioned and no Mary implied. And the word became flesh in Jesus Christ, and he says it is finished. He takes our sin, not man and not Mary.


When we get to heaven, we will not be praising, praying to or worshiping Mary. No man gets to the father except through the Son (See Matthew 23:9 and Psalms 51:4 where it says "against thee and thee only have I sinned).

Read further god will speak to you. If I hurt someone and then go to someone else to ask for forgiveness would that not be offensive to the person I hurt and what would be the final outcome? Am I really forgiven? Please read for yourself God's word, not man's fables.


When we get to heaven, what will we do there?


Speak to the living god, not to dead humans.


Rosaries have been in use in Buddhism, and Taoism way before Christianity came along. Funnily enough, Judaism (which is our root) never did use it. Why? Because it was a pagan practice and they were forbidden from imitating pagan practices. We are not supposed to communicate with the dead, anyway (whether it's asking aunt Nana or Mary to pray for you), so all this "praying" to/with the saints is still forbidden no matter what.

Read Deuteronomy 18:9-12 for more clarity.


@anon148963: Let's not feed the lost sheep with your opinions here. First of all, you catholics do not pray to Mary to pray with her. You say, in fact, you are telling Mary, through your prayers, to deliver the message to God, which would be in direct violation of the said scripture. Secondly, your words are exact case of messed-up logic that Catholic Church preaches. I sincerely dislike that way of doing things, as they cover up their faults by adding human traditions and beliefs to God's grace. See how it affects people? So many are so divided and caught up in their own thoughts that they directly go on to say different things about their own beliefs.


@anon5206: Matthew 6:7 tells us that a human cannot grasp the attention of God by harassing him through prayers. It is pagan-like for people to equate their ability to pray to God as mindless chantings of wishes to a false deity. God does not forget anything people have prayed to him and he certainly does not ignore their prayers.

However, if people think that their prayers will be answered by God through their own efforts and instructions and their wishes, then they should change their perspective on the process of praying to God. Again, if we turn this prayer into a mindless, repetitive chant, we practice the very prayer theology that Jesus is condemning. Jesus urges us to pray simply, sincerely, and succinctly, but respectfully. Our Father hears.

That's the flaw, to me, of Catholic theology. They tend to base their views, worship, prayers and etc. on their traditions as well as their opinions. They believe that their human traditions and opinions do weigh equally or on some occasions much more than the words of God, the Bible. It is true that Mary was favored by God. (Luke 1:27-28) Still, she never was holy or someone to be honored for her own efforts. She was a sinner who was in need of Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Thus, she needed him to save her just like the rest of us do. (Luke 1:47) Also, she needed grace from God and the grace does not exert from Mary herself. Therefore, Catholics are contradicting the scripture by allowing their human thoughts and wishes to corrupt everything.

Why does the Catholic church build up statues of "saints" and "Holy Mary?" They keep giving us excuses such as "it is to honor them, not to worship them." We know how they sound, considering the fact that an idol originates from the feeling of honor towards someone. Even if you don't recognize it, you will be subconsciously worshiping "angels," "saints," and "Mary" other than God.

Do you know that Catholics around the world pray to Mary to tell God of their needs more so than they directly pray to God? What is the need of a rosary? Its existence in Catholic tradition is in direct relation to Mary. Since it's going to get hectic, if I were to bring in my views on the history of Catholic church and their originality issues relating to the Roman emperor and pagan worship, I will refrain from doing so.


This really confuses me. When I was a kid I went to religious instruction, and we were taught the Rosary but without the mysteries, etc., and I'll be honest: when I say the rosary I say it the way I was taught. Yes I am in my 60's so I have a hard time when people change things. I say it the way I was taught, and the Lord and Mary know what's in my heart.


Erica, it does say go boldly to the throne, but it also says where two or more are gathered in my name. What better person is it to be with in asking a petition of jesus than Mary?

Remember, you are not praying to Mary, but rather, with Mary. She is your partner in prayer. Jesus only taught absolutes, and praying to a saint is an option; putting God first is not. Hope this of some help. Erica, keep asking questions, stay involved with the Father and his son Jesus. God bless you. Sincerely, Steve


We say 10 Hail Marys, one Our Father and one Glory Be for every decade because if we had a different prayer for each decade, it would have been impossible to meditate.

Furthermore, just like 1x1x1x1x1x1x1x1x1x1=1 every decade of the rosary is a single prayer. The word 'rosary' as a meaning something like 'garland of roses.' Indeed, just as the many same-looking roses together form one garland, the Hail Marys make one, uniform prayer.

In Revelation, chapter 8, we find a very biblical example of intercessory prayer; Psalm 155/116:5 reads: Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.

