It is a long-standing Catholic tradition that the month of May be dedicated to honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“For this is the month during which Christians, in their churches and their homes, offer the Virgin Mother more fervent and loving acts of homage and veneration; and it is the month in which a greater abundance of God’s merciful gifts comes down to us from our Mother’s throne”
– Pope Paul VI, Mense Maio, Encyclical on Prayers During May for Preservation of Peace.
In this time of pandemic, where fear and loss cripples our world, where the storm rages and the winds of uncertainty blow – what better time than now that we should turn to our tender-hearted Blessed Mother and invoke her powerful intercession.
Just as though perpetual darkness would engulf the earth if the sun ceased to rise, so too would desolation overshadow the world if no one implored Our Lady’s aid in times of need.
She is our powerful mother, queen, protectress, hope, refuge and the Mediatrix of All Graces.
She is the “woman clothed in the sun, with the moon under her feet” (Revelation 12:1), who by giving birth to Christ, the Source of Life, has also given humanity the gift of new life.
In the words of St Bernard of Clairvaux, “Take away the sun, and where will be the day? Take away Mary, and what will be left but the darkest night?”
“Remember that in this world you are tossed about on a stormy sea; you are not walking on solid ground. Remember that if you don’t want to be lost at sea, you must keep your eyes fixed on this bright star and call on Mary.”
Why is it important to call on Our Lady?
Our Lady is the most highly favored daughter of the Father, mother of the Son of God, and temple of the Holy Spirit.
As the Queen of Mercy, she is dedicated to the redemption of sinners and is constantly willing to aid the needy, lowly, and those who call upon her protection.
Mary is our most powerful intercessor.
St Alphonsus Liguori, a great doctor of the Church renowned for his deep devotion to the Blessed Mother, penned the masterpiece The Glories of Mary. He wrote:
“Now, if Ahasuerus spared the Jews because he loved Esther, how can God, who loves Mary immensely, fail to hear her when she prays for the sinners who recommend themselves to her?
“…Her every prayer is like a law established by God – a decision, we might say, on God’s part to show mercy toward all for whom Mary intercedes.”
Numerous Catholic saints and theologians also indicate that those who make the glories of Our Lady known in this life are certain of salvation in the next life. The 13th century French theologian, Richard of Saint Lawrence, stated that “Our Lady will honor in the next world those who honor her in this.”
The Virtues of Our Lady
To obtain the efficacious favor of Our Lady so that she is moved to pray for us and receive us under her mantle, we must also seek to imitate her example by practicing the virtues that she perfectly and heroically practiced in her own life.
These virtues include humility, charity towards God and our neighbor, faith, hope, chastity, poverty, obedience, patience and a spirit of prayer.
Of these virtues, humility is often described as the ‘foundation and guardian of the virtues’ (St Alphonsus Liguori) – the alpha and omega of all virtues. But this virtue is under attack in today’s world.
One need only look at the dangerous ramifications of today’s screen age, where many fall prey to the desire of becoming insta-famous, picture perfect, or having the most likes and/or comments on social media. This causes many to be seduced by the false allure of popularity and self-glorification.
It is so easy to be ensnared in the clutches of pride.
St Alphonsus Liguori recounts a powerful vision where Our Lord showed St Bridget two women:
“One was all glamour and vanity. ‘She is pride,’ he said, ‘but the other one whom you see with her head bowed, courteous to all, devoted to God alone, and considering herself as a nobody, is humility, and her name is Mary.’
“God chose that way of letting us know that Mary is the personification of humility.”
Like Our Lady, who was aware of her own nothingness and fully comprehended God’s great majesty, may we die to ourselves and live to exalt Christ alone.
Like Our Lady, who shied away from the adoring crowd when Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and who chose to instead walk the path of Calvary alongside her persecuted Son, may we too detach from the desire to be praised and instead embrace contempt.
Like Our Lady, who served Elizabeth for three months, may we too live selflessly and in service, putting the needs of others before our own.
Practices of devotion in honor of Our Lady
Although the closure of churches and restrictions over movement in many parts of the world during this outbreak undeniably make it difficult for us to honor Our Lady through processions, shrine visits, and Mass attendance, there are other ways we can make May a special Marian month.
St Alphonsus provides many possible devotions to honor Our Lady.
These include regularly reciting the Hail Mary and the daily rosary, praying the Angelus, the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary or other novenas dedicated to Our Lady, reciting the Litany of Loreto, fasting, wearing the scapular, practicing almsgiving and having frequent recourse to the Virgin Mary.
Let us pray that Our Lady, Queen of Heaven and Earth, who chose to live and die poor, who walked the way of the Cross with her Son and experienced the seven sorrows of Calvary, be our guide and protector as we walk through this valley of tears, particularly in this battle against the coronavirus.