Tomorrow, we enter May, the month of Mary. The tradition of dedicating the month of May to Mary, came about in the 13th century, some say because it was created to replace various pagan cults. The actual reason is the fact that this month is the time when spring is at the height of its beauty. Spring is also connected with nature renewing itself.
I have “borrowed” most of this Twitch from a great article by Evan Ponton who writes for The Catholic Apostolate Center.
“May is Mary’s Month,” began the great poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ, in “The May Magnificat.” For centuries, the Catholic Church has emphasized the month of May as a time of honor and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Parishes and families often celebrate with special pilgrimages, devotions, or placing a crown on a statue of Mary, traditionally called a “May Crowning.”
On April 29, 1965, Pope Blessed Paul VI promulgated his encyclical Mense Maio (“The Month of May”), which promoted May devotions to the Blessed Mother, knowing that, “the person who encounters Mary cannot help but encounter Christ likewise”.
Despite being a lesser-known encyclical, its timing and topic are revealing. Released on the eve of the last session of the Second Vatican Council and amid escalating violence and unrest of the Vietnam War and the 1960’s, the help of Mary was “a matter of top priority” considering “the present needs of the Church and the status of world peace.”
The words of Paul VI are just as relevant today. In our contentious social and political climate, focusing on Mary is not a pious distraction from real issues, but a vital source for grace, truth, and mercy.
In its present form, the practice of May devotions to Mary originated within the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) in the 18th century in Rome. Pope Francis, who is also a Jesuit, has a special devotion to Mary, Undoer of Knots, a phrase first attributed to St. Irenaeus of Lyons who said, “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosened by the obedience of Mary.”
There are a number of feasts honoring Mary in May: Mary, Queen of Apostles (Saturday before Pentecost – May 14th, this year), Our Lady of Fatima (May 13), Mary Help of Christians (May 24), and the Visitation (May 31).
Pope Paul VI’s encyclical was especially concerned with peace, invoking the “intercession and protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Queen of Peace” (n. 10). Amid ongoing persecutions and violence in many areas of the world, turning to Christ though Mary is an important way to pray that May becomes a month of peace.
In Pope Francis’ recent Exhortation Amoris Laetitia - The Joy of Love: On Love in the Family, he states, “Every family should look to the icon of the Holy Family of Naz-areth.” Pope Francis goes on to say, “The treasury of Mary’s heart also contains the experiences of every family, which she cherishes. For this reason, she can help us understand the meaning of these experiences and to hear the message God wishes to communicate through the life of our families.” Pope Francis reminds us that by honoring Mary, we honor Jesus and our families.
One of my favorite title for Mary is “Mother of the Church.” When I’m saying the rosary, that’s what comes to my mind during the fifth Glorious mystery. To Jesus, through Mary is a great journey.