A Crown for Mary

Statue of Our Lady of the Guard

Once again it’s the start of May and, though still in the Easter season, our thoughts turn to Our Lady. Many of us probably still remember the excitement of the May Procession which we eagerly looked forward to as children. With the adventure of attending Midnight Mass and the joy of watching rose petals being strewn before the Blessed Sacrament during the June Procession, the crowning of Our Lady during the May Procession were the highlights of our year!

The two processions were the only opportunities the girls had to wear again their white dresses and veils and the boys their suits with their short-legged trousers and red or gold sash, which had been bought for their First Communion and Confirmation.  (Though this gave the girls much pleasure, the boys probably had other feelings on the matter!)   The service was followed by processing out of the church and along the road lined by the congregation, then to the school next door (where we assembled in the yard for Benediction).  It was all particularly enjoyable because it happened only once a year and attracted large congregations.

The moment the statue of Our Lady was crowned by the May Queen, surrounded by her Maids of Honour carrying the long train of her cloak, was a moment no-one in the congregation wanted to miss.  The May Queen each year always tried hard to time the moment of the crown being placed on Our Lady’s head with the chorus of the hymn which described it:

“Oh, Mary, we crown thee with blossoms today,

Queen of the Angels and Queen of the May…”

She was particularly approved of if she could accomplish it because, as we saw Mary’s statue crowned with flowers lifted high for us all to follow, our hearts brimmed full of love, delight and pride that Mary was indeed our Queen – the real Queen of Hearts!

Even though some of us lived far from the natural beauty of God’s Creation (and had limited television!) we could still imagine what the verses of the hymn described:

“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 vale.”

We knew that Our Lady loved us and deserved to be given the most beautiful gifts of natural flowers that could be gathered for her.

The memories of childhood can last a lifetime and if the events which create those memories are good, pure and loving, the memories will be so too. “Our Lady’s Candles” (as the flowers on the horse chestnut trees were traditionally called) will soon be here with us again. Perhaps this May you can do something good, pure and loving to honour Our Blessed Mother in your families which will be a memory that will last in the hearts of your children for the rest of their lives.