Mary and Month of May
Vinitha Joby inspires us with practical ways of bestowing honour on Our Lady during the month of May
It has been a long-standing custom to view May as the month of Mary, with May traditionally seen as the month for new growth and the beginning of summer. God himself taught us veneration of Our Lady when he sent an angel to ask her consent for the incarnation. The angel spoke her praise and also instructs us to tell of her grace. This practice of honouring Our Lady goes back 700 years in history. This month is characterised by the use of Marian hymns and beautiful flowers which brings nature into our lives. There are many practical ways to honour Mary as listed below.
Pope Paul VI wrote a beautiful encyclical on the Month of May in which he describes how the faithful reserve this month to honour Mary in a special way: “For this is the month during which Christians, in their churches and their homes, offer the Virgin Mother more fervent and loving acts of homage and veneration; and it is the month in which a greater abundance of God’s merciful gifts comes down to us from our Mother’s throne”.
May is the special time to let our petitions fly to Our Lady—especially for the needs of the Church and the whole human race—that most urgently require her intercession. Our Lady is the Queen of Heaven and Earth and, at the same time, our mother. The month of May teaches us to love Mary Most Holy for the glory she rightly possesses and for all that she represents in the plans of Divine Providence.
Praying the Rosary
Rosary is our most powerful weapon and this is one of the best times to pray together as a family.
Since May is Mary’s month, the May altar revolves around Mother Mary. Setting up an altar is as simple as placing a statue of Mary in the corner of the room and bringing in some flowers to place at the foot of the statue. Of course, you can make it as creative as you want and including children in this, by letting children bring wild or potted flowers, is a beautiful way to foster in them a love towards Our Lady.
Crowning a statue of Mary and processions in her honour are very popular in parishes in Britain and in the USA. May crowning involves putting a statue of Mary on a pedestal, singing some Marian hymns and placing a crown of flowers on her head. This little shrine can be kept going through the month of May with fresh flowers. Laying flowers before Mary’s statue is deeply embedded in Christian tradition and can be done along with hymn ‘’O Mary we crown thee with blossoms today…’’ Some Catholic brides also used to lay their wedding bouquets at the feet of Our Lady after their wedding ceremony to pray for a blessing on their marriage.
Mary’s garden is a garden filled with flowers and trees named in honour of Mary and her son Jesus. This reminds us to experience God’s creation and invites prayer and contemplation. As you plant your garden, you can ponder on the many flowers and plants that evolved from various Marian names and characteristics. Flowers are linked to Mary in Christianity in many ways, either through Marian names or various legends from the middle ages. Early Christians believed that fragrant herbs and flowers reflected May’s spiritual sweetness and soothing and healing herbs reflected her heavenly mercy, while bitter and sour herbs mirrored her bitter sorrows.
Below are examples of a few flowers with their scientific and Marian names:
Rose – (Rosa) Mystical Rose
Baby’s breath – (Gypsophila) Our Lady’s veil
Lavender (Lavendula) Flight into Egypt
Calendula (Calendula Officinalis) Mary’s bud
English Daisy (Bellis Perennis) Mary-Love
Marigold – Mary’s gold.
Rosemary is a perennial herb with a pungent taste which is used in various soups and marinades. Mary’s association with this herb comes from the flight to Egypt. Legend states that on their journey, the Holy Family rested under a Rosemary bush and Mary spread her cloak on it to dry. For this humble service, the plant was named Rosemary and God blessed this plant with delicate blossoms in a heavenly blue colour. This is also considered as a symbol of remembrance and fidelity (From the book of Our Lady’s garlands).
Another way to honour Mother Mary in this month is by visiting a Marian shrine. If this is not practical at this moment, a recollection of a previous pilgrimage will be a wonderful way to honour Our Lady. Some shrines offer devotions this month which might fit in your schedule.
“The devotions we practice in honour of the glorious Virgin Mary, however trifling they be, are very pleasing to her divine Son, and He rewards them with eternal glory.” – St. Teresa of Avila.
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