May – The Month of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Written by Fr. Andrew Bass
The month of May is the “month which the piety of the faithful has especially dedicated to Our Blessed Lady,” and it is the occasion for a “moving tribute of faith and love which Catholics in every part of the world [pay] to the Queen of Heaven.
During this month Christians, both in church and in the privacy of the home, offer up to Mary from their hearts an especially fervent and loving homage of prayer and veneration. In this month, too, the benefits of God’s mercy come down to us from her throne in greater abundance” (Pope Paul VI, Encyclical on the Month of May, n. 1).
This Christian custom of dedicating the month of May to the Blessed Virgin arose at the end of the 13th century. In this way, the Church was able to Christianise the secular feasts which took place at that time. In the 16th century, books appeared and fostered this devotion. The pious practice of honouring Mary during the month of May has been especially recommended by the Popes. Pope Pius XII made frequent reference to it and in his great Encyclical on the Sacred Liturgy (Mediator Dei) characterised it as one of “other exercises of piety which although not strictly belonging to the Sacred Liturgy, are nevertheless of special import and dignity, and may be considered in a certain way to be an addition to the liturgical cult: they have been approved and praised over and over again by the Apostolic See and by the Bishops” (n. 182). In May of 2002 Pope St. John Paul II said that this month is “dedicated to Our Lady” and that “in accord with a long-standing tradition of devotion, parishes and families continue to make the month of May a ‘Marian’ month, celebrating it with many devout liturgical, catechetical and pastoral initiatives!”
The Blessed Virgin Mary is the Mother of the Church and therefore the example, as well as the guide and inspiration, of everyone who, in and through the Church, seeks to be the servant of God and man, and the obedient agent of the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
Wherever there is faith there is the example of Mary, because she lived by faith as the Scriptures remind us. If, then, piety is the virtue which binds us to the sources of all life, to God, to our parents, to the Church, to Christ, certainly Christian piety binds us, in grateful love, to Mary — or our acceptance of Christ and of the mystery of our kinship with Him is imperfect, partial, and unfulfilled.
So let us, throughout this holy month of Mary, dedicate ourselves more fervently to her motherly care and pray that she will guard us as her own sons and daughters and lead us to our true home.