The Blessed Virgin Mary is the Mother of the Church and therefore the example, as well as the guide and inspiration, of everyone who, in and through the Church, seeks to be the servant of God and others, and the obedient agent of the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
The Christian custom of dedicating the month of May to the Blessed Mother arose at the end of the 13th century. In this way, the Church was able to Christianize the secular feasts which were typically celebrated at that time. During this month, Christians offer up to Mary from their hearts, both in church and in the privacy of the home, an especially fervent and loving homage of prayer and veneration.
The May Crowning at Saint John the Evangelist Parish in Bellefonte
May 2, 2022
Join the Marian Tour!
The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, with our dedication to Mary, is host to a wide range of Marian shrines and statues, all with their own stories waiting for you to discover. Join us all month long on Flocknote as we share the history of the shrines to the Blessed Mother throughout our diocese.
Lace up your shoes and participate in our Marian Tour in the rebirth of spring!
Take a photo while you visit each location and share it with us for a chance
to appear on diocesan social media at the end of the month.
“Let us run to Mary and as her little children cast ourselves into her arms with perfect confidence.” ~Saint Francis de Sales
Part of May devotions to Mary is a specially set up “May Altar”, whether as an addition to or specially-decorated altar in a church or as a “house altar” in the family circle. The custom to highlight this type of May altar stems from southern European countries. A report from France in 1842 speaks of Our Lady’s altar in May showing off in rich splendor, while the families also erected and decorated small home altars.
All of nature, awakened to a new life in springtime, is presented to honor Mary, who is herself “a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys” (Song of Songs 2:1). This form of devotion was influenced and furthered in Treatise on True Devotion to Mary by Louis de Montfort, who counted the decoration of Marian altars a chief exercise of Marian devotion.
When erecting a May altar in a church, there is a distinction between specially decorating an existing Marian altar, erecting an altar specifically for this May devotion, and transforming the main altar into a May altar. These altars are decorated with a combination of:
- An image, icon, or statue of Mary
- Blue or white linens
- Flowers with a connection to Mary, such as roses, sweet peas, or tulips
- Marian picture books or devotionals
- Holy water
- Hymns or recordings of Marian songs
- Stools, kneelers, or chairs for prayer
The image of Mary wearing a gold crown is found in the earliest forms of iconography, especially in the Eastern Churches. There are many reasons Mary is considered the “Queen of Heaven.” She was a perfect follower of Christ, and so is considered the crown of creation. She is also the Mother of the Son of God, Jesus, who is the King of Israel and the universe. She is the most important woman of our faith, and our spiritual mother.
In the West, the pious practice of publicly crowning an image of the Blessed Mother gained popularity in the 19th century. In Rome, the image known as Salus Populi Romani – of the Blessed Mother holding the Child Jesus – is enshrined at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major. Tradition holds that Saint Luke painted the image. Pope Clement VIII added two crowns to the icon, which were at some point later lost. Nevertheless, in 1838, Pope Gregory XVI again added the crowns, and thereupon the practice of crowning the image of the Blessed Mother became popular, especially during the month of May.
May Crowning does not have a set date and can be celebrated at any time during the month. Some churches opt for Mother’s Day, while others do it as soon as May begins. Recently, Pope Francis chose to add the day to the liturgical calendar, placing it the day after Pentecost.
There is no set ritual, but May Crownings traditionally are celebrated during Mass on that day. After a procession, a crown of flowers and herbs is placed on the head of a statue of Mary. This is usually followed by prayers and hymns centered around Mary. The flowers and herbs are usually replaced throughout the rest of the month to keep them fresh.
O Mary, Virgin most powerful and Mother of mercy, Queen of Heaven and Refuge of sinners, we consecrate ourselves to thine Immaculate Heart.
We consecrate to thee our very being and our whole life; all that we have, all that we love, all that we are. To thee we give our bodies, our hearts and our souls; to thee we give our homes, our families, our country. We desire that all that is in us and around us may belong to thee, and may share in the benefits of thy motherly benediction. nd that this act of consecration may be truly efficacious and lasting, we renew this day at thy feet the promises of our Baptism and our first Holy Communion.
