As we begin the month of May, our spirits are energized by the warm glow of sunshine, and beholding the new life around us in blossom and color. The long awaited springtime is upon us. This month of new life is dedicated to Mary, the Mother of the Church and our mother.
As the calendar turns to May 1, I recall nostalgically all the May Crowning ceremonies I attended as a child. On the days preceding May Crowning, the sisters asked us if there were flowers growing in our yards, and encouraged us to bring some to honor Mary. It was a yearly ritual to go out to our backyard where we had a large lilac tree, snip some of its branches and bring them to church where they were placed in vases surrounding a lovely statue of the Blessed Mother.
Our Lady is so important to our faith that she is given an entire month of honor and devotion. While there are many days set aside for her during the year, and the saints have their special day in the church calendar, Mary is given a whole month.
So, why do Catholics give Mary a full month of attention? Believe it or not the tradition goes back to ancient Greek and Roman times when goddesses of fertility were honored and rituals welcoming new life were celebrated for an entire month. Later, during medieval times in Europe, customs to expel winter were revived and the Church placed Mary at the center of 30 days devotion welcoming new life. Later, during the baroque period of the 1600s, people organized prayerful devotions and rituals around the Blessed Mother which became more widespread during the 18th and 19th centuries. Many of these customs honoring Mary remain in practice today.
Devotion to Mary cuts across all times and all cultures. Through the various apparitions, she has encouraged conversion and drawn many to Christ. The ways she is honored are as numerous as the people who honor her. Mary's love for each one of us and for the Church invites us to deeper prayer and devotion this month as our parishes celebrate May Crowning, recite the rosary and participate in other devotions.
If we can't make it to Church for May Crowning or May devotions, our homes and hearts can be places where Mary is honored. Church traditions and rituals become even more meaningful when they are replicated or extended in our homes. Since we are the domestic church, we might think about how our homes can mirror the life of the Church. It might be helpful to place a picture or statue of Mary in a prominent place in your home. You may crown her in your own way with flowers or prayers, or by placing a candle at her side, recalling that she gave us the light of the world, Jesus.
Honoring Mary at home and in Church this month can be a source of special graces for you and for your family. She can and does bring us all closer to Christ. She is our loving mother interceding for us before God and helping us all the time. She deserves our honor and our love for the entire month of May.