My dear people of St. Mary’s:
Well, the month of May, in which we remember and honor our patroness, Our Blessed Mother, is upon us. Praying the Rosary daily is a wonderful way to do this. But did you ever wonder why this month in particular is associated with Mary?
In ancient times the Greeks honored Artemis, the goddess of fertility, in May. Likewise, May was the month in which the Romans honored Flora, the goddess of flowers and springtime. The practice of observing the end of winter and the beginning of the growth of spring has been widely practiced in different cultures since antiquity. Because of this, May became associated with motherhood (and to this day, most countries celebrate Mother’s Day in the month of May). So, in Christian times, it seemed obvious that the month of May would become associated with the Blessed Mother.
A “Marian May” was established in Europe by the middle ages. But it seems that our modern association of the Blessed Mother with this month can be traced to a Fr. Latomia of the Gregorian University (run by the Society of Jesus) in Rome. At the end of the Eighteenth Century, alarmed by the immorality of the students, he made a vow to devote the month of May to Mary. From Rome, the practice spread first to other Jesuit universities, and then made its way throughout the entire Catholic Church.
Fr. Gerard Manly Hopkins, S.J., the famous nineteenth-century English poet, wrote a poem entitled “May Magnificat,” in which he mused over why May was dedicated to Mary. Fr. Hopkins had been received into the Catholic Church by Blessed John Henry Newman, C.O., who wrote a poem entitled “The Queen of Seasons”:
O Mary, all months and all days
are thine own,
In thee lasts their joyousness,
when they are gone
And we give to thee May,
not because it is best,
But because it comes first, and is pledge of the rest.
At the end of the Nineteenth Century, Pope Leo XIII, between the years 1883 and 1889, wrote no less than twelve encyclicals and five apostolic exhortations on the subject of the Rosary alone!
And, in the Twentieth Century, Pope Paul VI wrote an encyclical letter in 1965 entitled “The Month of May”:
The month of May is almost here, a month which the piety of the faithful has long dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God. Our heart rejoices at the thought of the moving tribute of faith and love which will soon be paid to the Queen of Heaven in every corner of the earth. For this is the month during which Christians, in their churches and their homes, offer the Virgin Mother more fervent and loving acts of homage and veneration; and it is the month in which a greater abundance of God’s merciful gifts comes down to us from our Mother’s throne.
As next week we will honor our earthly mothers, let us spend the entire month of May honoring our Blessed Mother, who loves us as her true children, and watches over us always from her place in Heaven.