I always look forward to the month of May. For one, as a Wisconsinite, it finally means the snow might be gone for good! But most of all, because it is the month, that we as a Church, honor the Mother of God. To a certain degree, I treat the month of May as I do Lent. In particular, I try to add one Marian devotion to my daily repertoire or do something concretely Marian that month. As May 1st, quickly approaches, it is time for me to decide what I’ll do. Have you ever done something extra special for Mary during the month of May? If not, here are a couple of suggestions for living May for Mary this year!
Read a Book
There is no shortage of Marian books! After Jesus, the Mother of God is one of the people subjected the most to writings and artistic depictions. There are several different genres of Marian books though.
There are devotional books, meant to prompt further reflection on the life of Mary. I recently had the opportunity to review one for a journal called Mother of Mercy by Sr. Marie Paul Farran. She provides 31 reflections based on titles of Mary derived from the scriptures. Accompanied with an icon related to the title, along with a source text and a prayer from the tradition, makes the book a wonderful asset. There is also a marvelous work by Bishop Bousset, titled Meditations on Mary which will satiate anyone’s Marian hunger.
Then there are greater works on Mary by popular authors. One that immediately comes to mind is Fulton Sheen’s work The World’s Greatest Love. The classics from St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary or The Secret of the Rosary are timeless treasures. For a more contemporary look at Mary, I recommend either Dr. Scott Hahn’s text or the work of Dr. Edward Sri.
And, little did you expect, there are even fictitious novels on Mary. One interesting one is Our Lady of the Lost and Found by Diane Schoemperlen. The novel recounts how Mary unexpectedly shows up at someone’s house one day. It’s an interesting story which interweaves history and teaching.
Plant a Mary Garden
Vincenzina Krymow wrote a magnificent book, Mary’s Flowers: Gardens, Legends, Meditations, in which she details flowers representative of Mary. At St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay, for example, they plant a Mary garden, using those symbolic Marian flowers. Many families might have a Mary statue in their front yard, so why not spruce it up with some flowers this year? And when you plant the garden, be sure to bring flowers of the rarest and fairest to the Queen of the May.
Go on Pilgrimage
There are many Marian Shrines in the United States, Canada, and across the world. If you are able, go to one of those shrines. Many of them have Holy Doors commemorating the Year of Mercy. Walking through the Holy Doors affords you an opportunity to gain an indulgence. Marian Shrines are oases of God’s mercy since the sacrament of Penance is regularly offered. On pilgrimage, make time for Mass, and pray before the devotional image of Mary honored at that particular shrine. Here are few Shrines I’d recommend:
USA: Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help (WI), Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians (WI), Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe (WI), Marytown, Seven Sorrows Basilica (IL), Our Lady of the Snows (IL), Our Lady of Consolation (OH), Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (Washington DC).
Canada: Notre Dame du Cap, St. Anne de Beaupre, or one of their cathedrals to Notre Dame.
Feel free to recommend other shrines in the comment box.
Pray the Rosary
The rosary by and large is the Marian devotion par excellence. When people think Marian devotion, they usually think the rosary. If you are an irregular rosary pray-er, make May a month when you commit to praying it every day.
Now for the shameless self-promotion. During March 2016, I published a new rosary devotional book, which literally transforms how people pray the rosary one bead at a time. It’s called A Rosary Litany. Essentially, I developed a pious custom taught by St. Louis De Montfort, namely, the addition of meditative phrase following the name of Jesus in the Hail Mary prayer. While St. Louis de Montfort only recommended one phrase, I propose a phrase for each Hail Mary to its corresponding mystery. Many people have started praying the rosary this way, and they have told me it’s the only way they pray the rosary now. Order your copy from arosarylitany.com
Secondly, one of my favorite ways of praying the rosary is by walking. It’s a nice way for me to end the day, and since I’ve committed some of the phrases of A Rosary Litany to memory, I can even pray the rosary in that fashion while I walk. Last year, I wrote an article for Catholic Exchange titled, “Walking with Mary” which explained why praying the rosary while walking is legit.