We pledge ourselves to profess courageously and at all times the truths of our holy Faith, and to live as befits Catholics who are duly submissive to all the directions of the Pope and the Bishops in communion with him. We pledge ourselves to keep the commandments of God and His Church, in particular to keep holy the Lord’s Day. We likewise pledge ourselves to make the consoling practices of the Christian religion, and above all, Holy Communion, an integral part of our lives, in so far as we shall be able so to do.
Finally, we promise thee, O glorious Mother of God and loving Mother of men, to devote ourselves whole-heartedly to the service of thy blessed cult, in order to hasten and assure, through the sovereignty of thine Immaculate Heart, the coming of the kingdom of the Sacred Heart of thine adorable Son, in our own hearts and in those of all men, in our country and in all the world, as in heaven, so on earth.
The Immaculate Heart of Mary signifies the great purity and love of the heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary for God. This purity is manifested in her “Yes” to the Father at the Incarnation, Her love for, and cooperation with, the Incarnate Son in His redemptive mission, and her docility to the Holy Spirit, enabling her to remain free of the stain of personal sin throughout her life. Mary’s Immaculate Heart, therefore, points us to her profound interior life, where she experienced both joys and sorrows, yet remained faithful, as we, too, are called to do.
In 2022, we celebrate the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on June 25.
O Mary, Virgin most powerful and Mother of mercy, Queen of Heaven and Refuge of sinners, we consecrate ourselves to thine Immaculate Heart.
We consecrate to thee our very being and our whole life; all that we have, all that we love, all that we are. To thee we give our bodies, our hearts, and our souls; to thee we give our homes, our families, our country.
We desire that all that is in us and around is may belong to thee, and may share in the benefits of thy motherly benediction. And that this act of consecration may be truly efficacious and lasting, we renew this day at thy feet the promises of our Baptism and our first Holy Communion.
We pledge ourselves to profess courageously and at all times the truths of our holy Faith, and to live as befits Catholics who are duly submissive to all the directions of the Pope and the Bishops in communion with him.
We pledge ourselves to keep the commandments of God and His Church, in particular to keep holy the Lord’s Day.
We likewise pledge ourselves to make the consoling practices of the Christian religion, and above all, Holy Communion, an integral part of our lives, in so far as we shall be able so to do.
Finally, we promise thee, O glorious Mother of God and loving Mother of men, to devote ourselves whole-heartedly to the service of thy blessed cult, in order to hasten and assure, through the sovereignty of thine Immaculate Heart, the coming of the kingdom of the Sacred Heart of thine adorable Son, in our own hearts and in those of all men, in our country and in all the world, as in heaven, so on earth. Amen.
When we consecrate ourselves to the Blessed Virgin Mary, we entrust ourselves – all that we are and have – to her in order that she may lead us to her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Consecration to Our Lady does not take away our freedom, but gives a special beauty to every aspect of our lives – all our actions, our works, our joys, our sufferings.
Consecration to Mary goes back to early times. Saint Ephrem the Syrian, Saint Ildephonsus of Toledo, and Saint John Damascene all consecrated themselves to Our Lady and lived this consecration.
V. Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia
R. For He whom you did merit to bear, alleluia
V. Has risen, as he said, alleluia
R. Pray for us to God, alleluia
V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia
R. For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia
Let us pray. O God, who gave joy to the world through the resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, grant we beseech Thee, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His Mother, we may obtain the joys of ever lasting life. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
V. Regina caeli, laetare, alleluia
R. Quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia
V. Resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia
R. Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia.
