I have heard this comment before, and yesterday again, so an answer is long overdue. Have you ever come across this kind of misguided arithmetic? "You Catholics pray to Mary and ignore God, look at your Rosary. You pray ten Hail Marys for every one Our Father."
Let's focus today on just the Hail Mary. "Hail (Mary) full of grace, the Lord is with thee." (Luke 1:28) While I am fairly sure our Christian brothers and sisters will agree that praying the scripture is a good thing, let's contemplate the context of this verse. The angel Gabriel is addressing a human being in a way never seen before or since. Just compare this interaction to other appearances of angels throughout the Bible. Here Gabriel speaks for the heavens and honours Mary using a verb tense which translates as "Hail to her who has been fully and perpetually graced".
"Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb" (Luke 1:42) Here, filled with the spirit, Elizabeth with John the Baptist in her womb honours Mary. Remember that not only Zechariah but Elizabeth too was from the line of Aaron, making John the Baptist a priest on both his father and mother's side. Elizabeth and John the Baptist honour Mary on mankind's behalf. Therefor heaven and Earth join together in honouring Mary through whose obedience the Word is made flesh.
"Blessed are you among women." This is a Hebrew figure of speech, a way of saying that Mary is more blessed than any woman to ever live. With a little reflection we remember that this includes Eve who was sinless before the fall.
The next word in our prayer, is the very name of the Word himself, "Jesus", "blessed is the fruit of your womb, ... Jesus" The very centre, the very heart of our prayer hinges on the name of the second person of the Trinity. A name which means "I Am ... Salvation" The full revelation of God's name which began with God the Father's "I am" to Moses.
After honouring Mary in the words of heaven and earth by praying the words of scripture, we then ask her to pray for us. Why do we Catholics ask Mary to intercede for us? Think back to how Elizabeth greets Mary, "And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Luke 1.43) She gives Mary the title "the mother of my Lord", making a clear reference to Mary as the queen mother. Let us take a second to remember Jesus as the Davidic King, the King of Kings. In the Davidic Kingdom, Solomon the son of David honoured his mother, the "Queen Mother", and seated her on a throne at his right hand where she interceded for the people. (1 Kings 2.19) The Queen Mother (Gebirah in Hebrew) was an official position held by the mother of the Davidic kings which followed.
Solomon, the Son of David who is just a type or shadow of the true and eternal Son of David, responds to his mother with these words. "Make your request, my mother; for I will not refuse you." (1 Kings 2:20) How much more powerful is the intercession of our Queen Mother to the eternal King of Kings..
When we pray the Hail Mary we pray scripture. We join heaven and Earth in honouring Mary and in doing so proclaiming Jesus as King. We make Jesus the centre of our thoughts, our prayers and our life. We ask the eternal King of Kings through the intercession of our Queen Mother for deliverance from evil so that at the end of our journey we can join them in their heavenly kingdom. Amen.