May dedicated to Mary, our greatest saint

Published: April 15, 2023

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"Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto you, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to you do I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy hear and answer me. Amen."

In Catholic tradition, the month of May is dedicated to Mary. Chosen by God above all other women, Mary's faith and obedience paved the way for the Incarnation. Her example teaches us faith, obedience, humility and most of all, how to love. According to St. Thomas of Villanova, "If in this world any creature ever loved God with whole heart, with whole soul, and with whole mind, she was the creature.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines Mary's unique role as being honored above all other saints, including the Apostles. At the foot of the cross, her heart broke for Jesus, yet she accepted God's will not only for her Son, but for herself in her new role as mother to us all. (John 19:25-27) So, not only is she the mother of Jesus, and thus, the Mother of God, she is also the Mother of the Church.

Mary is mentioned in both the Apostles' and Nicene creeds. In the Mass she is included in the Eucharistic Prayer and referred to in some forms of the penitential rite. Of the Church's holy days of obligation, three are about her: the solemnities of Mary, the Mother of God; Assumption; and Immaculate Conception.

Our Lady has appeared to the faithful to bring hope and give warnings to turn away from sin. She gave us the Miraculous Medal, the rosary and the scapular. She has been depicted in statues, icons, sculptures and paintings. To honor her, prayers, songs and poems have been written, devotions practiced, shrines dedicated and flowers named.

Some Christians are uncomfortable with such devotion to Mary. Bishop Erik Pohlmeier explained the reason when he was theological consultant for the Diocese of Little Rock in this 2006 column in in Arkansas Catholic.

"There is probably no part of Catholic life so often misunderstood. Many claim devotion to Mary amounts to nothing more than worship that should be given to God alone. Of course, that is not the case but many Catholics are at a loss when it comes to explaining why." Learn the difference between worship and honor in the Catholic Church

Mary rightly predicted that all generations would call her blessed — not for her deeds — but because of the "greatness of the Lord." (Luke 1:46-48) In the end, those devoted to her are always led to her Son. For her wise counsel tells us, "Do whatever he tells you." (John 2:5)

In his 1965 encyclical, Pope Paul VI delighted in honoring Mary in the month of May because of the "rich benefits to the Christian people." Why? Because "the person who encounters Mary cannot help but encounter Christ likewise. For what other reason do we continually turn to Mary except to seek the Christ in her arms, to seek our Savior in her, through her, and with her?"

"In the end we should realize the great gift we have as Catholics. Honoring Mary seems natural to us. We honor our mother in heaven as easily as we honor our mothers on earth," Bishop Pohlmeier said. "From all mothers we learn a great deal. From Mary we learn the greatest thing, how to love God himself." As we honor our earthly mothers in May, let's honor our heavenly mother as well. "During the month of May we pray with our mother, that we may love Jesus as she does."

One of the most popular ways to honor Mary in Arkansas is with a May crowning. This tradition reenacts Mary's coronation in heavenTypically children, usually those who recently received their first holy Communion, carry roses and place them at the feet of a statue of Mary while placing a crown of roses on top of her head. Contact a Catholic school or parish directly to see if a May crowning is being held in your area.

To learn more about the Church's teachings on Mary, see the catechism or the Q&A or Marian glossary from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. See also Liturgical Seasons and Marian Feasts12 Plants Named for Our Lady and Their Pious Legends, Honoring Mary in the Month of May with Kids and Nine Ways to Celebrate the Month of Mary.