Sunday, May 7, 2023
Jim Davis - Florida Catholic
Photography: Jim Davis
HIALEAH | Most saints get a feast day, but not Mary. She gets lots of them, spread over several months.
One of those months is May, which Christians for centuries have taken as a special time to honor Jesus’ mother. Just as May brings the height of spring, with its rebirth and new life, so Mary brought the hope of eternal life by birthing the Savior of the world.
Ancient cultures have long celebrated May for warming and rejuvenating the Earth. For the Greeks, the month was dedicated to Artemis, the goddess of love and fertility. For Romans, it was for Flora, the goddess of blossoms, and a time for ludi florals, or floral games.
Medieval church folk began Christianizing such events with Marian devotions around the end of the 13th century. They celebrated a “Lady Month” or “Tricesimum,” a 30-day devotion to her, in August.
Jesuits gradually shifted the Marian focus in the late 18th century. The Roman College of the Society of Jesus began honoring Mary in May, with other Jesuit schools following suit. By the 19th century, the tradition took root in regular Catholic churches as well.
Popes themselves have blessed May as Mary’s time. Pius VII in the 19th century, and Pius XII in the 20th century, recommended special prayers to her, both in public and private.
In a 1965 encyclical, Paul VI was “delighted” to proclaim May as Mary’s month. He reminded the faithful to seek Jesus through her as well.
“Since Mary is rightly to be regarded as the way by which we are led to Christ, the person who encounters Mary cannot help but encounter Christ likewise,” the pontiff wrote.
St. Pope John Paul II added his approval in May 2002, praising parishes and families that celebrate the month with prayer, teaching and liturgies.
Reasons for the attention to Mary are many. As the mother of Christ, she is regarded also as the mother of the Church, and even of individual believers. She is also upheld as Jesus’ first disciple and an ideal Christian who answers God’s call. And she is revered as an advocate, always ready to help Christians.
As part of May events nowadays, churches and even individual homes may include a “May altar” with flowers and a statue or picture of Mary. Churches may crown Marian statues with flowers. Other devotions include Marian medals, litanies and recitations of the rosary.
Not only is May dedicated to Mary, but the month has three days especially for her. They are the feasts of Our Lady of Fatima, May 13; Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of the Church, May 29; and the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, May 31.
August, too, has several feast days for Mary, and the entire month is dedicated to her Immaculate Heart. And there’s yet another feast for Mary in October, as Our Lady of Victory, or Our Lady of the Holy Rosary.
That feast dates to 1571, when a Christian alliance was rallying to defend Europe from the Ottoman Empire. Pope Pius V asked all Christians to pray the rosary for victory. When the Christian forces prevailed, he established the feast on Oct. 7, the day of the pivotal battle.
In the Archdiocese of Miami, Mary is honored in the names of numerous parishes, including St. Mary Cathedral, Mary Help of Christians, and the Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea.
Her various apparitions are remembered in more than a dozen South Florida churches, including Our Lady of Divine Providence, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Our Lady of Lourdes.
Other church names carry Marian overtones, including Nativity, Holy Family and Immaculate Conception. And there’s Mother of Our Redeemer, serving Catholics in far northwestern Miami-Dade County.
Founded in 1988, the church celebrated its first Mass at a high school, then moved to a storefront at a nearby shopping center. The congregation built a parish hall, then an elementary school in 2002. The school now runs from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.
Parishioners take part in a range of ministries, including Respect Life, visiting the sick, an Emmaus Women group, and chapters of the Legion of Mary and Knights of Columbus. The church’s gift shop funds several outreaches, including emergency rent, medicines, food and clothing.