May Mary adorn your soul with the flowers and the fragrance of ever new virtues and place her maternal hand on your head. Always stay close to this heavenly Mother, because she is the sea to be crossed to reach the shores of eternal splendors in the Kingdom of dawn (St. Padre Pio).
Catholic Monthly Devotions
Under the Old Law in the Old Testament, God’s people observed annual ceremonies commemorating important events in salvation history which prefigured the completion of the Old Law through Christ. Similarly, the Catholic Church commemorates important mysteries, events, and persons, using in an annual cycle of prayers, Scriptures, hymns, and various spiritual disciplines. In the same way, each of the 12 months has a unique focus, and each day of the week has a unique focus as well. Even in a single day, the hours of the day are divided up into the canonical hours. In so doing, all time is, in a manner of speaking, consecrated to God since He alone created all time and redeemed all of time.
Here is a listing of the most common associations of devotions per calendar month:
- January is devoted to the Holy Name and the Childhood of Our Lord.
- February is devoted to the Holy Family and the Purification of Our Lady.
- March is devoted to St. Joseph and the Passion of Our Lord.
- April is dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament, the Resurrection, and the Holy Ghost.
- May is in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
- June is devoted to the Sacred Heart of Our Lord.
- July is dedicated to His Most Precious Blood.
- August is in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Assumption.
- September is dedicated to the Seven Sorrows of Mary and the Exaltation of the Cross.
- October is in honor of both the Holy Rosary and the Holy Angels.
- November is dedicated to praying for the Poor Souls in Purgatory.
- December is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception and the Nativity of Our Lord.
However, the particular focus assigned to each month is not dogmatically defined by the Church’s solemn authority. Rather, these devotions have been practiced by the faithful and grown as popular piety over the centuries. They have varied according to both region and local custom. Thus, it is not uncommon for one to find lists that differ somewhat.
Such variations should not cause us any concern, but rather serve to highlight the richness of our Catholic Faith which unites diverse believers from every corner of the earth. There are so many wondrous mysteries which we can meditate upon throughout the months of the year. Over time, such a practice can greatly increase your spiritual arsenal of novenas and meditations and should draw you into a more profound union with the Blessed Trinity and Communion of Saints.
As we enter the month of May, those of us in the northern hemisphere celebrate the return of springtime as evident in creation emerging from winter, just as Our Lord has emerged from the tomb on Easter Sunday. The time of winter is now passed. And in a similar fashion, the month of May brings us the joy of celebrating in a special manner the Blessed Virgin Mary. This month features a number of Marian feastdays and, with the celebration of Mother’s Day in May in dozens of countries, it is a fitting time for us to recall the maternal protection of our Heavenly Mother and live out this devotion through long established Catholic customs.
The Litany of Loreto
One way that we can better honor the Blessed Virgin Mary this May is to add the Litany of Loreto to the end of our Rosary. This Litany is one of six approved public litanies and its history is particularly rich.
This litany was most likely composed in or around Paris between the years 1150 and 1200. In 1558, it was formally adopted for public use at the famous Marian shrine at Loreto. This Italian city on the Adriatic coast is where the Holy House of Nazareth was miraculously transported by angels after infidels overran the Holy Land. Pope Sixtus V approved its use for public worship in 1587 and urged it to be prayed. This litany carries a partial indulgence for all who recite it.
One of the most memorable aspects of Catholic life in May is the crowning of a statue or an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary as Queen.
In addition to attending our parish’s May crowning, in our own homes, we can crown a statue of Our Lady also as queen. If we do not have a statue, we can easily place before an image of our Lady a beautiful bouquet of flowers while reciting the Rosary and the Litany of Loreto. This would be a fitting celebration for Mother’s Day, allowing the family to be together and to honor the Mother of God in addition to all earthly mothers.
Fish Eaters also notes a very unique astronomical coincidence worth noting in May:
In the Northern hemisphere, if you go outside early in May, face East, and look directly up overhead, you will see a relatively faint “L” in the sky (assuming the sky is clear enough). This is the constellation Coma Berenices, a constellation that was named after a Queen… the second brightest star in this constellation is called ‘Diadem,’ crown of royalty. So take your children outside, point out the star Diadem to them, and think of Our Lady, crowned in Heaven, our Queen Mother who wants nothing more than for us to love her Son.
First Saturday Devotion
May is also a fitting month to begin the First Saturdays Devotion if you have fallen out of this habit. On December 10, 1925, Our Blessed Lady’s appeared again to Sr. Lucia of Fatima to request the First Saturday Devotion. In this apparition, She said:
Look, my daughter, at my Heart encircled by these thorns with which men pierce it at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. You, at least, strive to console me, and so I announce: I promise to assist at the hour of death with the grace necessary for salvation all those who, with the intention of making reparation to me, will, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months, go to confession, receive Holy Communion, say five decades of the beads, and keep me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary.
The First Saturday Devotion consists of offering the First Saturday of the month for five consecutive months in reparation for the many and grievous sins committed in our world. A further explanation of our Lady’s request is below:
- You must go to the Sacrament of Confession. Your reception of the Sacrament may be 8 days before the Saturday as long as you stay in a state of grace.
- You must receive the Holy Eucharistand as always, it must be in the state of grace or risk the most grievous sin of sacrilege
- You must pray 5 decades of the Holy Rosary of our Lady, including the Fatima Prayer.
