May...the month of Mary.
It’s appropriate, is it not? Creation is bursting with life. Grass, leaves, bushes, flowers—allergies!—all over the place.
Nature is as it should be: alive, promising, sunny, warm yet not hot, cool while not cold. More light each day, buds and blooms all over.
Jesus came to bring life, life to the fullest. May should belong to the one who conceived and gave birth to “the way, the truth, and the life.”
Last week I administered the Sacrament of Confirmation, always a happy occasion. At the end of Mass, after Holy Communion, representatives of the class reverently approached a statue of Our Lady to crown her with flowers. Four of their classmates surrounded her image with candles; two of them sang the Ave Maria, accompanied by a classmate on the violin.
The late priest-sociologist, Andrew Greeley (hardly known for his piety!), studied what he called the “Catholic imagination” and concluded that, second only to first Holy Communion, the experience that most endured in the imagination and religious memory of a Catholic childhood was a May crowning.
Christianity’s two most prominent doctrines are the Trinity—God has revealed Himself as One true God in three divine Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—and the Incarnation—the second Person of this Trinity took on human nature and became one of us in Jesus Christ.
In this “wonderful exchange,” the Most Blessed Trinity provided the Divine Person, God the Son, the “Eternal Word.”
Who supplied the human nature? From whom did God the Son take flesh? Mary!
We owe her a lot.
When I once asked fourth-graders why we love Mary so much, a nine-year-old replied, “Because God must have loved her a lot to let her be the mom of His Son.”
No wonder we honor her a lot. Just think of her feasts: January 1, her privilege of being the Mother of God; February 11, her apparitions at Lourdes; March 25, the announcement, “Annunciation,” that she is to be the Mother of our Savior; May 31, her “Visitation” to her cousin St. Elizabeth; July 16, Our Lady of Mount Carmel; August 15, her Assumption to heaven; August 22, her Queenship; September 8, her birthday; September 12, her holy name; September 15, her seven sorrows; October 7, her Rosary; November 21, her Presentation in the temple; December 8, her Immaculate Conception; and December 12, her apparition at Guadalupe.
And all of the month of May!
(I’ve forgotten some of her feasts...sorry!)
And now there is yet another: Pope Francis has decreed that the Monday after Pentecost each year—it will be in two weeks, May 21, this year—will be the Feast of Our Lady, Mother of the Church.
It was actually Blessed...soon to be Saint—Pope Paul VI who highlighted this title at the close of the Second Vatican Council in 1965.
It sure makes sense, doesn’t it? After all, she was right there at the most defining moments of the Church: at the Incarnation, at the Annunciation, when the “Word became flesh” in her womb; at His birth on Christmas; at His first miracle at Cana; at the foot of the Cross on Calvary; and at the very “birthday” of the Church, with the apostles for the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
No wonder we’ll toast her as Mother of the Church the next day.
The older I get, the more I appreciate poetry. One of my favorite poets is a Jesuit priest, Gerard Manley Hopkins. Can I share with you his May Magnificat?
MAY is Mary’s month, and I
Muse at that and wonder why:
Her feasts follow reason,
Dated due to season—
Candlemas, Lady Day;
But the Lady Month, May,
Why fasten that upon her,
With a feasting in her honour?
Is it only its being brighter
Than the most are must delight her?
Is it opportunest
And flowers finds soonest?
Ask of her, the mighty mother:
Her reply puts this other
Question: What is Spring?—
Growth in every thing—
Flesh and fleece, fur and feather,
Grass and greenworld all together;
Throstle above her nested
Cluster of bugle blue eggs thin
Forms and warms the life within;
And bird and blossom swell
In sod or sheath or shell.
All things rising, all things sizing
Mary sees, sympathising
With that world of good,
Their magnifying of each its kind
With delight calls to mind
How she did in her stored
Magnify the Lord.
Well but there was more than this:
Spring’s universal bliss
Much, had much to say
To offering Mary May.
Bloom lights the orchard-apple
And thicket and thorp are merry
With silver-surfèd cherry
And azuring-over greybell makes
Wood banks and brakes wash wet like lakes
And magic cuckoocall
Caps, clears, and clinches all—
This ecstasy all through mothering earth
Tells Mary her mirth till Christ’s birth
To remember and exultation
In God who was her salvation.