As the joy of the Easter Season and the beginning of spring usher in a time of renewal and reflection, we as Catholics turn to our beloved tradition of honoring the Blessed Mother during the month of May.

This special feature of our faith has its origins during medieval times, when a Jesuit priest named Father Latomia of the Roman College instituted this month-long devotion to Mary as a spiritual response to the immorality he saw in the world around him. This practice of devotion to Mary in May gradually spread from to other Jesuits colleges, continuing on to parishes all over the world, eventually becoming a tradition in the universal Church.  

There are many ways we can honor Mary this month, as the praying the Rosary is especially highlighted and we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Fatima on May 13 – but perhaps none is as cherished as the May Crowning.

Mary’s Queenship has been associated with her veneration, but this special tradition only began to emerge as a popular practice during the 19th century.  May Crownings can be celebrated very simply with families praying together and then crowning a statue of Mary in the home, a particularly beautiful way to enrich the domestic Church. Parishes and Catholic schools often hold May Crownings within the context of liturgy, incorporating traditional Marian hymns such as “Immaculate Mary,” “On This Day, O Beautiful Mother” and “Bring Flowers of the Rarest.” The beautiful Litany of the Blessed Mother is frequently included, reminding us of the many titles of Mary, our “Mystical Rose” and “Morning Star.”  Traditionally, First Communicants are also invited to participate in May Crownings wearing the special clothing they wore on the day they received the Sacrament, an opportunity which tends to be embraced enthusiastically by both children and their parents.

PHOTO GALLERY: May Crowning in St. James/Incarnation Parish

PHOTO GALLERY: May Crownings around the Diocese

Around our Diocese, pastors and parishioners are preparing May Crowning celebrations in many different and creative ways. Father Daniel Swift, pastor of St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, Medford, holds May Crownings at each Mass during Mother’s Day weekend. During these celebrations, a May Queen, who is between sixth and eighth grade, processes to the statue of the Blessed Mother accompanied by four girls from among that year’s First Communicants, while a Marian hymn is sung by the congregation. The “Hail, Holy Queen” and “Memorare” are then prayed by the congregation. 

Father Swift recalled his own fond memories of May Crownings – especially when, as an eighth grader at St. Joan of Arc School, Marlton, he was asked to be the escort for that year’s May Queen during the parish’s first May Crowning. As these celebrations continue in his own parish now, Father Swift noted that, “This tradition brings back happy memories of our parishioners who participated in May Processions in their younger years. Lots of smiles and a few tears are shed.” 

We are reminded during May Crownings first and foremost of the gift Mary is to our Church, and also how very blessed we are as Catholics to have such a treasure of beautiful and meaningful traditions which enrich our faith and our parish and school communities. In his 1965 Encyclical Mense Maio (Month of May), Pope Paul VI poignantly described why the whole of May is so close to our hearts: “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.”