- Finally, the last requirement consists of “keeping Mary company” for 15 minutes while meditating on all of the Mysteries of the Rosary with the intention of making reparation to her. This can be done by reading Scripture or other writings relevant to the Mysteries, meditating on pictures of the Mysteries, or simple meditation. Materials for meditation and education on each of the Rosary mysteries is available online.
On May 29, 1930, Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself appeared to Sr. Lucia and explained why Heaven requested five First Saturdays:
My daughter, the reason is simple. There are five types of offenses and blasphemies committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary: 1. Blasphemies against the Immaculate Conception; 2. Blasphemies against her virginity; 3. Blasphemies against her divine maternity, in refusing at the same time to recognize her as the Mother of men; 4. Blasphemies of those who publicly seek to sow in the hearts of children, indifference or scorn or even hatred of this Immaculate Mother; 5. Offenses of those who outrage her directly in her holy images. Here, my daughter, is the reason why the Immaculate Heart of Mary inspired Me to ask for this little act of reparation…
Learn About Regional Feastdays of Mary
While Catholics are generally familiar with the feastdays on the Universal Calendar, there are dozens of Marian feastdays throughout the year celebrated only at the regional level. Our Lady of Power is celebrated on May 12th in Aubervillers, France, one day after Our Lady of Aparecida is celebrated as patroness in Brazil. A few days later, Our Lady of Tears is celebrated in Spoleto, Italy and on May 30th, Mexico keeps the Feast of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. Spend some time learning about these regional feastdays of Mary and look up these titles to learn more about these ancient titles and apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To travel to a sacred site is to go “on pilgrimage.” This is an opportunity for renewal and spiritual healing. There are many well known sites in Europe – Lourdes, Fatima, Loreto – as well as Mexico City, which has Our Lady of Guadalupe, Empress of the Americas. There are also some worthy places to travel to across even in the United States. They include The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, in Washington, D.C. which is the largest Church in the United States and one of the ten largest in the world.
The National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation, in Carey, Ohio is a place of peace where pilgrims can pray and pay homage to the Blessed Mother. Across the street from the Basilica stands the original Shrine Church. Construction on this, the first church in Carey, began in 1868. When construction was slow, the local priest asked parishioners to pray to Our Lady of Consolation. When the new Church was completed and ready to be dedicated, a statue of Our Lady was carried in procession for seven miles. As parishioners walked a storm came up and the rain fell all around them, but the statue and pilgrims remained dry.
The Central Miraculous Medal Shrine in Philadelphia, PA and the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Perryville, Missouri are both worth visiting. And the Shrine of St. Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes located in Albuquerque, NM includes a bronze replica of the saint’s incorrupt body and a replica of the Shrine in Lourdes where Our Lady appeared to Bernadette 18 times. The Shrine includes a font with holy water from Lourdes.
Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche in St. Augustine, FL is the first shrine dedicated to Our Blessed Mother in the United States. The history of the devotion to the Blessed Mother as Our Lady of La Leche has roots in a 4th Century grotto in Bethlehem. And there is the Grotto of Our Lady of Sorrows in Portland Oregon is a 62-acre shrine and botanical garden. Work on the shrine began in September 1923. A cave was carved out of the 110-foot basalt cliffside, and a stone altar built. The shrine contains a replica of Michelangelo’s Pietà. This grotto, administered by the Order of Friars Servants of Mary, received a special Apostolic Blessing from Pope Pius XI.
As such, May is an ideal time to take a road trip with the family to the closest Marian shrine. Journeying to holy places has great value for the entire Church. Therefore, the Church offers special blessings for pilgrims, special prayers and in many cases, it is possible to gain a Plenary Indulgence. Pilgrimages to a Cathedral Church, to the Holy Land, to Rome, or to other sacred sites as designated by the Church, may gain for the pilgrim a plenary Indulgence (complete remission of the temporal punishment due to sin) when certain conditions are met such as:
Attending Mass, participation in pious exercises such as the Rosary, Stations of the Cross, recitation of the Akathistos Hymn in honor of the Mother of God, Eucharistic Adoration or other pious meditation ending with the Our Father, a profession of faith and prayer to the Blessed Mother.
There are many opportunities for living out the joy of Pascaltide this May while keeping a Marian focus. If you do not already do so, pray the Rosary every day this May. Wear the Brown Scapular at all times and encourage your family members to wear it too. And of course, if someone has not been properly enrolled in the Brown Scapular by a priest, that is necessary to receive the promises of the Scapular.
Other customs to observe this May include visiting a Marian shrine in your area, consecrating yourself and your family to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and attending your parish’s May crowning.
Nos cum Prole pia benedicat Virgo Maria (May the Virgin Mary bless us with her dear Child).
Photo by Mario López R. via Cathopic.
 Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy issued December 2001 by the Congregation for the Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments.
Matthew Plese is a Third Order Dominican who resides in Chicago, IL. Matthew is a practicing Certified Public Accountant and Catechist. He is the President of CatechismClass.com, an online based organization whose mission is to make the best in Catholic religious education and Sacramental preparation available for those who need it. Matthew writes a monthly piece on apologetics and catechesis for Catholic Family News and a weekly column for the Fatima Center. He is also the author of Catholic Book Summaries: 54 Traditional and Contemporary Classics; Eschatology: The Catholic Study of the Four Last Things; Understanding the Precepts of the Church, and The Roman Catechism Explained for the Modern World as well as The Definitive Guide to Catholic Fasting & Abstinence. He also blogs at A Catholic Life.