There's also a special reason why we start with the Our Father and end with the Glory Be: Strictly speaking, catholics *must* begin all vocal prayer with the Our Father and *then* join their prayers with Our Lord's Prayer. The Glory Be is a doxology that has been used since earliest times and it signifies that God is the first and the last, thus the Our Father and the Glory Be make sure that the rosary starts with God and ends with God.

Christ repeated the same prayer during his agony in the garden, didn't he?

The bible tells us to 'pray unceasingly.' How are we to pray a new prayer every time we pray, when we pray all the time? Why would Jesus teach us just one prayer and then say, 'don't repeat it!'

Mary isn't an incubator where Christ was stored. Without Mary there would have been no Jesus. If anyone worships Jesus, the humanity of Jesus, let him know that He is the Flesh and Blood of Mary and Mary alone. He is begotten of God in the Divinity but Mary in the Humanity.

Mary could have just left Him to die in the stable, she could abandoned him to Herod, she could have let Him alone in the temple, she could have deserted Him on Calvary, but she did not. She interceded for the bridegroom at the marriage at Cana and Christ didn't deny her; Christ said that anyone who does the Will of His Father is his family, didn't Mary do the Will of His Father by bearing him, bringing him up and obediently allowing her Son to be crucified without a word of fretting?

Mary is God's Mother because she is the mother of Jesus - God. St Elisabeth says, 'and who am I that the Mother of my Lord should visit me?'

Mary is Our Mother because just as we believe in original sin even though only Adam was actually there, so we believe that st john stood there for us when Christ made him Mary's son.

No Mary: No Jesus. No Jesus: No Salvation. Know Mary: Know Jesus! Yours in Christ, Victor Marcus Christianus.


Why do we say 10 Hail Marys, and not Our Father, or Glory Be, or other prayers?


Erica - In the Hail Mary prayer, we are quoting scripture and asking Mary to pray for us. It is similar to asking a friend to pray for us.

If we believe in eternal life, then the people in heaven are alive and we can ask them to pray for us. We Catholics call this belief the Communion of Saints. One cool thing about this belief is that the saints can pray all the time for us, whereas our friends on earth have commitments that limit the time they spend in prayer.

Do you ask your friends to pray for you? Are they mediators? If you call them something else, like prayer warriors,then that's what you would call Mary when asking her to pray for you.


it's 10 hail Marys for the following reasons:

Originally, Christians (especially at the time of their execution/martyrdom) would pray, reciting the 150 psalms of the old testament.

Throughout the centuries, it developed into a practice of saying 150 prayers that were more simple than the entire psalms. At some point then, they incorporated the hail Marys after the revelation to St. Dominic, and since there are five joyful mysteries, five sorrowful mysteries, and five glorious mysteries, for a total of 15 mysteries, if you divide 10 hail marys into each mystery, it equals 150 hail marys. Therefore, it's divided into groups of ten. Hope this helps.


My question, why do we Catholics say for each decade, 10 Hail Marys, not less or more? Anglican rosaries have four groups, of seven called weeks, and #7 represents the number of days of creation. I am trying to answer an Anglican friend.

Is the Catholic Rosary tradition?


The Rosary traditionally consists of 15 decades, made up into three groups of five mysteries.

The Joyful, The Sorrowful and the Glorious. Each examining the life and ministry of Christ.

Pope John-Paul 2nd added a new group, called the Luminous, that goes further into the Life of Christ.

For Early Christian's reciting the Psalms of the Bible was considered a pious practice. However, with the collapse of Rome the availability of bibles, due to the loss of making inexpensive paper, declined. (Early bibles and other books were often chained in place so they wouldn't be stolen.)

As a result of this lack and a general decline in literacy, pious people began to say a Hail Mary for each Psalm in the bible. The first part of the Hail Mary is made up of the Angelic Salutation (LUKE 1:28 Douay-Rheims) and the words of greeting said to to Mary by her cousin Elizabeth (LUKE 1:42 Douay-Rheims), the second part details the simple truth of her, she was Holy, she was the Mother of God and she prays for us now, and at the moment of our death.

Were are told to pray always!! LUKE 18:1 D-R

The teaching against repetitive prayer, is referring to vain repetitious prayer. LUKE 18:10-13 D-R


Why do we say 10 hail marys?


Why do we say 10 hail marys? Not less or more? Is there any traditional significance?


Why would Jesus tell us in matthew 6:7 not to use repititious prayer?

I know that Mary was a beautiful chosen vessel. But I found a scripture in I timothy 2:5 that says there is only one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. and another scripture that says we can now come boldly to the throne. And also when giving a example prayer Jesus began with 'Our Father' and didn't mention Mary.

Sincerely Erica

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