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Marian devotion in full bloom

May 22, 2015
Christina Gray

Ask past generations of Catholic school children to name their earliest or fondest “Catholic” memory and you may hear, “the May crowning of Mary, Queen of the May,” (and perhaps a few verses of “Hail, Holy Queen”).

The traditional May crowning of the Blessed Mother with a wreath of flowers to honor her as queen of heaven and earth and as the source of new life for the faithful was a popular Marian devotion prior to Vatican II. The practice seemed to fall out of favor in subsequent decades, but in the schools and parishes of all three counties of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, the tradition appears to be in full bloom.

St. Mary Church in Nicasio, St. Hilary in Tiburon, Mission Dolores Academy and Ecole Notre Dame des Victoires in San Francisco and Our Lady of Angels School in Burlingame were among the many parishes who held traditional Marian devotions, some simple, some traditional, complete with white dresses and veils, processions, special readings and traditional hymns.

At St. Hilary, parish schoolchildren brought flowers from home to lay at the feet of a statue of the Blessed Virgin during the 9 a.m. Sunday Family Mass. Father William Brown led the young processors down the main aisle while the children’s choir sang “Immaculate Mary, your praises we sing. Who reigns now in splendor with Jesus our King.”

“Our May Crowning honors Mary for her example of maternal, nurturing love,” said St. Hilary director of religious education Lisa Veto. “By having our children participate in the May Crowning we can help to strengthen the Catholic faith within each of them and give them an opportunity to express their gratitude to Mary for giving us her son.”

The Christian custom of dedicating the month of May to the Blessed Virgin reputedly arose at the end of the 13th century when the church was able to Christianize the secular or pagan feasts that took place in the springtime. Devotions to Mary in May were common among the Jesuits in Rome in the 18th century and spread to the whole church after that. By the time of Pope Pius IX’s declaration of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854, it became universal. In 1965, Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, “Mense Maio” (The Month of May), detailed in part, the church’s special devotion to Mary.

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