V. Gaude et laetare, Virgo Maria, alleluia
R. Quia surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia.
Oremus. Deus, qui per resurrectionem Filii tui, Domini nostri lesu Christi, mundum laetificare dignatus es: praesta, quaesumus; ut per eius Genetricem Virginem Mariam, perpetuae capiamus gaudia vitae. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
While Catholics pray the Angelus for the vast majority of the year, during Easter we pray the Regina Caeli, Latin for “Queen of Heaven.” It is a tribute to our Blessed Mother and an exclamation of joy at the Resurrection of our Lord.
The authorship of the Regina Caeli being unknown, legend says Saint Gregory the Great heard the first three lines chanted by angels on a certain Easter morning in Rome while he walked barefoot in a great religious procession, and that the saint thereupon added the fourth line. The authorship has also been ascribed to Gregory V, but without good reason.
While the Angelus remembers the Angel Gabriel’s message to Mary and her Fiat to God’s plan for salvation, the Regina Caeli celebrates that “yes” through which the Redeemer entered the world and subsequently rose from the dead. After the immense sorrow of the Mother of God at witnessing the suffering and death of her Son, this prayer acknowledges her joy at His rising from the dead.
Most Holy Virgin Mary, Help of Christians,
how sweet it is to come to your feet
imploring your perpetual help.
If earthly mothers cease not to remember their children,
how can you, the most loving of all mothers forget me?
Grant then to me, I implore you,
your perpetual help in all my necessities,
in every sorrow, and especially in all my temptations.
I ask for your unceasing help for all who are now suffering.
Help the weak, cure the sick, convert sinners.
Grant through your intercessions many vocations to the religious life.
Obtain for us, O Mary, Help of Christians,
that having invoked you on earth we may love and eternally thank you in heaven.
Father Don Bosco was a dedicated priest who took on bloodthirsty revolutionaries, the Italian government, and his own archbishop in his quest to rescue the homeless children of Turin. This heroic priest’s undying belief in the boys he sought to help inspired them to fulfill their potential in the Catholic Faith. Don Bosco’s lifelong effort to save the children of the street became the foundation of the Salesians, one of the largest child care networks in the world.
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.
Magnificat anima mea Dominum;
Et exultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo,
Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae; ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes.
Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est, et sanctum nomen ejus, Et misericordia ejus a progenie in progenies timentibus eum.
Fecit potentiam brachio suo;
Dispersit superbos mente cordis sui.
Deposuit potentes de sede, et exaltavit humiles.
Esurientes implevit bonis, et divites dimisit inanes.
Sucepit Israel, puerum suum, recordatus misericordiae suae, Sicut locutus est ad patres nostros, Abraham et semeni ejus in saecula.
Mary’s poetic statement of praise in Luke 1:46-55 is traditionally called the Magnificat, which is the first word of the Latin translation of this text. There is a long history of the use of the Magnificat in Christian liturgy and as a text in choral music.
The Magnificat is both conservative and revolutionary, both personal and social in perspective. It affirms the fulfillment of the ancient promises to Israel while also proclaiming the overturn of society. It initially focuses on Mary, but it suggests that God’s choice of her – a person of low status – represents in miniature what God is doing for the poor and powerless in general.
The Magnificat is one of a series of angelic announcements and prophetic hymns in Luke’s infancy narrative. Together these texts provide a theological context for understanding the whole of Luke-Acts. In particular, they link this long narrative to the Hebrew Scripture’s hopes for redemption of God’s people. God’s salvation will be offered to the Gentiles later in Luke’s story, but this salvation must also embrace the Jews in order to fulfill what Mary is proclaiming.
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despite not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.
The Memorare is often described as a “powerful” prayer, meaning that those who pray it have their prayers answered. Sometimes, though, people misunderstand the text, and think of the prayer as essentially miraculous. The words “never was it known that any one … was left unaided” does not mean that the requests that we make while praying the Memorare will be automatically granted, or granted in the way we desire them to be. As with any prayer, when we humbly seek the aid of the Blessed Virgin Mary through the Memorare, we will receive that aid, but it may take a very different form from what we desire.