In summary, try to pray the rosary during the month of May. If you would like, try my new rosary book, or do something different; buy someone else’s rosary meditation book, listen to it while you drive, or pray it while you walk. Pray the rosary. Mary asked us to pray it every day when she appeared in Fatima, so May is an opportune time to start, since those apparitions began on May 13th!
Watch a Marian Film
There are many Marian movies, old and new alike, that someone could watch during the month of May. Some movies highlight Marian apparitions like The Song of Bernadette, The Passion of Saint Bernadete [Lourdes]; The Thirteenth Day, The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima [Fatima]; and Guadalupe: The Miracle and the Message, to name a few. Ignatius Press put out Mary of Nazareth a few years ago, which traces the life of Mary from her youth to her presence on Calvary. And recently, a wonderful film Full of Grace was released and depicts the life of Mary in the early Church and takes us to her dormition. I reviewed Full of Grace for Catholic Exchange here.
Pray the Regina Caeli or the Angelus
You might hear Church bells ring daily at 6, 12, and 6. Those bells indicate the traditional time of praying the Angelus, a prayer which focuses on the incarnation. From Easter Sunday through Pentecost, the Regina Caeli replaces the Angelus prayer. The Regina Caeli focuses on Easter joy, and the resurrection of Jesus. During the month of May, both the Regina Caeli and Angelus will be prayed, so why not pray them at least once each day, if not all three times. If you cannot observe 6, 12, and 6, then pray before breakfast, lunch, and supper.
Celebrate the Feast of the Visitation
On May 31st the Church celebrates the feast of the Visitation. I love the feast of the Visitation, partly because I was ordained a transitional deacon on that day, but secondly because there is a beauty in Mary’s generous response to become the mother of the Lord and the extension of generosity in her service to Elizabeth. If you have never done a Marian consecration, consider Fr. Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days to Morning Glory. You would begin on April 28th and end your consecration on May 31st. Another way to honor the feast of the Visitation would be to pray a novena in honor of the feast. Unfortunately, I could not find any novena prayers specific for the Visitation. Instead consider praying the Efficacious Novena of the Three Hail Mary’s, available here.
Learn a New Marian Prayer or the Hail Mary in a New Language
There are lots of Marian prayers. So many, that they fill prayer books. How many do you know? Try a new Marian prayer like the Memorare or Sub Tuum Praesidium. Memorize the Magnificat (Mary’s Song of Praise from Luke 1: 46-55. Or learn the Hail Mary in another language: Latin, Spanish, Italian, or French.
Pray the Litany of Loreto
There are many titles for Mary, and the Litany of Loreto contains a lot of them. During the month of May, discover a fondness for a new title of Mary you are unfamiliar with. Maybe it’ll be Queen of Peace, because you realize the great need for peace in your heart, family, or our world. Maybe it’ll be Queen of Families, asking Mary to be a special patron of your family during the month of May. Or maybe you will be drawn to Health of the Sick, because you or someone you are close to is sick. Seek Mary’s intercession daily with the Litany of Loreto, and along the way, you might find a new devotional title for Mary to invoke.
Learn How to Make Corded Rosaries
During the Marian month of May, not only could you foster a greater devotion to Mary, but you could also help someone else. Many people have learned how to make corded knot rosaries. Learn how to make these rosaries and then give them away! Give them away to your friends, parishioners, or donate them to the missions. Learn how to make corded rosaries here.
May is Mary’s month. There are many ways for us to get to know our Mother. The above ten ways are mere suggestions and I know there are plenty I have left out. In a different article I reflected on twelve other forms of Marian piety. If I left out one of your favorite Marian devotions or you have recommendations, feel free to leave a comment. Mary instructed us to “do whatever He tells you” and one of the last words of Jesus was to “behold your mother.” This month of May, behold Mary as your mother, and honor her in a special way. When you do, she will keep true to her promise of praying for you both now and at the hour of your death.