It is an incredible gift that the Easter season includes the Marian month of May. As we continue to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus it is only fitting to celebrate his mother and our mother too. Take this passage from Mense Maio, an encyclical of Pope Paul VI from 1945:
We are delighted and consoled by this pious custom associated with the month of May, which pays honor to the Blessed Virgin and brings such rich benefits to the Christian people. Since Mary is rightly to be regarded as the way by which we are led to Christ, the person who encounters Mary cannot help but encounter Christ likewise. For what other reason do we continually turn to Mary except to seek the Christ in her arms, to seek our Savior in her, through her, and with her? To Him men are to turn amid the anxieties and perils of this world, urged on by duty and driven by the compelling needs of their heart, to find a haven of salvation, a transcendent fountain of life.
Typically, this month begins with a May crowning celebrated within the Sunday Mass on or very close to Mother’s Day. But how do we crown Our Lady in the middle of a pandemic crisis with no public Masses? Here are some practical ways to enter into that celebration at home.
Crowning Mary at Home
If you have a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, you can crown her within your own family. Two years ago, I purchased a small wire garland from a local craft store, and we use it for our family May crowning each year. The statue that we use is about two feet tall, and while we could process around the house with her (a doable idea if the kids are big enough), we usually bring her our prayers (written down the night before), along with a few flowers from the yard. Then, we sing a couple of Marian hymns and one of the children place the garland on the head of Our Lady. If we have a first communicant (which we do this year), that child gets the honor of the crowning and we try to give each of them a “job” so no one feels left out.
If you don’t have a statue of Mary or the craftiness or means to make a crown for her, you can print out photos of our lady and have children draw their own crowns around her head. It’s a wonderfully creative way to invite them into the Marian month. You can also hang their finished photos all together or near their bed for the month. This is a good reminder that asking for Our Lady’s intercession is a good way to begin and end the day.
Though the crowning of Mary is a physical act, it can be carried out in the heart throughout the month. You can go on virtual Marian shrine tours. A quick Google search reveals videos for virtual tours of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wisconsin, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, and the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Missouri, to name only a few. You can even make a virtual tour of the Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Apostolic Palace.
It’s also a beautiful opportunity to learn more Marian hymns and chants. Make it part of your family memory work to recite the Hail Mary in English, Latin, and any other language you’d like to add to that. You can also use the month to discover the different compositions of the Ave Maria, to pray more rosaries, and to pray the Angelus as a family.
As with all things, the physical crowning of Mary should incite or deepen one’s interior disposition towards her, particularly throughout the month of May.
Turning to Mary in COVID-19
In our present circumstances, the Mense Maio paragraph following the one above is even more poignant today:
Because the month of May is a powerful incentive to more frequent and fervent prayers, and because our petitions more readily find access to her compassionate heart during it, it has been a favorite custom of Our predecessors to choose this month, dedicated to Mary, for urging the Christian people to offer up public prayers whenever the needs of the Church demanded it or some grave crisis threatened the human race. This year, Venerable Brothers, We in turn feel compelled to call for such prayers from the whole Catholic world. Looking at the present needs of the Church and the status of world peace, We have sound reasons to believe that the present hour is especially grave and that a plea for concerted prayer on the part of all Christians is a matter of top priority.
For adults and others that are away from their younger family members, crowning your Marian statues may seem adolescent, but it is still a beautiful practice for any home and any vocation. If you want to practice another devotion without flower crowns, you can read scholarly works on the Blessed Virgin Mary like Daughter Zion from Joseph Ratzinger, Handmaid of the Lord from Adrienne Von Speyr, or Walking with Mary by Edward Sri. If you don’t want to wait on a book delivery and ebooks aren’t your gig, you can meditate on the beautiful papal works on Our Lady like John Paul II’s Redemptoris Mater and Pius XII’s Ad Caeli Reginam.
Perhaps in the most practical and simple way, we could all make the first prayers of Our Lady personal prayers of our own. In the midst of all that is yet unknown about COVID-19, we can echo the trust of Our Lady: “Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.”
And, we must heed the fatherly guidance of our current pontiff, Pope Francis, who gently encourages us with his Letter to the Faithful for the Month of May, urging us to “rediscover the beauty of praying the Rosary at home . . . either as a group or individually; you can decide according to your own situations, making the most of both opportunities.”
In the letter, he provides two new prayers for us to pray at the conclusion of the Rosary, but they are beautiful petitions at any time of day. Let us join him as he prays along with us “in spiritual union” during the upcoming month of Our Lady:
You shine continuously on our journey
as a sign of salvation and hope.
We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick,
who, at the foot of the cross,
were united with Jesus’ suffering,
and persevered in your faith.
“Protectress of the Roman people”,
you know our needs,
and we know that you will provide,
so that, as at Cana in Galilee,
joy and celebration may return
after this time of trial.
Help us, Mother of Divine Love,
to conform ourselves to the will of the Father
and to do what Jesus tells us.
For he took upon himself our suffering,
and burdened himself with our sorrows
to bring us, through the cross,
to the joy of the Resurrection.
We fly to your protection,
O Holy Mother of God;
Do not despise our petitions
in our necessities,
but deliver us always
from every danger,
O Glorious and Blessed Virgin.
(There is a second prayer which can be found here.)