USC Book Club: Word by Word

May 2016:

Word by Word
Slowing down with the Hail Mary

edited by Sarah A. Reinhard

Review: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Most Catholics can easily recite the words of the ever-familiar Hail Mary prayer. But how many of us take time to reflect on what we are saying, to truly internalize the profound beauty and meaning behind each word? In Word by Word, editor Sarah Reinhard invites us to intentionally examine each part of the Hail Mary to revitalize our understanding of the beloved prayer. In deliberately slowing down and meditating, Reinhard says, “a calmness is cultivated” that urges you “to live in the present moment in a way so few things in modern life of gadgets and responsibilities require.” Anyone looking for restored vitality in their prayer life, or even anyone simply seeking stillness amid a hectic lifestyle, should read Word by Word. It will comfort, enlighten, and inspire you to examine things with new eyes, especially those things—like the Hail Mary prayers—that may be overlooked or under appreciated.
—Rosie McCarty, editorial assistant, U.S. Catholic

Ave Maria says: Sarah Reinhard compiled forty of the most popular Catholic voices to write a brief reflection on each word of the Hail Mary, one of the most important prayer traditions in Catholic life.

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General Book Club guides

Discussion Questions:

1. How does slowing down the words of your prayer impact how you find yourself conversing with God?

2. In what ways does your relationship with your favorite prayer change when you alter your intonations, verbalizations, and/or speed? How is it different to pray out loud vs. praying silently? What does this tell you about your conversations with God through this prayer?

3. Do you find yourself "stuck" on a particular word as you pray more slowly? Don't rush past it! Let God speak to you through that word. What is he saying?

4. Words are powerful, and in many of our favorite prayers, each word is important in its own way. What is your favorite prayer? What is your favorite word or phrase in that prayer? How might you use that to reach out to God today?

5. The Blessed Mother is known for "pondering" things in her heart. When you pray more slowly, you can't help but start to ponder a little bit. How might Mary's example inspire you in your own prayer life?