If May crowning isn’t part of your family and parish celebration of May, you can (and should!) change that.
If you grew up in a Catholic community in the 1950s, a May crowning is nothing new to you.
On the first Sunday in May, you put on your loveliest dress or your starchiest shirt, picked a flower from your garden, and joined a procession of schoolchildren singing “Immaculate Mary” and “O Sanctissima.” The sweetest girl in the eighth grade (or perhaps the prettiest girl in the second grade) carried a crown to be placed on the head of a Marian statue, likely one set up in an outdoor replica of the Lourdes Grotto. The weather was always beautiful and the cookies and punch afterwards may or may not have been the highlight for most of the children.
But like many Catholic traditions, this one has gone by the wayside in most communities. And while it’s only a nice tradition, there’s something powerful in those communal memories, especially the ones that form our souls.
When you grew up around Eucharistic processions, it’s hard not to take a knee before the Blessed Sacrament. And many who may rarely make it to church might find themselves smiling fondly at the thought of crowning Mary their Queen.
This devotion isn’t just about assenting to the mystery of Mary’s Queenship, the idea that as the mother of the King of Heaven she is the Queen of Heaven. Certainly, the crown offers that symbolism, and it’s nothing to be shrugged at. But we’re not crowning her with gold and diamonds, we’re crowning her with flowers. It’s not a queen’s coronation, but a mom’s.
What makes this celebration so special isn’t the flower crown ordered specially from the florist to fit her concrete head, it’s the flowers lovingly placed before her (some carefully grown or purchased, others picked last minute from a bush in the front yard).
It’s the little children picking just the right flower from their garden, or perhaps begging their mother to take them for a florist so they can find the perfect thing for Mary—this is what’s most beautiful. This old Catholic tradition teaches little ones to look for something beautiful to offer to their Mother in Heaven. It teaches them to love her in a tangible way.
My sister has a gaggle of little kids and an outdoor statue of Mary. On any given spring day, you can find wilted nosegays of weeds or wildflowers, picked by a child who knows Mary is her Mother and wants to give her Mother something beautiful. Some days the flowers are accompanied by stomp rocket missiles, baby dolls, or other childish offerings, but the heart of it remains the same: they stop by to see Mary and tell her they love her.
This year, they made a special visit on Good Friday, because they knew Mary was sad. She had watched her Son die, and they wanted to keep her company. They know it’s just a statue. But it’s a tangible way for them to love the Blessed Mother. And when we participate, it’s a way for us to become like children again—her children.
So this year, I want to invite you to have your own May crowning. If you’ve got toddlers, teach them which flowers they can pick for Mary and start the practice of taking her flowers and saying a Hail Mary. With older kids, you can invite a few families over, make flower crowns, and sing a few songs. If you don’t have children, make a habit of stopping by the store each week in May to buy a little bouquet for a Marian image in your home or a statue at your church.
If you work at a school, make a whole production of it, with a crown from a florist and all the students encouraged to bring flowers from home. Parishes could hand out flowers on Mother’s Day and invite parishioners to join in a procession to a Marian statue after Mass. Even switching your phone’s wallpaper to an image of Mary for the month is a small way of joining in with generations past in loving our Mom a little bit extra during the month set aside for her.
Because these little devotions don’t just form our children’s hearts to be Marian, they form our hearts to be childlike. Jesus told us to become like little children (Mt 18:13) and then gave us his mother so that we could practice. As May begins this week, let’s look at her the way little ones look at their moms: like she’s the most beautiful, wonderful, kind, loving mother in the world. Because she is.