May: The Month of Mary & Mothers
The ways Mary, the Mother of God, is honoured in May are as varied as the people who honour her. For centuries, the Catholic Church has set aside the entire month of May to honour Mary. Not just a day in May but the entire month.
In early Greece, May was dedicated to Artemis, the goddess of fertility. In Ancient Rome, May was dedicated to Flora, the goddess of blooms or blossoms. In medieval times, similar customs abounded, all centring around the practice of expelling winter, as 1 May was considered the start of new growth.
The idea of a month dedicated specifically to Mary can be traced back to baroque times. Although it wasn’t always held during May, Mary Month included thirty daily spiritual exercises honouring Mary. This custom became especially widespread during the nineteenth century and remains in practice today.
It’s common for parishes to have a daily recitation of the Rosary during May, and many erect a special May altar with a statue or picture of Mary as a reminder of Mary’s month. Additionally, it’s a long-standing tradition to crown the statue of Mary during May – a custom known as May Crowning. Often, the crown is made of beautiful blossoms representing Mary’s beauty and virtue.
But May altars and crownings aren’t just church things. We can and should be doing the same in our schools and homes. When we echo the customs and traditions of the Church in our schools and homes, we participate more fully in the life of the Church.
On Friday, in our special Mother’s Day liturgy, we welcomed mums, grandmothers, and special women in our lives to the College. Mother’s Day is special to families across the world. Celebrated on various dates, it is a time to acknowledge the dedication, sacrifice, love, and energy that mothers and mother figures display in their daily lives.
In the Catholic Tradition, Mother’s Day emerged from the fourth Sunday of Lent, known as Laetare Sunday, when people would return to their home parish and leave an offering. This became known as ‘Mothering Sunday’, and eventually, became a time when domestic servants were given time to gather with their families. Mothers started to become a part of the focus of the celebration, and as many had to walk great distances to their home parish, they would pick flowers on the way for their mothers, creating a gift-giving tradition within this celebration.
Reflecting on the role of mothers in contemporary society and in the Church, Pope Francis points out that the Church, too, is a mother, “our mother”, and that no believer is an orphan. For all our symbolic glorification of mothers, their important contribution to the life of society, their daily sacrifices and their aspirations are not always properly appreciated.
Even in Christian communities often, mothers are not listened to. Their voices should be taken more into consideration, and they should be supported in their aspirations. And as Pope Francis continued, “Mothers are an antidote to the spread of self-centeredness, a decline in openness, generosity and concern for others. A society without mothers would be an inhuman society because even in the darkest moments, mothers are witnesses of tenderness, dedication and moral strength”.
We wish all mothers and mother figures a wonderful Mother’s Day on Sunday!
Melissa Trolio, Director of Mission