May is the month of Our Lady, devotion to her has been an important aspect of Catholicism and Christianity for centuries, and May has been dedicated to her honour and veneration since the Middle Ages. This is believed to have started in medieval Europe, where the arrival of spring and the blooming of flowers was seen as a symbol of Mary’s beauty and purity. When you think of our May altars of the past and present, you see in your mind’s eye the beauty of bluebells which are so abundant in our woodlands now.
Mary was the first and most fervent follower of Jesus and one can only imagine her terrible anguish as a mother seeing her son being mocked, tortured, and so cruelly put to death. She must have questioned why on many occasions. She was however strong and resolute in her faith even when under tremendous pressure. She was a model Christian as well as a model of motherhood.
Mary’s life is closely linked with ours. All of us, like Mary, are on a journey. All of us are traveling to places we may not understand, to destinations we cannot see, but we have Mary as a guide if we only take time to ask her. We pray our life’s journey will lead us to meet her face to face – in heaven where she waits for us, with a mother’s love and a mother’s hope.
The Pope, as the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church, holds a deep devotion to the Virgin Mary, and has spoken extensively about her significance and role in the Church and in the lives of believers. One of the Popes most famous statements about Mary is “Mary is not only a model of faith and charity, but she is also our Mother,” emphasising Mary’s maternal care and concern for all believers. He has also highlighted Mary’s unique role in the story of salvation, as the mother of Jesus and a faithful servant of God. He said that Mary’s role in bringing the message of the Gospel to the world, and her constant presence as a comforting and guiding figure in the lives of believers.
In his encyclical letter “Redemptoris Mater,” Pope John Paul II described Mary as the “Mother of the Church,” who is always present and supportive of her children in their struggles and needs. He also spoke of Mary’s closeness to the poor and marginalised, and her role as an intercessor and mediator between humanity and God. Both Pope John Paul and Pope Francis have visited the shrine at Knock showing that Mary is a source of inspiration for all Christians regardless of rank.
We are fortunate in this part of the world to have so many shrines devoted to Our Lady. So, this May, take some time to visit one and spend some time in prayer. There is also a lovely altar to Our Lady in Newry Cathedral. Above all, let us unite in prayer to Mary, Queen of Peace as we need her intercession at this time of great trouble in our world, ‘Glorious Queen of peace, grant us peace in our hearts, harmony in our families and concord throughout the world. Immaculate Mother, watch over us and protect us with your motherly love. Amen’.