Mary in the month of May – why? May has been dedicated to Mary in many cultures. It is considered the season of the beginning of new life in the Northern hemisphere. In Roman culture, May was dedicated to Flora, the goddess of bloom, of blossoms. The Romans celebrated ludi florals (literally: floral games) at the end of April, asking the intercession of Flora for all that blooms. It is also related to the medieval practice of expelling winter.
At one time the custom of having a month for Mary was independent from the month of May. An old tradition known as Tricesimum (or 30 day devotion to Mary, also known as Lady Month) was originally held from August 15 to September 14. The exact dates or origin of this devotion are unknown. Mary Month has been known since baroque times. This devotion was comprised of about thirty spiritual exercises in honour of Mary. Since medieval times, we have had the combination between Mary and the month of May. We know from writings of the King of Castille, in Spain (1221 -1284) there were devotions to Mary on specific days in May. Later the whole month of May became the month of Mary and seems to have originated in Italy.
(Sources: Johannes Nadasi; Theophilus Marianus, 1664; J.X. Jacolet Mensis Marianus, 1724)
Setting the scene
This Liturgy could take place outside near a statue of Mary that may be in your gardens or could be held in your chapel where there may be a statue.
Students, especially primary students, could collect flowers from the surrounding gardens and weave a circle of flowers to put on Mary’s head. This is merely to remind us that this is her month and like our mothers, whom we honour in this month, she is special to the Church.
1. Paper and coloured pencils
2. Copy of the Poem ‘Mary’ to be given to all students at the end of the liturgy.
Mary, you are the Mother of Jesus and a model for all Christians. You are a woman of faith and courage who put your trust in God. Be with us when God calls us to serve others. May we follow your example of determination, conviction, faithfulness and devotion. For you are ever blessed by God.
Reader: The Mary of the Gospels is a woman marked by chutzpah, not reserved piety or holiness. Mary would have been a strong Jewish girl who helped in the house of her parents and toiled in the fields. She is definitely not the pious, poker-faced Mary of too much of our Western Christian art. Her song the Magnificat in the Gospel of Luke, is a mosaic of dozens of Old Testament expressions designed to announce that God has acted to bring Israel its Messiah.
Reader: 'The Magnificat', Luke 1:46-55
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.
Reader: After agreeing to be the mother of her Saviour, Mary continues to show her strength throughout the Gospels.
She, not Joseph, was the one who approached Jesus when he was left behind at the temple, she was the one who seemed to reprimand him. She pressed Jesus to provide wine when the wine ran low at the wedding of Cana.
It is important to note that Mary ‘the mother of Jesus’ as she is known in John’s Gospel, is also present at the crucifixion of Jesus. For John, perseverance is a mark of a disciple. Initially faith may depend on miracles and signs but in the end faith involves ‘staying with’, and remaining with Jesus and continuing to serve Him. Throughout the Gospels, Mary emerges as the ever faithful disciple.
Reader: A reading from the book of Luke 1:31-38
And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’
Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’
The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’
Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’
Then the angel departed from her.
The Gospel of the Lord.
All: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ.
Students take the paper and pencils provided and draw a symbol demonstrating the courage, faith and service of Mary. When the drawings are completed ask each student to tell you what the symbol means.
When completed put these around the statue or put them on the wall for the remainder of the month.
Litany: Mary Our Model
Reader: Mary accepted the Angel Gabriel’s news that she had been chosen to bear the Son of God. Her deep faith in God told her that this was the right thing to do. Yet this decision was not one to be taken lightly, for Mary was betrothed to be married. She would have to tell Joseph of her resolve.
All: Mary is our model of faith. May we follow her example when we are called to serve.
Reader: Mary faithful servant, knew she would have to face the community with the news. Even though she knew the reaction would not be a positive one, Mary accepted the responsibility of becoming the Mother of Jesus. Her great inner strength allowed her to withstand the criticism.
All: Mary is our model of strength. May we follow her example when we are called to serve.
Reader: Mary, faithful, strong and willing to serve encouraged Jesus to perform his first miracle at the wedding in Cana. She knew he would begin his ministry. She knew that her abundant love for her Son would stay with him, no matter where he went.
All: Mary is our model of love. May we follow her example when we are called to serve.
Reader: At the foot of the cross, Mary’s heart was breaking, for her beloved son was to die. Her deep faith, great strength, abundant love and unconditional promise to serve God would carry her through the next few days. These elements of leadership have made Mary our model or leadership and ministry.
All: Mary is our model of leadership and ministry. May we follow her example when we are called to serve.
(Freemantle, Lisa, Miller, Les and Rapallo-Ferrara, Melinda, Words for the Journey for Teens, 2011, Novalis Publishing Inc, Ontario.)
Poem: ‘MARY’ (Author unknown)
You were only a girl when the angel came.
And God’s Spirit o’er shadowed your person with the life of Jesus, the Son of God.
For this has been chosen.
'Behold the handmaid of the Lord.'
You said with faith and trust in God’s word.
And with courage too you could not have known.
The full impact of what you had herd.
You began a journey with Joseph and Jesus that wound through Life’s valleys and hills that led you steadily from Galilee to Calvary.
To watch while your son was killed.
You knew and experienced all that life holds its triumphs, its darkness, its mystery.
But your faith and trust in God was unshaken and it led you to joy and to victory.
Teach us Mary, the strength of faith.
Give us courage to say ‘yes’ in good times and bad may we trust in God’s word.
May we know that God’s will is best.
Mary when we think of you, we think of a woman of great faith and strength, yet having a gentle, motherly love. We believe that you are always there for us and that you love us with a great love. We ask that you always be a mother to us and act as a model of service in the community. Give us the strength we need in time of challenge and difficulty.
We ask this through your Son, Jesus Christ.
End the liturgy by playing ‘Breath of Heaven’ by Amy Grant.
Photo: Waiting For The Word; Creative Common Licenses; Flickr