By the early 16th century, Catholics had begun to treat the Memorare as a separate prayer. Saint Francis de Sales, bishop of Geneva in the early 17th century, was very devoted to the Memorare. Father Claude Bernard, a 17th-century French priest who ministered to the imprisoned and those condemned to death, was a zealous advocate of the prayer. Father Bernard attributed the conversion of many criminals to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, invoked through the Memorare. Father Bernard’s promotion of the Memorare brought the prayer the popularity it enjoys today, and it is likely that Father Bernard’s name has led to the false attribution of the prayer to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, a famous monk of the 12th century who also had a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Our Lady of Guadalupe,
make intercession for holy Church,
protect the sovereign Pontiff,
help all those who invoke you in their necessities,
and since you are the ever Virgin Mary
and Mother of the true God,
obtain for us from your most holy Son
the grace of keeping our faith,
of sweet hope in the midst of the bitterness of life
of burning charity, and the precious gift
of final perseverance.
According to tradition, Mary appeared to Juan Diego, who was an Aztec convert to Christianity, on December 9 and again on December 12, 1531. During her first apparition, she requested that a shrine to her be built on the spot where she appeared, Tepeyac Hill (now in a suburb of Mexico City). The bishop demanded a sign before he would approve construction of a church, however. Mary then appeared a second time to Juan Diego and ordered him to collect roses. In a second audience with the bishop, Juan Diego opened his cloak, letting dozens of roses fall to the floor and revealing the image of Mary imprinted on the inside of the cloak – the image that is now venerated in the Basilica of Guadalupe.
The devotion continued to grow, especially after Our Lady of Guadalupe was credited with ending a deadly epidemic of hemorrhagic fever that ravaged Mexico City in 1736-37. In 1737, she was proclaimed patroness of Mexico City, and in 1746 her patronage was accepted by all the territories of New Spain, which included part of present-day California as well as Mexico and regions as far south as Guatemala and El Salvador.
In 1754, Pope Benedict XIV approved her patronage and granted her a proper feast and mass for December 12. Pope Pius X proclaimed her patroness of Latin America in 1910, and in 1935 Pius XI approved her patronage over the Philippines.
Veneration of Our Lady of Guadalupe has been particularly strong among women, especially in Mexico, and since at least the early 18th century the devotion was spread throughout the world by the Jesuits and other religious. Our Lady of Guadalupe holds a special place in the religious life of Mexico, and is one of the most popular religious devotions. Her image has played an important role as a national symbol of Mexico.
O Mother of Perpetual Help, grant that I may ever invoke thy most powerful name, which is the safeguard of the living and the salvation of the dying. O Purest Mary, O Sweetest Mary, let thy name henceforth be ever on my lips. Delay not, O Blessed Lady, to help me whenever I call on thee, for, in all my needs, in all my temptations I shall never cease to call on thee, ever repeating thy sacred name, Mary, Mary.
O what consolation, what sweetness, what confidence, what emotion fill my soul when I pronounce thy sacred name, or even only think of thee. I thank God for having given thee, for my good, so sweet, so powerful, so lovely a name. But I will not be content with merely pronouncing thy name: let my love for thee prompt me ever to hail thee, Mother of Perpetual Help.
Our Mother of Perpetual Help is known for miracles and answers to prayers. It is associated with a 15th-century Byzantine icon of the Madonna and Child. Mary comforts the Child Jesus as he turns in fear from the Archangels Michael and Gabriel, who brandish the instruments of the passion. Surrounding the icon are Botticino reredos depicting saints, including Alphonsus Liguori and Luke the Evangelist.
The tradition of Our Mother of Perpetual Help is traced back to 1495. Stolen from a Cretan monastery by a wine merchant a few years after its creation, it was brought to the church of Saint Matthew in Rome. For 300 years, it resided at the church, and even survived the church’s destruction by Napoleon’s army in 1798.
1. ‘Hail Mary, full of grace!’
Immaculate Virgin, here I am at your feet once again,
full of devotion and gratitude.
I return to this historic Piazza di Spagna
on the solemn day of your feast
to pray for the beloved city of Rome,
for the Church, for the whole world.
