The Hail Holy Queen prayer, originally known by its Latin name, Salve Regina, is recited at the end of the Rosary and is also used in night prayers. It dates back to around the 11th century and is still sung today as a hymn in various forms, among them a beautiful chant.
St. Alphonus Liguori thought so highly of the Hail Holy Queen that he analyzed it in great detail in his well-known 18th century book The Glories of Mary. In this prayer we pay homage to the Blessed Virgin Mary, our “Mother of Mercy,” and humbly ask for her assistance. Many religious over the centuries (including quite a few saints!) have considered her help to be essential for our salvation.
Crowned Queen of Heaven, Mary is a queen who wonderfully blends her majesty with her humility in her desire to be of service to us. She wants to dispense God’s graces through prayers such as, the Hail Holy Queen and the Rosary.
She wants to help us in asking for God’s forgiveness for our sins. And, contrary to a sad misconception, Mary was never meant to replace her Divine Son as the focus of our worship. She herself acknowledged, in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 1:46), that her soul magnifies the Lord. She’s always ready to point us in His direction on our path towards Eternal Life.
The phrase “O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary,” in the last line of the prayer, honors Mary, the mother of Jesus. The phrase is a poetic way of asking Mary to intercede for us with her son Jesus and to pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.
Mary as our advocate in a judicial sense, shows clemency, which means, according to the dictionary, “mild or merciful in disposition or character; lenient; compassionate.” Obviously, it’s not just something juridical. There’s love. “O clement, O loving.” She’s, our mother. Our relationship with God and Mary through the Mystical Body of Christ is not just a contractual relationship. It’s not just something impersonal; it’s very personal – a matter of love. Then “sweet” once again appeals to her tenderness. She’s so kind. She’s going to advocate for us and plead our cause the way that a mother would do it, so she’s going to be on our side with great care and tenderness.
She is our consolation in the valley of tears, in the bitterness of the fallen world, just as she was to her Son during His earthly life, and especially during His Passion. She has pull with her divine Son and the whole Holy Trinity. Although she is not God, Mary is the mother of our Divine Judge. He loves her so much and He is so humble that He actually gives her a huge say in the distribution of His graces and mercy. The Kingdom of Heaven is a family. He’s not going to exclude her. It’s because of His goodness that He actually allows her to have a say, to have influence. And that’s a good thing for us, because we can then appeal to her motherhood.
God has given her all His graces for us. They come from God through Mary. All we need to do is ask for them with a humble, loving, and contrite heart.
Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To thee do we cry,
poor banished children of Eve.
To thee do we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate,
thine eyes of mercy toward us,
and after this our exile
show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving,
O sweet Virgin Mary.