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To Thee Do We Send Up Our Sighs

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By Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC (Aug 5, 2018)
Catholic tradition holds August as the month of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. To begin this month, Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, is sharing reflections and insights on the great prayer "Hail, Holy Queen." We continue with the fifth line: "To thee do we send up our sighs."

Why "sighs"?
The sigh aspect is significant because it emphasizes our filial connection with our spiritual mother. In normal human life, if a child sighs, that's going to get the mother's attention. Sighing is a gesture of the body, and so there's something very heartfelt about this prayer. "Sigh" conveys emotion, it conveys affection, it conveys trying to get attention. Sighs are meant to be seen. Turn thine eyes towards us, and see that we're sighing here, Mother. Help!

That reminds me of those images of Mary visiting Purgatory. The souls in Purgatory really are sighing.

We're in purgation here; they're in purgation in Purgatory. Like the Church being purified in Purgatory, we need her assistance, pronto. I know a lot of people who pray the "Hail, Holy Queen," not only after the Rosary, but also in times of need. It seems to be a spontaneous thing, either to pray that or the Memorare, as if to say, "This is going to get her attention. I'm kicking it up a notch." It wouldn't just be a general prayer; it would be for a particular intention. So I'm saying this prayer, I'm sighing, I'm crying out to her for whatever it is. Maybe I need purity; maybe I need to flee a particular situation or learn to be more reticent, less likely to speak in a situation. So I say this prayer with this particular intention in mind, even though it doesn't have a place to insert an intention. There's usually an intention in mind or in heart that's associated with it.

But don't sighs imply I'm unhappy with the way things are going? Is that a failure to trust in God's providence?

No! At Franciscan University of Steubenville, the biblical scholars there will say that something like 45 percent of the psalms are psalms of complaint. So Christianity's not about being stoic. We are called to sigh to Mary. We are called to sigh to God. We are called to ask for help.

Our religion is incarnational — God took on human flesh — and so it's going to have those bodily elements in our prayer, sighing and crying or whatever it may be. Maybe the "Hail, Holy Queen" is Christianity's version of a psalm.

So we're not just overcoming the flesh; we are coming to God fully, body and soul.

That's right, in all of life's dimensions, both the joyful moments and the sorrowful moments.

So we can bring our whole life to God and to Mary. We can bring everything we are and not just the good, not just the pure and the perfect, but everything.

Right, because that's what a child does for a mother. You don't just wait till everything's perfect. That actually would be horrible.

Yeah, you could die that way.

Exactly. You'd be in big trouble — I know I would. Once again, it's oftentimes the squeaky wheel that gets the grease, as the saying goes. There's actually a great quote by Fulton Sheen that goes something like this: It's the child that constantly cries that always gets the mother's attention.

Does God encourage us to cry, then, to ask for God's and Mary's attention?

Sure! That's right in the New Testament. "In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings" (Rom 8:26).

By praying, even if there's no blank space in there for particular intentions, it usually has some intention behind it. It's the Holy Spirit who's guiding it. Saint John Paul II was oftentimes heard groaning in prayer. It was unintelligible. It didn't seem like tongues, but his body was into it. His voice was into it, which means there was something deep in his mind and on his heart being expressed in the language of the spirit: groaning, sighing, moaning.

With sighs, it's not always what we say, but what's behind it. So prayer could be as simple as her name, "Mary." As Blaise Pascal once said, "The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of." That makes sense when you're thinking about our relationship with God. Sometimes we don't know how to express it in words, and it just comes out in a form of prayer that is a sigh or a gesture or even a glance.

So just come to Mary, even if you can't say anything, or you can only repeat a memorized prayer.

Share the Hail, Holy Queen with your family, friends, and community with our prayercard. To order, visit or call 1-800-462-7426.

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