Sunday, May 01, 2016

May, the Month of Mary

May is the month of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. As a child, I remember attending a Catholic parochial school named in honor of Mary taught by the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame. Each May, we celebrated the Blessed Mother’s month with a procession in which we crowned her statue with a beautiful wreath of roses.

One year, when my older sister was in the eighth grade, she received the special honor of crowning the statue of Our Lady. She was so excited and so happy to have been selected for this task. She wore a pink lace taffeta gown with a full skirt and a beautiful wreath of matching flowers on her head. After we prayed the Rosary, with white gloved hands, she placed the crown of roses on Our Lady's head. Then, as a school we sang the traditional hymn "Queen of the May."

Since my sister had an amazing lyric soprano voice, she also had the privilege of singing "Ave Maria", a hymn which has always stirred something deep within me -- a unique love for my heavenly Mother. It reminds of her fiat – her “Yes” to the will of God. As the Mother of God, Mary is radiantly beautifully. She is totally pure, modest, chaste, humble, and obedient. Her soul is immaculate -- free from the stain of original sin. Mary is often referred to as the "New Eve." Through her fiat, she opened the doors of redemption and salvation to all her children which had been closed by Eve in her disobedience to the will of God. Because of God's eternal design, she became a necessary element for our redemption from the bondage of sin.

Some have asked, "Why is May Mary's month?"

We know that in classic western culture, May was acknowledged as the season of the beginning of new life. It is the month of motherhood, when new life, fertility, and Mother's Day are celebrated. It is the month when the spring flowers blossom.  As the flowers reappear we honor Mary whom we call the "Mystical Rose."

This Christian custom of dedicating the month of May to the Blessed Virgin began at the end of the 13th century. The practice became particularly popular among the members of the Jesuit Order — by 1700 it took hold among their students at the Roman College and shortly thereafter, it was publicly practiced in the Gesu Church in Rome. From there it spread to the entire Church.

 This Irish hymn dates back to the 13th Century, though in 1883, Mary E. Walsh modified it:

Queen of the May (Bring Flowers of the Rarest)

Bring flowers of the rarest
From garden and woodland
And hillside and vale
Our full hearts are swelling
Our Glad voices telling
The praise of the loveliest
Rose of the vale

Our voices ascending,
In harmony blending
Oh! Thus may our hearts turn
Dear Mother, to thee
Oh! Thus shall we prove thee
How truly we love thee
How dark without Mary
Life’s journey would be

O Virgin most tender
Our homage we render
Thy love and protection
Sweet Mother, to win
In danger defend us
In sorrow befriend us
And shield our hearts
From contagion and sin

Of Mothers the dearest
Oh, wilt thou be nearest
When life with temptation
Is darkly replete
Forsake us, O never
Our hearts be they ever
As Pure as the lilies
We lay at thy feet

REFRAIN: O Mary! We crown thee with blossoms today
Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May
O Mary! We crown thee with blossoms today
Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May!

~ copyright Jean M. Heimann 2016.

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