May is upon us! Which means Catholics everywhere are “doing something extra” for their blessed mother in Heaven.
For example, a friend of mine had her prep class commemorate May by presenting flowers to our Lady. You can imagine the exchange:
“Whose mum likes flowers?” Twenty hands go up.
“Can you think of any other mothers who might like flowers?” Then a knowing glance at a nearby image of Mary.
Twenty hands go up again. “Jesus’ mum! She’d like flowers!”
It’s not a bad way to celebrate the feast, given the gospel of the day relates the way to the Father.
The way to the Father, of course, is Jesus. And to paraphrase St Louis de Montfort, “the fastest way to Jesus is through Mary — the same way he came to us.”
Jesus is the whole point of Marian devotions. “To Jesus through Mary,” as so many of the saints have put it.
I think displays of affection towards the mother of Jesus “humanise” our faith. They remind us that our faith is not informed by a noble idea, but by a relationship. At an individual level, Christian faith rests on a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, and Marian devotions help us to keep that encounter natural and proximate.
A Marian Resolution for May
Formulating a May resolution is a bit like formulating a Lenten resolution — or come to that, a New Year’s resolution! It’s a personal matter, it probably shouldn’t draw too much attention, and hopefully it is accomplished!
In general, I think it pays to think “small and daily.” Pausing at noon each day to pray the Angelus (or the Regina Caeli during the Easter season) is a good way to commemorate May.
Or, if you’re already in the habit of praying the Angelus, you could commemorate May by adding another short Marian prayer somewhere in your day. There’s lots to choose from: the Salve Regina for example, or the Magnificat, or the Memorare.
This is a very simple way to commemorate the month of Mary, but I think it’s a good one. It’s easy to imagine a small resolution like this pleasing our Lady — just as those flowers from the grade preps must have pleased her.
Nonetheless, our Holy Father in Rome has much greater ambitions for us, and why shouldn’t he? (Fathers are typically more demanding of their children.) When he addressed the crowd in St Peter’s Square on Wednesday — the first day of May and the Feast of St Joseph the Worker — Pope Francis asked us to commemorate May by praying the rosary:
In this month of May, I would like to recall the importance and the beauty of the prayer of the Holy Rosary. Reciting the Hail Mary, we are led to contemplate the mysteries of Jesus, to reflect, that is, on the central moments of his life, so that, as for Mary and for St. Joseph, he may be the center of our thoughts, our attention and our actions.
It would be nice if, especially in this month of May, you would pray together as a family, with your friends, in the parish, the Holy Rosary or some prayer to Jesus and the Virgin Mary! Praying together is a precious moment for making family life and friendship even more stable! Let us learn to pray more in the family and as a family!
Praying a family rosary is a great idea. Praying a rosary with a friend is a bit more challenging to organise. But the idea of a short pilgrimage lends itself. Choose two churches a twenty-minute walk apart, arrange with a friend to meet at the Marian shrine in one church, and walk together to the other while reciting the rosary. Good for the soul and good for the body!
Thirty-five comments and counting in response to my last post. Read it and weep Joel Peart!
(I was always conscious that his guest-posts attracted more comments than my posts. Which he didn’t care about at all. Says more about a possible inferiority complex on my part, really.)
In all seriousness, I don’t really consider the 35 comments as a badge of honour. But it does salve my conscience. I may have been neglecting this blog in recent days, but others have ensured its activity.
The comment thread on priestly celibacy has raised some interesting points and made some surprising turns, which I will engage. But not tonight. Tonight, I want to consider a much more amiable subject: Mary and the month of May.
The first day of our Lady’s month also happens to be the feast of St Joseph the Worker. I’m sure this is very appropriate from Mary’s point of view. I imagine she would much prefer to see her dear husband, who was the love of her life, honoured in place of her.
But it’s also very appropriate from our point of view. If we want to do something special for our Lady in May, then there’s surely no better example to follow than Joseph’s.
There may be a temptation — it’s one of mine, anyway — to make grand promises in honour of our Lady. “This May, I’m going to pray all four parts of the rosary, every day. Twenty decades, every day!”
Uh huh. I bet the enemy rubbed his hands in glee when I made that sort of resolution. The ensuing discouragement was a fait accompli. And maybe even Mary herself rolled her eyes at me (while appreciating the thought I’d like to think).
But Mary is our mother, and we can approach her like small children. There’s no need to “think big.” The modest gestures of affection from small children invariably delight grown ups. Especially mothers.
My plan this May is to place a fresh flower in front of an image of our Lady every morning. (No surprises, though, if I falter even in this small duty.) And in the evening, I’ll try to ponder one of the mysteries of the rosary. Just for 60 seconds. Barely long enough to imagine the sights and sounds of the scene.
And for inspiration, I’ll look to St Joseph. He, more than any other saint I think, exemplifies holiness by way of the ordinary duties of every day. He did nothing very remarkable. He was a faithful husband and father, a “mere carpenter” who lived a quiet life but lived it well. Entirely in the service of the Lord.
We don’t have to sanctify ourselves on our knees, in a church, away from the world. We can sanctify ourselves in the midst of our daily life — on the street, in our work, between phone calls.
Not that I’m picking the flowers to sanctify myself. I just want to do something for my Blessed Mother. Without forgetting Mum this Mothers’ Day, of course!