Why May?

Roman Paliukh / Commento

In May, every day there are special prayers in honor of the Virgin Mary. In general, this month is often called – “the month of Mary”. What is it connected with? Where does this tradition come from?

The month of May is always special for a lot of people. This is the first time we can enjoy the warmth of summer, after a long period of winter and cold weather. In May we can particularly densely feel the singing of birds, and see how everything around us is blooming and green. For many people, it is a special time to plan vacations, trips together, family holidays.

However, the month of May is special in other ways as well. For Catholics, this month is dedicated in a special way to the Virgin Mary, as well as to prayers to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Every region has its own, unique tradition of honoring the Mother of Jesus Christ. Every day in the parishes, there is a Rosary and people build special altars with a statue or image of the Virgin Mary as a remembrance of the month of Mary. In the Vatican this year every Saturday throughout May, a Rosary will be held in St. Peter’s Square, led by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, and every Wednesday a prayer walk to the images of the Virgin Mary found in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Considering all these, many of us often ask ourselves: Why is May the Month of Mary? The tradition of dedicating this month to the Mother of God dates back to ancient times and includes many different cultures. In ancient Greece, May was dedicated to the goddess of fertility, Artemis. Later in the Roman Empire, Flora, the goddess of flowers, was especially honored in May.

In medieval times such practices were connected with the ritual of the exorcism of winter because the 1st of May was considered the Day of the Beginning of new growth when everything around it began to grow. At this time the tradition of Tricesimum or “Thirty-Day Devotion to Mary” was established. This practice consisted of performing certain spiritual acts in honor of Mary for thirty days. It did not necessarily have to be in May. These spiritual rituals were performed at various times during the year. Already in the Baroque era, the tradition of such prayer was linked to May. And in the 19th century, this practice became especially widespread.

Today, May is a special time of prayer for many Christians. In his traditional video appeal at the beginning of the month, Pope Francis dedicated the month of May to young people. He encouraged young men and women to look at Mary as a model of courage in listening and fulfilling God’s will.

“She was courageous and determined to say ‘yes’ to the Lord. You, young people, who want to build something new, a better world, follow her example, take risks,” the Pope said.