Three special days celebrate devotion to Mary
Monthly dedications: Each month of the calendar year has a special spiritual dedication, and May is the month dedicated to Mary. January is dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus or the Holy Childhood of Jesus, February to the Holy Family, March to St. Joseph, April to the Holy Spirit or the Eucharist, May to Mary, June to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, July to the Precious Blood or the Immaculate Heart of Mary, August to the Blessed Sacrament, September to Our Lady of Sorrows, October to the Rosary, November to the faithful departed and the Poor Souls in Purgatory, and December to the Immaculate Conception.
Special Marian feasts in May: There are three special days in May dedicated to Mary: Mother’s Day on the second Sunday of May, Our Lady of Fatima on May 13, and the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary on May 31. Mother’s Day is primarily a secular celebration intended to honor all mothers and the importance of motherhood in the family and society, but for Catholics, it is a day to honor the greatest of all mothers, Mary, the Blessed Mother. Our Lady of Fatima recalls the appearance of Mary to three peasant children in Portugal in 1917, while the Visitation recalls Mary’s encounter with Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-45).
Historical roots of the May devotion: The tradition of the dedication of May to Mary finds its beginnings in the writings of Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) who wrote ten encyclicals between 1883 and 1889 on the value of the Rosary and the intercessory role of Mary. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “The May devotion [to our Lady] in its present form originated in Rome where Father Latomia of the Roman College of the Society of Jesus, to counteract infidelity and immorality among the students, made a vow at the end of the eighteenth century to devote the month of May to Mary. From Rome the practice spread to other Jesuit colleges and thence to nearly every Catholic church of the Latin rite.”
The adaptation of cultural feasts: In classical Greek and Roman culture, May is considered the month of new life, when winter ends and spring begins. It is the time when trees bud, flowers bloom, and grass sprouts. The Greeks dedicated May to the pagan god Artemis, the goddess of the moon and hunting, and particularly young girls and fertility; while the Romans dedicated May to the pagan god Flora, the goddess of flowers. May celebrated the fruitfulness of Mother Earth, but eventually it was broadened to celebrate mothers who bring new human life. For Christians, if May celebrated motherhood, the logical next step would be to adopt May as the month to honor Mary, the Mother of God.
Marian devotions for May: There are many beautiful ways to venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary in May. It is common to place a statue or picture of Mary in a more prominent location in the church, school, or home, and to decorate it with flowers. It is traditional to conduct a May crowning, to weave a crown of flowers and place it on the head of a Mary statue, or to place a bouquet of flowers near an image of Mary. It is also a popular time to conduct a May or Rosary procession in which a number of people walk together in a reverent manner and recite the Rosary or sing Marian hymns. The Rosary is highly recommended, either for groups at church or families at home or in the car, or privately. There are many excellent Mary prayers in addition to the Hail Mary: the Litany of Mary, the Hail Holy Queen or Salve Regina, the Memorare, and the Angelus. Some Marian hymns can also be included at Mass.
Father Van Sloun is pastor of St. Stephen in Anoka.
Category: The Lesson Plan