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The Month of May

The Month of May

Bishop Philip writes…

We have now begun the month of May, which among Catholics is well-known as “Mary’s Month,” a specific month of the year when special devotions are performed in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There are many different factors that have contributed to this association. In ancient Greece and Rome, the month of May was dedicated to pagan goddesses connected to fertility and springtime. This, combined with other European rituals commemorating the new season of Spring, led many Western cultures to view May as a month of life and motherhood. “Mother’s Day” is closely related to this innate desire to honour maternity during the Spring months. In some parts of the early Church, there was a major feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary celebrated on the 15th May, but it was not until the eighteenth century that May received a particular association with the Virgin Mary. According to the Catholic Encyclopaedia, “The May devotion in its present form originated at Rome where Fr. Latomia of the Roman College of the Society of Jesus, to counteract infidelity and immorality among the students, made a vow at the end of the eighteenth century to devote the month of May to Mary. From Rome the practice spread to the other Jesuit colleges and thence to nearly every Catholic church of the Latin rite.” Various private devotions to Mary quickly became widespread during the month of May. In 1945, Pope Pius XII solidified May as a Marian month when he established the feast of the Queenship of Mary on 31st May. After Vatican II, this feast was moved to 22nd August, but 31st May became instead the feast of the Visitation of Mary.

This May, then, let’s frequently call on the help of Mary’s prayers, especially by attending Mass and by reciting the Rosary. In a reflection on the Magnificat in his 1987 Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Mater n. 37, Pope St. John Paul II spoke of Mary as the most perfect image of freedom and of the liberation of humanity:
The Church’s love of preference for the poor is wonderfully inscribed in Mary’s Magnificat. The God of the Covenant, celebrated in the exultation of her spirit by the Virgin of Nazareth, is also he who “has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly, …filled the hungry with good things, sent the rich away empty, …scattered the proud-hearted…and his mercy is from age to age on those who fear him.” Mary is deeply imbued with the spirit of the “poor of Yahweh,” who in the prayer of the Psalms awaited from God their salvation, placing all their trust in him (cf. Ps. 25; 31; 35; 55). Mary truly proclaims the coming of the “Messiah of the poor” (cf. Is. 11:4; 61:1). Drawing from Mary’s heart, from the depth of her faith expressed in the words of the Magnificat, the Church renews ever more effectively in herself the awareness that the truth about God who saves, the truth about God who is the source of every gift, cannot be separated from the manifestation of his love of preference for the poor and humble, that love which, celebrated in the Magnificat, is later expressed in the words and works of Jesus. The Church is thus aware .. that there is a duty to safeguard carefully the importance of “the poor” and of “the option in favour of the poor” in the word of the living God. These are matters and questions intimately connected with the Christian meaning of freedom and liberation. “Mary is totally dependent upon God and completely directed towards him, and at the side of her Son, she is the most perfect image of freedom and of the liberation of humanity and of the universe. It is to her as Mother and Model that the Church must look in order to understand in its completeness the meaning of her own mission.”

This is an important point to keep before us during this month – a point that spurs us to continue praying for peace, especially in Ukraine.