May 1, 2016

May Crowning 2016

After the 9am Mass on Sunday, May 1st, Corpus Christi had our traditional May Crowning of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The practice of dedicating the month of May to our Lady was popularized especially by the Rosary Encyclicals of Leo XIII – beginning in 1883 and concluding in 1889, the Pontiff wrote twelve encyclicals and five apostolic letters on the Rosary. The Catholic Encyclopedia discusses the rather recent origin of Mary Month:

“The May devotion [to our Lady] in its present form originated at Rome where Father Latomia of the Roman College of the Society of Jesus, to counteract infidelity and immorality among the students, made a vow at the end of the eighteenth century to devote the month of May to Mary. From Rome the practice spread to the other Jesuit colleges and thence to nearly every Catholic church of the Latin rite (Albers, "Bluethenkranze", IV, 531 sq.). This practice is the oldest instance of a devotion extending over an entire month.” (Catholic Encyclopedia, “Special Devotions for Months”)
The connection between motherhood and May led Christians eventually to adopt May as Mary Month. May is the Month of our Lady precisely as the Mother of God. So wrote the priest-poet Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, sj in his marian classic “May Magnificat.”

May Magnificat
MAY is Mary’s month, and I  Muse at that and wonder why:          
    Her feasts follow reason,    
    Dated due to season—         

Candlemas, Lady Day;                                                  
But the Lady Month, May,     
    Why fasten that upon her,  
    With a feasting in her honour?     

Is it only its being brighter     
Than the most are must delight her?                                 
    Is it opportunest       
    And flowers finds soonest?

Ask of her, the mighty mother:         
Her reply puts this other        
    Question: What is Spring?—                                              
    Growth in every thing—     

Flesh and fleece, fur and feather,      
Grass and greenworld all together;  
    Star-eyed strawberry-breasted      
    Throstle above her nested                                       

Cluster of bugle blue eggs thin          
Forms and warms the life within;    
    And bird and blossom swell           
    In sod or sheath or shell.    

All things rising, all things sizing                              
Mary sees, sympathising         
    With that world of good,     
    Nature’s motherhood.         

Their magnifying of each its kind     
With delight calls to mind                                          
    How she did in her stored  
    Magnify the Lord.     

Well but there was more than this: 
Spring’s universal bliss           
    Much, had much to say                                            
    To offering Mary May.         

When drop-of-blood-and-foam-dapple        
Bloom lights the orchard-apple         
    And thicket and thorp are merry  
    With silver-surfèd cherry                                        

And azuring-over greybell makes     
Wood banks and brakes wash wet like lakes          
    And magic cuckoocall          
    Caps, clears, and clinches all—       

This ecstasy all through mothering earth                
Tells Mary her mirth till Christ’s birth       
    To remember and exultation         
    In God who was her salvation.

The poem was written at Stonyhurst in May, 1878. Fr. Hopkins was 33 at the time, and eight months a priest.