In Rome, towards the end of the eighteenth century, one fine evening in May a child of the poor gathered his companions around him and led them to a statue of Mary, before which a lamp was burning, as is the custom in that holy city. There, these young voices together sang the Litany of our Lady. The next day, the group, followed by other children, again gathered at the feet of the Mother of God. Next came their mothers, to join the little assembly. Soon, other groups were formed, and the devotion rapidly became popular. Holy souls, troubled by the disorderly conduct which always increases and becomes graver at the return of the pleasant springtime, saw in these growing practices the hand of God, and they cooperated with the designs of Providence by approving and promoting this new devotion, as a public and solemn act of reparation. The Month of Mary was founded.
"This is the month in which, in the churches and individual homes, the most affectionate and fervent homage of prayers and devotions from the hearts of Christians are raised to Mary. It is also the month in which from his throne descend upon us the most generous and abundant gifts of the Divine Mercy."
Catholics today, in wanting to be close to her always, offer her special presents in May: pilgrimages, visits to churches dedicated to her, little sacrifices in her honor, periods of study and well-finished work offered up to her, and a more attentive recitation of the rosary. Here are some resources, prayers and background information to help you foster a devotion to Mary the Mother of God.
"God wills that all his gifts should come to us through Mary" (St. Bernard)
Encyclical of Pope Paul VI on Prayers During May for the Preservation of Peace
April 29, 1965
To His Venerable Brethren the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops, and other Local Ordinaries who are at Peace and in Communion with the Apostolic See.
Venerable Brethren, Health and Apostolic Benediction.
The month of May is almost here, a month which the piety of the faithful has long dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God. Our heart rejoices at the thought of the moving tribute of faith and love which will soon be paid to the Queen of Heaven in every corner of the earth. For this is the month during which Christians, in their churches and their homes, offer the Virgin Mother more fervent and loving acts of homage and veneration; and it is the month in which a greater abundance of God's merciful gifts comes down to us from our Mother's throne.
We are delighted and consoled by this pious custom associated with the month of May, which pays honor to the Blessed Virgin and brings such rich benefits to the Christian people. 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. 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? To Him men are to turn amid the anxieties and perils of this world, urged on by duty and driven by the compelling needs of their heart, to find a haven of salvation, a transcendent fountain of life.
The Hail Mary
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you;
blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, mother of God,
pray for us sinners
now and at the hour of our death.
The Hail Holy Queen (The Salve Regina)
Hail, holy Queen, mother of mercy,
our life, our sweetness, and our hope.
To you we cry, poor banished children of Eve;
to you we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn, then, most gracious advocate,
your eyes of mercy toward us;
and after this, our exile,
show unto us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
Mary is described in the gospels as the mother of Jesus and as a model for all who follow him:
The universal Church follows the emphases of scripture and tradition by celebrating feasts in honour and memory of Mary.
Other feasts are included in national and local calendars, for example, Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12) as Patron of the Americas.
Early witnesses: After the completion of the New Testament, the Christian communities speak often of Mary with honour:
The middle ages witnessed an explosion of love and devotion to the Mother of God. Almost every cathedral in Europe was dedicated to her.
Modern devotion: In 1854 Pius IX declared Mary to be free from all sin (Immaculate Conception) by the merits of Christ. In Canada, 14 dioceses hold her as Patron under this title. In 1950, Pius XII declared her bodily Assumption as sharing completely in the resurrection of her Son; 7 dioceses in Canada honour her as Patron under that title.
The Church invites us to base our devotion to Mary on the scriptures that speak of her and of her relation to Jesus. Our prayer—with Mary and to Mary—leads us to a deeper sharing in the liturgy, the worship Jesus gives to the Father, the worship we give to God in his name. Our devotion to Mary leads us to love God as she did: as the mother of Jesus, as the first to believe in him, his first disciple. She is inseparably linked to the saving activity of Jesus, her Son.
A model for the Church: The Second Vatican Council describes Mary and her role from the scriptures and Catholic tradition. Mary is a model for the Church and for individual Christians. What God has done in Mary he also does in us.
Vatican II: The Council linked Mary to the Church, saying that “in her, the Church admires and extols this exceptional result of the redemption and joyfully contemplates what is, as it were, a totally undistorted picture of its desires and hopes for itself as a whole.”
Devotion to Mary: Pope Paul VI reminded us that “the ultimate purpose of devotion to the Blessed Virgin is to glorify God and lead Christians to commit themselves to a life which is in absolute conformity to his will”. We continue to follow Christ as Mary did: hearing the word of God, keeping it in our hearts and doing the will of the Father. Jesus tells us that we are his friends when we do what he commands us; Mary’s life is example of the fulfilment of that command.
All glory is yours, almighty Father:
you have given us your Son to save us.
We praise you
for choosing Mary to be his mother,
for teaching her to believe your message,
for helping her to accept your holy will.
Strengthen us by your Spirit to be like Mary:
to ponder your word in our hearts,
to obey your will,
to love your Son,
to sing your praises each day.
we praise you through Jesus your Son
in the love of your Spirit,
for ever and ever. Amen!
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us.