Month of May – Month of Mary

A number of Catholics who see May as the Month of Mary, and we all get the same question from time to time: Why is May Mary’s month? Here’s a brief explanation. For centuries, the Catholic Church has set aside the entire month of May to honour Mary, Mother of God. Not just a day in May, mind you, but the entire month.


In ancient Rome, May was dedicated to Flora, the goddess of blooms, or blossoms. They celebrated ludi flores (floral games), at the end of April and asked the intercession of Flora for all that blooms. During medieval times, the tradition of Tricesimum, or “Thirty-Day Devotion to Mary,” came into being. In the 17th century, Mary’s Month and May were combined, making May the Month of Mary with special devotions organized on each day throughout the month. This custom became especially widespread during the nineteenth century and remains in practice until today.


There are a couple of Marian feasts in the month of May: Our Lady of Pompeii - 8 May; Our Lady of Fatima - 13 May; The Vladimir Mother of God - 21 May; Mary, Help of Christians - 24 May; and The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary - 31 May. It is good to recall that St. John Paul II credited Mary with saving his life when he was shot in St. Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981. He had a great devotion to Our Lady of Fatima.

May is normally part of the Easter season, the period of fifty days which lasts from Easter to Pentecost. It is a fitting time to dedicate to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to recall her intense joy over her Son’s Resurrection and the comfort and guidance she gave to the Apostles during this difficult period. During the Easter season, Mary’s presence in the beginnings of the Church is emphasized. She was present in the first community of disciples. In Acts 1:14, she was present with the Apostles in the upper room as they prayerfully waited for the descent of the Holy Spirit with hopeful expectation. As Pope St. John Paul II stated in Redemptoris Mater, “Mary was in the Upper Room, where the Apostles were preparing to take up this mission with the coming of the Spirit of Truth: she was present with them. In their midst Mary was “devoted to prayer” as the “mother of Jesus” (cf. Acts 1:13-14), of the Crucified and Risen Christ.” Her maternal presence was humble and discreet but fundamental. Among them, she acted as a guide, an exceptional witness of the mystery of Christ, a role she had since His conception and birth, as well as a model of true faith.

The ways Mary is honored in May is as varied as the people who honour her. It’s a good practice in many 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. In some parishes abroad, there is a 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. It’s also a reminder to the faithful to strive to imitate our Blessed Mother’s virtue in our own lives.

‘May altars’, crowning, offering flowers, marian processions, rosary devotions and prayers aren’t just “church” things. These should be done in all homes. The customs and traditions of the Church should find a place in our homes – our domestic churches, so that there is integration of parish and family devotion. Encourage your parishioners to erect a prayer corner in their home. Unfortunately, family altars or prayer rooms are disappearing from our homes; we are on the verge of losing a great spiritual faith tradition in our homes and catholic house architecture. The point is not about the size – how big or small, or about the quality – how fanciful or simple it is. The focus is that it’s a place designated for God, a reminder of our faith life, and more specifically, for spending time with him.

During his visit to Naples in 2015, Pope Francis told priests, nuns, and seminarians that one way to make sure Jesus is the centre of their lives is to ask “his mother to take you to him. A priest, a brother, a nun who does not love Mary, who does not pray to her — I would even say one who does not recite the rosary — well, if you don’t love the mother, the mother will not give you the Son.”

Second, May is linked to October as the latter is also a Marian month. In addition, October is a mission month. The vocation of Mary is always to bring Jesus into the world. Nothing more and nothing less. With her whole mind, heart, soul and body, indeed, with everything that she is and has she seeks to give Jesus to each one of us. This too is the authentic and primary mission of the Church.

In 2019, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Pope Benedict XV’s Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud, Pope Francis announced the Extraordinary Missionary Month October 2019. For the Extraordinary Missionary Month, the Holy Father has chosen the theme: ‘Baptized and Sent: The Church of Christ on a Mission in the World’. Awakening the awareness of the missio ad gentes, and reinvigorating the responsibility of proclaiming the Gospel with new enthusiasm, are themes that combine the pastoral concern of Pope Benedict XV in Maximum Illud with the missionary vitality expressed by Pope Francis in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: “Missionary action is the paradigm of every work of the Church” (EG 15).

Third, in order to pledge our closeness and solidarity with the victims of the multiple bomb blasts that took place in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, we had candle-light prayers and processions to draw the attention of our people to the gruesome tragedy occurred in our neighbouring country and to pray for peace and harmony throughout the world. During our Eucharistic celebrations, let us continue to remember the departed souls, the injured and the affected families, who are plunged in grief and pain due to these senseless attacks. I encourage priests, religious and lay faithful to spend some time in prayer before the Eucharistic Risen Lord, so that the country of Sri Lanka may experience healing and receive the gift of peace.


Fourth, I am happy that we had a very large number of participants at the Pastoral Consultation held from April 9-11, 2019. I appreciate the enthusiasm and dedication of our diocesan priests and religious in the service of the local church for the wonderful expression of unum presbyterium. I thank the Secretary of the Senate and all those who made the Pastoral Consultation meaningful and expressive.

Fifth, during the month of May, students are on vacations, and opportunities can be created for teens and young adults towards creating in them an awareness of Church and their responsibilities towards it. I request all priests in the diocese to make efforts at vocation promotion. It is said that “God is certainly calling a sufficient number of young men to serve His Church but the failure of families, parish priests and other Christians coupled with the ‘worldliness of the culture’ is causing men to turn away from their calling.” Let us be aware that an active parish produces church vocations.

Sixth, I believe by now all the parishes will have completed the work of Socio-Economic and Pastoral Survey of the Diocese. Kindly submit the filled in survey questionnaire from your parish to the office of Vicar General by May 15, 2019 with due meticulousness.

Finally, in this month several parishes will have First Holy Communion celebrations. I congratulate the first communicant children, their parents, Parish Priests and their collaborators. It is fitting that the children are well prepared and reverent and their parents and families play their spiritual role for this event, and all rejoice in the Lord.

+ Peter Paul Saldanha
Bishop of Mangalore

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