A Year with Fr. Rutler: Crowning Glory

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All liturgical celebrations reflect the glory of the Resurrection. Great feasts in May, especially the Ascension, are commentaries on Christ’s victory. May is a special time for honoring the Mother of our Risen Lord. The custom developed over a long period. King Alphonsus X of Castille supplied music for the “Lady Month” of May, and the devotion spread, so that within a few centuries May was identified with Mary — just as June came to be identified with the Heart of Jesus and October with the Rosary.

The last word Our Lord spoke to the human race from the Cross was “Mother.” Mary shows the way to her Son. People who try to find God without His Mother will get lost, and those who call themselves Christian without calling on Mary are confused children. All honor paid to Mary is tribute to her Risen Son. Had Christ not risen from the grave, the most famous woman in history would be unknown, as if she had never existed.

The fair month of May belongs to the “Mother of Fair Love.” The first day of May was an ancient celebration of the start of plant growth. Hard and cynical people replaced the maypole with coarse Communist parades, but that illusion of a worker’s paradise without God has fallen on the ash heap of history. Ancient Romans dedicated May to the goddess of blossoms, Flora, and prepared for her feast with late April “floral games” (ludi florales). Christianity did not extrapolate a Marian month from these customs; these customs were an unconscious intuition that there would someday be a Blessed Mother.

The bishops of the United States in 1987 approved this direction: “Coronation is one form of reverence frequently shown to images of the Blessed Virgin Mary. . . . It is especially from the end of the 16th century that in the West the practice became widespread. . . . The popes not only endorsed this devout custom but ‘on many occasions, either personally or through bishop-delegates, carried out the coronation of Marian images.’ ” Mary is ceremoniously crowned with flowers and jewels because she is the mother of the messianic King and his perfect follower.

Saints such as Elizabeth Ann Seton, Frances Cabrini, and Teresa of Calcutta (to be beatified October 19) are instinctively called “Mother” because of their maternal grace. Great as the title “saint” is, every man and woman harbors in the heart a hushed reverence for the title “mother.” This Sunday the parish crowns Holy Mary, commending our earthly mothers, living and deceased, to the care of Our Lord — who gave us His own Mother in the midst of His deepest suffering for the whole world.

May 11, 2003

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This article is adapted from a chapter in A Year with Fr. Rutler, a collection of homilies by Father George W. Rutler, which is available from Sophia Institute Press.

Art for this post on May: Cover and featured image used with permission.

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