Three Hail Mary's

I know that the phrase Say three Hail Mary’s means to apologize and ask for forgiveness but what is the origin of this phrase? Yes, I know I might find the answer somewhere but maybe you could also tell me how popular this phrase is? Who would use it and what situations?
Thanks again,

The fact that you don’t know where this came from is probably an indication of how secular Western Europe has become.

The idea is related to the Catholic sacrament of confession. After you confess your sins, the priest has a little talk with you, and then he gives you an absolution. You are supposed to say a prayer called an Act of Contrition, and then you are given a penance to do. If it’s a hard penance, you have to do something really tough, like maybe go undo the damage of whatever you’ve done wrong (but of course you’re supposed to do that anyway), or do a lot of fasting or something. In easier cases, you may be given several prayers to say, perhaps 15 Our Fathers and 15 Hail Marys, or maybe five decades of the rosary. Children usually get little penances, like 3 Our Fathers and 3 Hail Marys.

In American football, we also have what is called a “Hail Mary pass”. The opponents are moving in on the player who has the ball, none of his teammates are near him, and so out of desperation he does the only thing possible, which is just throw the ball very long and very hard, and pray that someone on his team somewhere will catch it.

Hi Nicole,

I imagine you knew about the confessional element of this statement but it is the reason why it is 3 that might have been your interest.

These 3 Hail Marys are said in honour of the Father, who made Mary, the Son who redeemed her and the Holy Spirit who gave her the fullness of grace.

Hope this throws some light.

From a fellow secular West European.


Hi Nicole,
don’t worry, It’s not the case of not knowing these basic things, but sometimes hard to translate them into our own language.
For example in my language we use almost thoroughly different words in religion than in everyday’s life, therefore I don’t realise easy if there is a indication of religion in a football game.
Although I knew what Alan just said.

Nicole, that first sentence of my response wasn’t meant to be criticism. I was just surprised that someone in Switzerland woudn’t know this, just as I was surprised once when I met a girl from the former Yugoslavia who claimed she had never heard of communism. I wasn’t trying to criticize you or offend you.

Hi Jamie (K), no need to apologize, I have learned so much from/on this website and any of your responses is new food of thought for me.