May 1, 2013

Why is May the Month of Mary?


In early non-Christian cultures goddesses of fertility were honoured in May, the first month of summer in the Northern Hemisphere.

As part of its evangelising practice the new religion of Christianity substituted Christian feasts for pagan ones e.g. St Brigid for the first day of Spring.

Later, a connection developed between the blossoms of May and the custom of offering flowers to Mary. By the Middle Ages, particularly in Spain, Mary was honoured on individual days in May, but it is due to the Italians that the whole month of Mary was given over to Marian devotion from the 18th Century onwards

The Ascension is celebrated on the first Sunday of May. According to the account in the Acts of the Apostles (1: 6-14), Mary did not witness the Ascension of Jesus. She was present in Jerusalem with the other women when the Apostles returned, and surely drank in every word they said.

The following Sunday is Pentecost Sunday We commemorate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the traditional "birthday of the Church". Mary was still present in Jerusalem: she who from the earliest days was known as Mother of the Church.


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The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ is celebrated on the last Sunday of May. In the Year of the Eucharist it is fitting to recall what Pope John Paul II said about Mary and the Eucharist: "Mary is present with the Church, and as the Mother of the Church, at each of our celebrations of the Eucharist. If the Church and the Eucharist are inseparably united, the same ought to be said of Mary and the Eucharist" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 57).

The Visitation rounds off the Marian month. We remember the young, pregnant Virgin Mary, hastening to visit her cousin, also pregnant but of more advanced age. We are reminded of the importance of visiting as an act of charity, not "virtual visiting" but connecting in a way that touches the human spirit, particularly with ageing relatives and friends.

Above all, the Visitation gives us the great lesson of joy in the Lord as Mary sings: My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour (Lk 1:46, 47).

May you all, joined in joy with the blessed Mother, do the same during her month.

- Bishop Kevin Manning.

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