In you, ‘humble and highest of creatures’,
divine grace had the full victory over evil.
You are for us, pilgrims on the paths of the world,
the bright model of evangelical fidelity
and the ever-living pledge of sure hope.
2. Virgin Mother, ‘Salvation of the Roman People!’
Watch over, I pray you, the beloved Diocese of Rome:
over pastors and faithful, parishes and religious communities.
Watch over families especially:
may love sealed by the Sacrament ever reign between spouses,
may children walk on the paths of goodness and true freedom,
may the elderly feel surrounded by attention and affection.
Inspire, Mary, in so many young hearts,
generous replies to the ‘call for the mission’,
a subject on which the diocese has
been reflecting over the years.
Thanks to an intense pastoral program for vocations,
may Rome be enriched by new young forces,
dedicated with enthusiasm to proclaiming the Gospel
in the city and in the world.
3. Blessed Virgin, Queen of Apostles!
Assist those who through study
and prayer are preparing to labor
on the many frontiers of the new evangelization.
Today I entrust to you, in a special way,
the community of the Pontifical Urban College,
whose historic headquarters are located in front of this pillar.
May this wonderful institution founded 375 years ago
by Pope Urban VIII for the formation of missionaries,
be able to continue effectively its ecclesial service.
May those it gathers, seminarians and priests,
men and women religious and laity,
be ready to put their energies at the disposition
of Christ in service of the Gospel to the far corners of the globe.
4. ‘Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!’
Pray, O Mother, for all of us.
Pray for humanity for those who suffers poverty and injustice,
violence and hatred, terror and war.
Help us to contemplate with the rosary
the mysteries of Him who ‘is our peace’,
so that we will all feel involved
in a persevering dedication of service to peace.
Look with special attention
upon the land in which you gave birth to Jesus,
a land that you loved together with Him,
and that is still so sorely tried today.
Pray for us, Mother of hope!
‘Give us days of peace, watch over our way.
Let us see your Son as we rejoice in heaven.’ Amen!
A prayer by Pope John Paul II on the Second Sunday of Advent
December 8, 2022 – Given at Piazza di Spagna
Haily Mary, poor and humble Woman, Blessed by the Most High! Virgin of hope, dawn of a new era, we join in your song of praise, to celebrate the Lord’s mercy, to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom and the full liberation of humanity.
Hail Mary, lowly handmaid of the Lord, Glorious Mother of Christ! Faithful Virgin, holy dwelling-place of the Word, teach us to persevere in listening to the Word, and to be docile to the voice of the Spirit, attentive to his promptings in the depths of our conscience and to his manifestations in the events of history.
Hail Mary, Woman of sorrows, Mother of the living! Virgin spouse beneath the Cross, the new Eve, be our guide along the paths of the world. Teach us to experience and to spread the love of Christ, to stand with you before the innumerable crosses on which your Son is still crucified.
Hail Mary, woman of faith, First of the disciples! Virgin Mother of the Church, help us always to account for the hope that is in us, with trust in human goodness and the Father’s love. Teach us to build up the world beginning from within: in the depths of silence and prayer, in the joy of fraternal love, in the unique fruitfulness of the Cross.
Holy Mary, Mother of believers, Or Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes is a title of the Blessed Virgin Mary, invoked in honor of the Marian Apparition that took place in Lourdes, France. Saint Bernadette Soubirous was a fourteen year-old peasant girl that witnessed Our Lady’s apparition. There were a total of seventeen apparitions over the year 1858.
Our Lady told Saint Bernadette that we were to pray for the Conversion of Sinners, and she stated, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Saint Bernadette was asked to dig in the ground and a “spring” would erupt. She did as she was told, and to this day the water runs. Nearly six million faithful make the pilgrimage annually, and hundreds of miracles have been reported through these visits.
This prayer was said during Pope John Paul II’s visit to Lourdes on August 15, 2004. The Pope asked her, among other things, to ‘be our guide along the paths of the world.’