Q. 1. I have heard different stories regarding the origin of the "Hail Mary." What is the Catholic teaching on this matter?
A. 1. The "Hail Mary" did not suddenly appear in the Catholic Church. It developed over a number of years.
Church docoments indicate that in the 11 th Century, the words "Hail, Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed are thou among women" were used as a prayer of salutation.
In the 14 th century, the words of Elizabeth were added together with the name, "Jesus." "Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus."
Around the 16 th century, the "Holy Mary, etc..." was added.
During the 16 th century, the Council of Trent makes reference to the "Hail Mary."
"For The Blessed Virgin Mary"
"To this sort of prayer belongs the first part of the Angelic Salutation, when used by us as a prayer: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women. For in these words we render to God the highest praise and return Him most gracious thanks, because He has bestowed all His heavenly gifts on the most holy Virgin; and at the same time we congratulate the Virgin herself on her singular privileges.
"To this form of thanksgiving the Church of God has wisely added prayers and an invocation addressed to the most holy Mother of God, by which we piously and humbly fly to her patronage, in order that, by her intercession, she may reconcile God to us sinners and may obtain for us those blessings which we stand in need of in this life and in the life to come. We, therefore, exiled children of Eve, who dwell in this vale of tears, should constantly beseech the Mother of mercy, the advocate of the faithful, to pray for us sinners. In this prayer we should earnestly implore her help and assistance; for that she possesses exalted merits with God, and that she is most desirous to assist us by her prayers, no one can doubt without impiety and wickedness." [The Catechism of The Council of Trent; The Lord's Prayer; Introduction: On Prayer.]