May has traditionally been “Mary’s month.” Here’s a roundup of ideas and resources for celebrating.
May brings the blossoming of fragrant spring flowers (at least here in the northern hemisphere)…which may be why for centuries May has been celebrated as Mary’s month, usually with May crowning ceremonies. But any Marian devotion or tradition is appropriate this month. Below, you’ll find just a few ideas and resources to try with your kids.
1. Check out National Geographic’s Mary: The Most Powerful Woman in the World
A few years ago, National Geographic magazine did a wonderful cover issue on Mary that is well worth checking out. Billing her “the most powerful woman in the world,” it chronicled the history of Mary and Marian apparitions respectfully and with surprising insight.
It included a world map featuring the locations of all the documented Marian apparitions. The article included a YouTube clip from the accompanying National Geographic Explorer documentary.
You can find resources connected to the main article online at National Geographic. Search for “Virgin Mary” in the toolbar to access the information.
2. Plan a May Crowning
The practice of May crownings dates back to 1837 and Pope Gregory XVI. Since then, it has been traditional for parishes, groups, or even families to hold a ceremony in which a statue or icon of Mary is “crowned” with a wreath of flowers or an actual gold crown, usually by young girls. The ritual varies from place to place and is often improvised, but usually consists of traditional Marian hymns, the recitation of the rosary, and Marian prayers. especially the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It may occur within the context of Benediction, or even a special Mass.
The Church does offer an Order of Crowning an Image of the Blessed Virgin Mary that can serve as a model for your own home ceremony. You can find a PDF of the rite here.
After your May crowning ceremony, celebrate with a few sweet treats! Check out A Marian Titles May Crowning Luncheon at Catholic Cuisine. Or make cupcake crowns using this recipe from Ryan Langr in Cooking with Catholic Kids.
3. Pray the Rosary
If you haven’t tried praying the rosary as a family, this could be the month to give it a go. You might start out with the Glorious Mysteries, which include two mysteries that focus on Mary (The Assumption and the Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven).
You can find tips for praying the rosary with kids in 9 Tips for Praying the Rosary with Kids, or read about one family’s adventure in Our Accidental Ten-Minute Family Rosary. If you’re looking for a basic guide, try How to Say the Rosary.
4. Work Marian Prayers into Your Family Prayer Time
May is also a great month to learn some new Marian prayers—and there are enough of them to try out a new one every day! Some basic Marian prayers that every kid should at least know about (if not memorize) include the Hail Mary; Magnificat; Hail, Holy Queen; Mary, Help of Those in Need; Regina Caeli; Memorare; and the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
You can find these prayers and dozens more at the University of Dayton’s All About Mary page.
5. Sing Marian Hymns
How many Marian hymns do your kids know? The availability of YouTube makes it easier than ever to learn new hymns as a family. You can then work them into your family prayer time. Check out this list of traditional Roman Catholic Marian hymns on Wikipedia, then look up the hymns on Youtube.
6. Learn From (and Pray With) Marian Art
Mary is perhaps one of the most-painted women in the world, and those paintings offer many different perspectives on her from various times and cultures.
You can probably round up a good selection of Marian art on Google images, but for a more curated experience, check out Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. The exhibition is over, but the website is still up. You can take a virtual tour of the exhibition that includes a detailed map as well as commentary on the various paintings. Also check out the museum’s YouTube channel for the exhibition, which includes videos with extensive commentary on individual paintings.
Or check out The Illuminated Rosary series from Gracewatch Media; each book contains works of sacred art illuminating a different set of mysteries; young children can follow the rosary by looking at the pictures (one per bead), and older children can use it to help them learn the prayers. If you don’t want to invest in books, pull together pictures on your own.
7. Feast With Mary
The Church doesn’t call them “feast days” for nothing, and no celebration of the Mother of Jesus would be complete without appropriate food.
Catholic Cuisine has covered all the bases and then some; you can check out a wealth of possibilities both traditional and new at their May: The Month Dedicated to Mary page.
8. Plant a Mary Garden
A Mary garden is, as the name suggests, a garden planted for Mary, usually with flowers (and sometimes herbs) whose names or forms are traditionally associated with Mary. The garden will also often have a statue of Mary as its centerpiece.
Wikipedia has this to say about the origins of Mary gardens:
The practice originated among monasteries and convents in medieval Europe. During the Middle Ages, people saw reminders of Mary in the flowers and herbs growing around them. The first reference to an actual garden dedicated to Mary is from the life of St. Fiacre, Irish patron saint of gardening, who planted and tended a garden around the oratory to Our Lady he built at his famous hospice for the poor and infirm in France in the 7th Century. The first record of a flower actually named for Mary is that of “seint mary gouldes” (St. Mary’s Gold or Marygold) for the Pot Marigold or Calendula, in a 1373 English recipe for a potion to ward off the plague.
- Franciscan Media’s article “Honoring Mary in Your Garden“ describes the history of Mary gardens as well as some suggestions about what to plant.
- Fish Eaters has way more history about Mary gardens, plus an extensive chart of flowers and herbs to plant.
Talking Points: Why Mary?
If you practice Marian devotions long enough, sooner or later your kids are likely to ask (or be asked by friends) about why Catholics are so devoted to Mary. “Isn’t Jesus enough?” is a common question that we Catholics often hear from other Christians.
Yes, Jesus is “enough”…he is the full and complete revelation of God, and the one who, in his humanity and divinity, saves us from sin and death.
But consider this: God did not have to ask Mary to be the mother of Jesus. God could have taken on human flesh in any number of other ways besides being born of a woman.
But that is not how God chose to do things. In his love for us, God invites us to cooperate in his plan of salvation. By saying “yes” to that invitation, Mary reversed the “no” of Adam and Eve. And by saying “yes” to God’s desire to live within her, she became the prototype of all Christians.
Like Mary, when we say “yes” to cooperating with God, he lives within us—especially through the sacrament of baptism and the holy Eucharist, by which God “becomes flesh” through us. This is why the Church points to Mary as the model Christian.
Although our understanding of Mary’s role in the mystery of salvation has developed over the centuries, devotion to Mary has historical roots that go back to the writings of the early Church, not to mention the Scriptures. Mary is “favored” by God and “blessed among women,” according to the angel Gabriel (Lk 1:28), because of the role she plays in fulfilling God’s plan of salvation. Moreover, Jesus appointed her as our “spiritual mother” (Jn 19:27).
For more about Mary, see:
- Mary in 2 Minutes, a kid-friendly video from Busted Halo
- Catholic Answers has nine really great tracts about Marian doctrine, each with an apologetic bent responding to common misconceptions.
- Mary, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
- Redemptoris Mater: On the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Life of the Pilgrim Church, an encyclical from St. John Paul II.