“During the month of May, let us lift our eyes toward the Mother of God, our consolation and sure hope, and let us pray together the Rosary to face the trials of this moment together and to be ever more united as a spiritual family.“
– Pope Francis
Pope St Paul VI reminded us that the Blessed Virgin –
“..is our Mother in the order of grace.. Placed by the grace of God, as God’s Mother, next to Her Son, and exalted above all angels and men, Mary intervened in the mysteries of Christ and is justly honoured by a special cult in the Church.” (Lumen Gentium 61, 66).
Indeed, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council were at pains to remind us of our necessity as Catholics to have a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin –
“This most Holy Synod deliberately teaches this Catholic doctrine and at the same time admonishes all the sons of the Church that the cult, especially the liturgical cult, of the Blessed Virgin, be generously fostered, and the practices and exercises of piety, recommended by the magisterium of the Church toward her in the course of centuries be made of great moment, and those decrees, which have been given in the early days regarding the cult of images of Christ, the Blessed Virgin and the saints, be religiously observed.” (LG 67)
Throughout the centuries previous Popes and a great many Saints have told us the same thing and recommended that we go to Her in all our needs. It is very difficult – if not impossible – to find a Saint who was not devoted to the Mother of God.
And so, as the month of May begins once more, our thoughts turn in a special way to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom the Church specially dedicates this month.
But if we do not already have a close relationship to the Mother of God, how do we develop such a thing?
The first step is to ask Her for this grace – She is the mediatrix of every grace, including that of a true devotion. To do so, we need to speak to Her in our prayers; as a child learns to know and love it’s mother through interaction and – eventually – experience in the order of nature, we must do the same in the order of grace. All the while, we need to remember that Mary is not the destination but the road leading to it – the destination is Jesus Christ; remember that on the Cross, He said to John “behold your Mother” – those words apply to every one of us. Get to know Her, then, through prayer.
But what prayer? Children begin speaking to their mothers in simple words to begin with – and as very little children, without the use of words at all. As we grow, our words begin to better express what we feel in our hearts and what we wish to convey. Begin simply then, with words of your own or with any of the prayers which the Church gives us with which to honour the Mother of God – the Hal Mary, the Memorare, the Salve Regina and so forth.
Children quickly learn what pleases their mothers most – a particular flower, a special term of endearment, a little act done out of love. It is the same with our heavenly Mother – there are particular things which She loves. The one above all others is expressed by Her in the Gospel, speaking in reference to Her Son – “do whatever He tells you” (Jn.2:5). If we do nothing else to specially honour the Mother of Jesus, following this one admonition She gives us will be enough – that we follow His commands and live a good and holy life. However, our faith calls us to give more than the bare minimum and so there is more still that we can do.
Appearing on six occasions to three young children at Fatima in Portugal in 1917, the Blessed Virgin would eventually identify Herself as “the Lady of the Rosary”. And on each of those six appearances, She asked the children to “pray the Rosary every day”. This request was not for those children alone, but for all of us. There is no doubt that the Blessed Virgin dearly loves the praying of the Rosary, a prayer which is laden with numerous divine graces.
The Popes, too, echo this request to pray the Rosary – Pope Leo XIII wrote many times to ask us to pray it. In our own day, Pope St John Paul II wrote and spoke often about the prayer of the Rosary, and he prayed the entire Rosary every single day. One very beautiful Apostolic Letter written by him is entitled ‘Rosarium Virginia Mariae’ and in it, the Holy Father offers us for our consideration the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary.
And this is the second step of learning to know and love the Mother of God – read what others have written about Her, listen to what they have said about Her. Why have particular Saints been so devoted to Her? What have they said about Her and what reasons have they offered for their devotion? The Saints have written a great deal about the Queen of Heaven; one good example is a book called ‘The Glories Of Mary’, written by Saint Alphonsus de Liguori. Another example is the account of the appearances of Our Lady at Fatima, written by Lucia, one of the three children who saw Her there. And a final example is ‘The Secret of the Rosary’, written by Saint Louis Marie de Montfort – a classic work, very beautiful and deeply inspiring.
So now we have recommendations to go to the Blessed Virgin in our prayers – and especially the prayer of the holy Rosary – and to get to know Her through the words and experiences of those who have gone before us.
Is there anything else? Yes, there is.
There are many little Shrines all over the world which are dedicated to the Mother of God – we might think immediately of the great shrine at Lourdes, where so many millions go every year; or of the little Chapel of the Miraculous Medal in the heart of Paris. But there are many more besides – some very well known, such as the numerous Schoenstatt shrines in so very many countries, and others known only locally. Thera re also altars dedicated to the Blessed Virgin in every Catholic Church, where you will find an image of the Mother of Jesus, often in the form of a statue or an icon. Why not visit such a place and bring Her a little gift, such as some flowers, or else light a little candle at Her altars. You could do the same if you have an image, a picture or statue, of the Blessed Virgin in your own home. Every mother loves the marks of love of their children – Our Blessed Lady is no different in this respect.
Let this month be a special one in which we make the clear and explicit decision to get to know the Blessed Virgin a little better than we do presently. This applies whether we know Her well or not at all – all of us can grow in our relationship with Her and come to know and love Her a little deeper and a little better.
Please God, let this month of May be the moment in which we do so.