What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ (CCC 487). Last May, Pope Francis stated that "Love for the Madonna is one of the characteristics of popular piety, which must be valued and directed. For this reason I invite you to meditate on the last chapter of the second Vatican Council's constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium (58), which speaks precisely of Mary in the mystery of Christ and the Church. There it is stated that Mary "advanced in the pilgrimage of faith".
The custom of dedicating the month of May to the Blessed Virgin began around the end of the 13th century. Pope Pius XII stated in his encyclical Mediator Dei, that "there are, besides, other exercises of piety which, although not strictly belonging to the sacred liturgy, are, nevertheless, of special import and dignity ... Among these are the prayers usually said during the month of May in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mother of God (182)."
Catechetical Resources for Marian Devotions for May
- Resources for May, the Month of Mary [English/Español] (PDF)
- Mary Word Search (PDF)
- María, Modelo de la Fe (PDF)
- Hail Mary Door Hanger [English/Español] (PDF)
Here are five suggestions on ways to honor our mother Mary this May:
Why does Mary have a special role in helping us?
As the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary has a unique position among the saints, indeed, among all creatures. She is exalted, yet still one of us.
Redeemed by reason of the merits of her Son and united to Him by a close and indissoluble tie, she is endowed with the high office and dignity of being the Mother of the Son of God, by which account she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit. Because of this gift of sublime grace she far surpasses all creatures, both in heaven and on earth. At the same time, however, because she belongs to the offspring of Adam she is one with all those who are to be saved.
Mary embraces God's will and freely chooses to cooperate with God's grace, thereby fulfilling a crucial role in God's plan of salvation. Throughout the centuries, the Church has turned to the Blessed Virgin in order to come closer to Christ. Many forms of piety toward the Mother of God developed that help bring us closer to her Son. In these devotions to Mary, "while the Mother is honored, the Son, through whom all things have their being and in whom it has pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell, is rightly known, loved and glorified and . . . all His commands are observed."33 The Church honors her as the Mother of God, looks to her as a model of perfect discipleship, and asks for her prayers to God on our behalf.
How does our veneration of Mary and the saints relate to our worship of God?
The honor we give to God alone is properly called adoration, the highest honor we can give. The honor we give to Mary and the saints is called veneration. Proper veneration of the saints does not interfere with the worship due to God, but rather fosters it. "Our communion with those in heaven, provided that it is understood in the fuller light of faith according to its genuine nature, in no way weakens, but conversely, more thoroughly enriches the latreutic worship we give to God the Father, through Christ, in the Spirit." With this understanding, we see that proper veneration of Mary does not detract from worship of God. Even as the Mother of the Savior, Mary has a place that is in every way subordinate to and dependent upon that of her Son, who is the one mediator between God and humanity. The maternal role that Mary fulfills toward us as Mother of the Church "in no wise obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows His power."
The Second Vatican Council explained very clearly that Mary can be said to fulfill a mediating role only in a secondary and derivative manner:
For no creature could ever be counted as equal with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer. Just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by the ministers and by the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is really communicated in different ways to His creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source.
What Mary does for the salvation of the human family does not come from her own power, but from a gift of divine grace that is bestowed on her through her Son. All the salvific influence that she bestows on us is produced "not from some inner necessity, but from the divine pleasure. It flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on His mediation, depends entirely on it and draws all its power from it."38 Mary in no way replaces Christ. Rather, her role is to bring us to Christ, as is illustrated in Mary's admonition at the wedding feast of Cana, "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2:5).
The rite of crowning an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary can take place either within Mass or outside of Mass. The official rite provides text for either event. The rite is best celebrated on a Marian solemnity or feast, but should never happen on a solemnity of Our Lord or on a penitential day (so, not during Lent). The crowning is not technically restricted to the month of May. If it is planned for within Mass, it takes places after the homily.
The Rosary, or Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is one of the most excellent prayers to the Mother of God. Thus, "the Roman Pontiffs have repeatedly exhorted the faithful to the frequent recitation of this biblically inspired prayer which is centered on contemplation of the salvific events of Christ's life, and their close association with the his Virgin Mother. The value and efficacy of this prayer have often been attested by saintly Bishops and those advanced in holiness of life".The Rosary is essentially a contemplative prayer, which requires "tranquillity of rhythm or even a mental lingering which encourages the faithful to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord's life". Its use is expressly recommended in the formation and spiritual life of clerics and religious. [Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy]
- Regina Coeli
By disposition of Benedict XIV (2 April 1742), the Angelus is replaced with the antiphon Regina Coeli during paschaltide. This antiphon, probably dating from the tenth or eleventh century, happily conjoins the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word (quem meruisti portare) with the Paschal event (resurrexit sicut dixit). The ecclesial community addresses this antiphon to Mary for the Resurrection of her Son. It adverts to, and depends on, the invitation to joy addressed by Gabriel to the Lord's humble servant who was called to become the Mother of the saving Messiah (Ave, gratia plena). [Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy]
- Litany of Loreto
Litanies are to be found among the prayers to the Blessed Virgin recommended by the Magisterium. These consist in a long series of invocations of Our Lady, which follow in a uniform rhythm, thereby creating a stream of prayer characterized by insistent praise and supplication. The invocations, generally very short, have two parts: the first of praise (Virgo clemens), the other of supplication (Ora pro nobis). [Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy]
- Our Lady of Guadalupe - Patroness of the Americas and of the Unborn
- Our Lady, Undoer of Knots - a popular devotion of Pope Francis
- Our Lady of Mount Carmel - a devotion directed towards the interior life
"Bring Flowers to the Fairest"
"Hail, Holy Queen Enthroned Above"
A fun way to honor Mary is to plant a garden with flowers and herbs that have been thought to symbolize Mary and her life. Mary Gardens date back all the way to the 7th Century. There are hundreds of plants that are associated with Mary that can be included in your garden. Here are some flowers that are both rich in Marian symbolism and can be found on the Texas Superstars list (disease and insect tolerant, tolerant of hot dry summers):
|Common Name||Scientific Name||Medieval Name/|
|Consolida ambigua '
Bunny Bloom' Larkspur
Vitex agnus-castus, Vitex, Texas Lilac, or Chaste Tree
Petunia violacea 'VIP'
'Knock Out' Rose
|Red Roses: Mary's Sorrow and the Blood of Christ. Also martyrdom.|
Phlox paniculata 'Victoria'