May: The Month of Mary
May is Mary’s month. Some perhaps have asked, “Why May?” The poet, Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins S.J. asks this question in his poem “May Magnificat,”
“May is Mary’s month, and I
muse at that and wonder why.”
Perhaps the answer is that, in many places, May is the month for Spring’s return of flowers. As the flowers return we honor Mary Whom we call the “Mystical Rose.”
A poem entitled “Mary’s May” by Elywn Rhyl states,
Our Lady’s ways.”
And of course, the name “May” is a form of Mary and is sometimes used as a “nickname” for women named Mary and then it’s spelt Mae. May devotions began during the beginning of the 1700’s in Italy.
It seems the first book of May devotions was published by an Italian Jesuit, Father Anniblae Dionisis, about 1726. In it he explains: “When we make an offering we ought to give of our best, so that among all the months of the year we choose the most beautiful, May, the season of flowers, which invites us to crown Mary with the blossoms of good deeds.” May devotions were first introduced into England about 1840 by Father Aloysius Gentili of the Institute of Charity. To this day they involve May altars, May Crowning ceremonies and May processions.
To make a traditional May altar place a statue of Our Lady in your living room and make a little shrine. Place the statue on a pretty cloth and then decorate with flowers, real ones or perhaps silk. May altars should have flowers. Perhaps by using blue and pink crepe and tissue paper, and also ribbons, a pastel Spring effect can be achieved.
Perhaps on the first Sunday in May have a May Crowning. A crown can be made using silk flowers. Invite your friends and many children for this special event. Traditionally a little girl does the crowning but others can have this honor. During the crowning the hymn to sing, of course, is “O Mary We Crown Thee.” (Copyright 1938 St. Basil Hymnal)
O Mary we crown thee
With blossoms today
Queen of the Angels
Queen of the May.
Bring flowers of the fairest
From garden and woodland
And hillside and dale.
Our full hearts are swelling
Our glad voices telling
The praise of the loveliest
Rose of the vale.
We honor and praise thee
Please pray that our hearts
Will forever be thine.
In joy and in sorrow
From thee may we borrow
A faith that is trusting
In Jesus thy Son.
After the crowning ceremony pray together the Joyful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary. Refreshments such as small pastel-colored frosted cakes served at a flower-decked table are appropriate and continue the Spring theme. Then throughout the month of May try to pray the Rosary before your May altar each day.
A May Procession can be a parish event or only a neighborhood one. It simply means that before the May Crowning the statue is carried in procession while singing Marian hymns to the place where the crowning will be. Parish processions can add more by way of music, carrying banners, etc.
During May try to grow in your love for Mary. Let Her be your Mother. Talk to Mary. Consecrate your heart to Her Immaculate and Motherly Heart. Let her lead you to her Son.
A very special way of honoring Our Lady in May is to build an outdoor Marian shrine. Statues of concrete or fiberglass can be purchased. The statue can be placed on a large rock or you can make a grotto. A ready-made grotto-like structure can be bought made out of concrete or you can build a wooden shelter for the statue. The making of the shrine can be a great family event. Children will love to help. Be sure to plant flowers around the statue. The family Rosary can be prayed at this shrine on pleasant summer evenings. You might also acquire an outdoor bench to put near the shrine.
If you wish to you could have a “Mary Garden” around the shrine. A Mary Garden is simply a collection of flowers that have been traditionally associated with Our Lady. Here are some examples: Lily of the Valley (called in German Maiglockhen or May Bells) symbolize Our Lady’s humility, as do violets. Italian Asters are called “Our Lady’s Birthday Flowers” because they blossom around September 8th, the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady. Foxglove with its thimble-like flowers were called “Our Lady’s Thimbles” in the Middle Ages.
Here are some more flowers you can use:
Common Name Marian Name
Canterbury Bells Mary’s Bells
Sweet Alyssum Mary’s Flower
Corn Flower Mary’s Crown
Primrose Our Lady’s Keys
Sweet Scabious Our Lady’s Pincushion
English Morning Glory Our Lady’s Mantle
Lady Slipper originally called Our Lady’s Slipper
Lady Fern Our Lady’s Fern
And of course Roses remind us of Mary, the “Mystical Rose.” Pretty blue flowers can be added as blue is Mary’s color. There you have a Mary Garden.
Perhaps you can think of other ways to honor Our Lady this May for truly it is the month of Mary Our Mother.