By Joseph Pronechen –
Every time we pray a Hail Mary, do we ever think about the astounding might of this angelic salutation – what one Hail Mary can do? What it could accomplish as we pray it? John Petrovich and Father Joe Freedy surely learned.
“When I heard it, I was struck how incredible that story is,” said Father Freedy of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and president of Dry Bones Ministries, after Petrovich told him what happened at the end of a retreat.
Shortly before, on a Saturday morning, as Petrovich was running near his home in a suburb north of Pittsburgh, he passed a house where an ambulance was parked in the driveway. The house’s front and garage doors were open.
“Growing up, every time you heard any type of siren, ambulance or police car, you made the sign of the cross and said a prayer for those in need and protection for those involved. That was second nature to me,” Petrovich explained. “I always said that prayer but never felt compelled to say a [particular] prayer. On that (Saturday) occasion, it was the one thing that was different than anything else. And the first prayer that came to mind was the Hail Mary.”
Petrovich thought of helping, but since he was not a doctor, he kept running although he wondered if he was being selfish for not stopping. Yet he thought: ‘God, if that ambulance is still parked in that driveway, I will stop and see if I can give assistance.’ “On the way back, the ambulance was not there, there were no lights in house, the garage door was shut and the front door was shut.”
The following Thursday on his way home from work, he missed his normal bus and had to take a bus that took a much longer route. Getting off the bus later than normal, he started running home. The route took him down the hill and past the house from the previous Saturday. As he approached the house, a lady at the edge of the driveway started waving at him and asked him to please stop, Petrovich said. He looked around to see who she was calling and realized she was waving at him. “I didn’t know the person at all. So I came to the edge of the driveway and she said, ‘Thank you for stopping, sir. I need to talk to you. I have to thank you because you saved my life.’”
Petrovich asked how he saved her life, and she told him what happened that day he was running past. Every Saturday her oldest son would visit and stay with her in the morning because her husband went to work and her daughter went grocery shopping. That day her son could not be there. She was alone. Unexpectedly, she felt strange, like having a stroke, and blacked out. She felt she was dying.
The next thing she knew, she was in a hospital bed and regained consciousness. She had a vision of Jesus who came to her and said, ‘It’s okay. Everything is going to be fine. You’re going to be fine because this person prayed for you.’ And, she told Petrovich, “On the palm of His hand was your face, on Jesus’s hand! And I thought, I have to thank you for saving my life.”
“How do you react to something like that?” Petrovich said. “I was speechless. I didn’t know what to say except, thank you.”
Others were also affected by his story of the power of one Hail Mary. Father Freedy said, “First of all, the way I pray is really strengthened. Often, we can fall into the temptation of [saying] some prayers but not really praying to and through someone’s intercession—I’m doing this but not with real belief. That story struck me and others so much. The Blessed Mother is actually listening and God is answering our prayer. One of the things I love about the story is that John told me [because] he was jogging he didn’t fold his hands, didn’t kneel down, and that’s how attentive our Blessed Mother is and Our Lord is to us. St. Therese talked about prayer as turning one’s heart to God. Prayer with full intention and with the heart is the way God wants us to pray.”
What Father Freedy also finds striking is that it helps increase the supernatural virtue of faith, where we actually believe what we profess to believe. “Our gift of faith increases, our conviction increases when we really pray from the heart and our prayers become even more efficacious. It’s a really hopeful story.”
He added, although we know God doesn’t always answer a prayer exactly as we want or when we want, “No prayer, no sigh of the heart, isn’t heard and acted upon by God.”
When Petrovich learned what his one Hail Mary did, there was a “major change” for him regarding his prayers. Up to that point, he would pray: ‘God I need your help. Help me’ and thank Him. “I was always wanting to pray for myself, asking something from God. We should be praying for others and their needs and wants, for one another, not just for our wants and needs.”
Another change for him: he always carries a rosary wherever he goes and prays it, and he and his wife do their best to pray the Rosary on a nightly basis.
Petrovich also realized the power of intercessory prayer. Many times, he said, we truly pray for somebody yet never hear how the prayer gets answered. “We’re always looking for a great outcome and prayer answered in our time. This taught me, too, that not all prayers are answered quickly and in the way we want them. But God hears them and answers them. This (particular) case was answered in such a profound, dramatic way. It takes you back and gives you a jolt, and you think about praying and truly making it a heartfelt prayer. We may never know the outcome, but we trust in God.”
Petrovich said the experience has brought him much closer to the Blessed Mother. He emphasized the Hail Mary, “is the quickest and shortest way to Jesus is through the Blessed Mother.”