May, the Month of Mary
Read time: 5 minutes
“Bring flowers of the rarest,
Bring blossoms the fairest,
From garden and woodland
And hillside and dale.
Our full hearts are swelling,
Our glad voices telling
The praise of the loveliest
Flower of the dale.
Oh Mary we crown thee
With blossoms today,
Queen of the angels
and Queen of the May.”
Each year, when the month of May begins, this hymn starts to run through my brain accompanied by many beautiful memories of the celebrations we used to have involving school and parish.
At the beginning of May we would start to practise this hymn, and others, but this is the one I remember and love the most. We would talk about Mary our Mother. We would practise how to form a procession and how to walk in a procession. Then, when the special day arrived, we would all be dressed up, carrying little bunches of flowers, our parents would come and the celebration would begin. We would process to the church, carrying our flowers, with one child having been selected to carry Mary’s crown.
Once inside the church we would sing some more hymns, say some prayers, maybe the Rosary was said. Then the child carrying the crown would be helped to carefully climb up and place the crown of flowers on the head of the statue of Mary. The flowers we had brought to the church would be placed all around the statue. The crown would remain in place for the entire month and the flowers would be continually added to so that Mary’s statue was always surrounded with flowers.
This old Catholic tradition was a simple, tangible way of honouring Mary our Mother and recognizing her as our Queen and Intercessor and still continues in some places. Devotion to Mary is a long standing Church tradition, going back to Gospel times when in Luke1: 42-43 Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin says “Of all women you are the most blessed.” Dedication of the month of May to Mary officially became part of Catholic tradition in the 13th century and has been encouraged and approved by many popes since then.
There are different ways of maintaining this tradition of Marian devotion and it is up to each of us to find an activity we are comfortable with. We could begin by reading the gospels to be reminded about Mary’s faith and trust and obedience to God. Her example can be an inspiration to each of us. Some honour Mary by reciting the rosary in a group or some like to connect with friends and family who are far away, but still honour Mary together, using zoom to connect in prayer. Another idea is to make a home altar with a statue of Mary, a candle and flowers. A statue of Mary can also be placed outside in the front yard. Yet another tradition is the Mary garden where certain flowers are planted that have a special Marian connection to honour our blessed Mother. For example, Roses – Mary is the mystical Rose. Different colours have different meanings: white roses stand for Mary’s purity, red roses stand for her sorrows and yellow roses stand for her glory. Marigolds mean Mary’s gold and represent Mary’s queenship. So working in a flower garden can be part of a beautiful Marian devotion.
Another idea for a Marian devotion might be to research and adopt a different devotion to Mary, or make a novena under one of her titles, eg Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, Our Lady of Perpetual help, to name just a few. A more personal Marian devotion for the month of May could be creative, eg a painting of Mary, a poem about Mary, whatever your creative talent is, can be used to honour Mary our mother.
The month of May is an opportunity to honour Mary and get to know her better. How we take advantage of this opportunity is up to each one of us.