May is Mary’s Month

Detail of Our Lady Window, Our Lady Chapel, St. Edward's Church, Kettering

Detail of window from Our Lady’s Chapel, St. Edward’s Church

Among Catholics, May is most well-known as “Mary’s Month,” a specific month of the year when special devotions are performed in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the early Church there is evidence of a major feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary celebrated on the 15th of May each year, but it wasn’t until the 18th century that May received a particular association with the Virgin Mary.  According to the Catholic Encyclopaedia,  “The May devotion in its present form originated at 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 the other Jesuit  colleges and thence to nearly every Catholic Church of the Latin rite.”  Dedicating an entire month to Mary wasn’t a new tradition, as there existed a prior tradition of devoting 30 days to Mary called Tricesimum, which was also known as “Lady Month.” In 1945, Pope Pius XII solidified May as a Marian month after establishing the feast of the Queenship of Mary on May 31st.  After the Second Vatican Council, the feast was moved to August 22, while May 31st became the feast of the Visitation of Mary.

The month of May is one rich in tradition such as May processions when a statue of Our Lady is crowned as “Bring Flowers of the Rarest” is sung.  Being such a beautiful time of the year with late spring’s still youthful pale green leaves, a wealth of blossom in the hedgerows and the varied tones of blue flowers such as bluebells and forget-me-knots makes May a truly fitting time of year to honour our beautiful, loving heavenly mother.

This year, though we may not be able to get out and about to enjoy the natural beauty of the month, perhaps we could all find a special way to honour Mary in our homes.   If we have one, we could move a statue or picture of her into a new place of more prominence in our home during this month and make a special altar for her.  A simple, clean cloth and a candle (with a few flowers for those who have a garden) makes a special place for us to ask her every day for her prayers.   Families can get the children to decorate Mary’s altar and to keep it tidy throughout the month.   They can hold their own May procession and crown Mary.  It will be an ideal place for us to say a rosary each day as Pope Francis has asked us to do during the pandemic.  This is a golden opportunity to teach our children the rosary (David’s slingshot against Goliath) remembering that “the family that prays together stays together.”