This morning, the usually quiet and empty church basement was a sea of bouncing, happy first communicants dressed in white dresses of satin, veils of chiffon and tulle, and blue silk ties and white shirts. It was the day after their first Holy Communion and the parish celebration of May Crowning. It also happened to be Mother’s Day and the feast of the Ascension.
After calling for attention, I gave the usual announcements about procession and going to communion. (Followed by the usual chorus of “I don’t get it.” They didn’t, by the way. We had a wayward flock of 5 children in the wrong bench!) Then, as they were lining up, we gave each child a flower for Mary. “What is this for?” “Do we get to keep it?“ Obviously, I hadn’t done a great job of explaining the traditions surrounding Catholic’s honor of Mary during the month of May.
Why do we honor Mary as Queen of the May? Why do we place flowers at her grottos and crown statues of Mary with wreaths of flowers? I definitely do not have an historical, researched answer on this, but I do know that there are few gestures more tender or more Catholic than this. To give to her the fairest of the glory of spring seems a fitting gift to the one whom we call “the fairest honor of our race.” It is our opportunity to join Gabriel in his acclamation on bended knee, “Hail full of grace!” It is a gesture that has come to mean a great deal to me, for the more time goes by, the more apparent it is to me what a gift Mary’s spiritual motherhood is for us.
Our three children who crowned the statue of Mary did beautifully. (The crown bearer was so impressed by the import of the event that afterward he wanted to hold the pillow for the rest of Mass!) As the children stood in their guard of honor while the last chorus of “On This Day, O Beautiful Mother” was sung, I was reminded of the children’s poem made famous by Archbishop Fulton Sheen,
Love lady dressed in blue,
Teach us how to pray.
Jesus was your little boy,
You showed him the way.
Lovely lady dressed in blue, please show us the way to Jesus!