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``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

May Crowning


As are all flowers, the month of May is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom we more formally celebrate as Queen of Heaven on the last day of this month. Early in May, a statue of the Virgin at church is crowned with a wreath of roses, and roses are laid at her feet. Little girls and boys dress up in their best, often in blue or in their First Communion clothes; one child carries the crown on a cushion to the statue and another child is chosen to crown the statue. The selection process varies -- sometimes a boy is chosen to bear the wreath, but always a girl is chosen to crown the statue (usually the oldest girl). The flowers remain throughout the month. Hymns are sung, too, and especially favored is the Victorian "Bring Flowers of the Rarest" (lyrics and melody here).


Catholics honor Mary at home, too, crowning the true "May Queen's" statue with flowers at their family altars, and leaving roses (especially red and/or white ones) at her feet, for the entire month of May. If you don't have a statue of Our Lady, you can place flowers around a picture of her. 1 To accompany the crowning, most any Marian devotion would serve well (e.g., the Rosary, the Little Crown of the Blessed Virgin, the Litany of Loreto, etc.)

A communal element of May 1 celebrations is the Maypole -- the erection of a very tall wooden pole from which hang flowers and, often, great colored ribbons. If ribbons are present, they are taken in hand by dancers who dance around the pole such that the ribbons become wrapped around it. Sometimes the Maypole will be painted in various colors important to the area in which it is raised, or carved with symbols of local industry.


In some places, little baskets -- "May baskets" -- are filled with flowers, fruits, baked goods, or candies and left on friends' and neighbors' doorsteps.

Finally, there is a beautiful astronomical coincidence for this time of year. In the Northern hemisphere, if you go outside early in May, face East, and look directly up overhead, you will see a relatively faint "L" in the sky (assuming the sky is clear enough). This is the constellation Coma Berenices 2 -- a constellation that was named after a Queen (actually, a Queen's hair, but that's another story). Anyway, the second brightest star in this constellation is called "Diadem" -- crown of royalty. So take your children outside, point out the star Diadem to them, and think of Our Lady, crowned in Heaven -- our Queen Mother who wants nothing more than for us to love her Son...

1 Tip for keeping cut flowers fresh: re-cut stems, and put an aspirin, a penny, some sugar, and a 1/2 capful of bleach into their water. Change water every day and repeat the above. Keep them in a cool place -- in the fridge at night, if possible. Doing these things really will keep them fresh a lot longer!

2 "Coma Berenices" is pronounced "Coe-mah Bair-eh-nee'-chayz." To read more about the stars, especially the stars of the Zodiac and the stars as signs, see the Zodiac sub-section of this site.

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