Home Catechetical Corner A lot has changed since our childhoods, but May is still Mary’s...

A lot has changed since our childhoods, but May is still Mary’s month — Bishop Robert Reed

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A child is pictured in a file photo placing a crown of flowers atop a statue of Mary during a prayer service celebrated in honor of Mary at Our Lady of Lourdes School in West Islip, N.Y. (OSV News photo/CNS file, Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)

As a child, May was always an exciting month for me — partly because the school year was almost over, but also because of the special Marian devotions and activities that took place.

We students created May altars in our classrooms (and were encouraged to set them up in our homes, too), practices that warmed and nurtured our spirits with the added bonus of breaking up our studies.

But the May Crowning was Marian primetime for us — a once-a-year event of stand-alone specialness recalled with every whiff of a lilac in these lighter days of spring. When the big day arrived, we all wore our best clothes — the second-graders donning their First Communion outfits, once again — and processed down the main avenue and into the church, carrying floral and spiritual bouquets and singing, “T’is the Month of Our Mother,” and other odes to Mary. We presented our flowers and petitions before a beautiful statue of the Mother of God, and the air was permeated with the rich floral scents of the season.

The celebration reached its apex when a girl, chosen from the eighth grade, reached up and placed the crown of flowers on Mary’s head, as we sang out, “O Mary, we crown thee with blossoms today,” from “Bring Flowers of the Fairest.”

Bishop Robert Reed is Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Boston. His column, “More than Words” appears monthly at OSV News.

Whenever I hear of a parish planning a May Crowning, I recall those happy festivities and start humming the familiar Marian hymns of my childhood.

A lot has changed in our Catholic schools since the 1960s, but the basics remain the same: May is still Mary’s month, and in our schools and parishes, statues that represent the “holy queen enthroned above” are crowned with blossoms while the faithful, young and old, sing hymns and implore our Blessed Mother’s attention and intercession.

As a priest and particularly as a bishop, I am always pleased to see a parish creating opportunities to honor the Theotokos, the God-bearer. She is our strongest and most caring advocate in heaven, and we are right to honor her as the Mother of the King, particularly in May. After all, without “yes” to Gabriel — her fiat to God’s redeeming plan — where would we be?

At times our Protestant friends will challenge us on our devotion to Mary, suggesting that our affection for our mother tempts idolatry. In this, we should never feel anxious. Our reverence for Mary is akin to the sort of devotion we should have for our own mothers — who are also celebrated in May, and whom God instructs us to honor in the Ten Commandments.

Besides, Mary is always pointing us to Jesus: “Do whatever he tells you,” she instructs all of us through Scripture (Jn 2:5). Worship is reserved for the Creator and for his Son, and for the Holy Spirit. But, like any child, Jesus is pleased to see his Mother given the honor and respect she is due — he relishes our acts of esteem for his Mother, whom he assumed into heaven, body and soul.

In Mary’s month we will also be coming to the conclusion of the Easter season, honoring the Ascension of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, on May 19, with Pentecost Sunday (the coming of the Holy Spirit), the week after. And by month’s end, we are pondering the profound mystery of the Triune God, on May 26, Trinity Sunday. Time moves quickly. We will slip into June still full of joy as we celebrate the great gift of the Eucharist on the feast of Corpus Christi.

So, enjoy May! We have before us some glorious weeks of triumph, wonder and good cheer. Jesus lives and resplendently reigns, having taken our humanity beyond death and into glory. As the prophecy was made so long ago: “His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed” (Dan 7:14).

All praise and glory to our Risen King, Son of God and the Son of Mary; He is Lord, now and forever!

Bishop Robert P. Reed is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Boston, pastor of St. Patrick and Sacred Heart parishes in Watertown, Mass., and president of the CatholicTV Network. He is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Communications.