By Father Ronan Murphy
“The beautiful month of May dedicated to the Mother of God begins today,” wrote St. Maximillian Kolbe whilst in prison under the Nazis. “At last, here comes the month of the Beautiful Mother,” wrote another true child of Mary, St. Padre Pio, in one of his letters. As children of Mary, this is a month we should always look forward to, a month beyond comparison: the month of the Beautiful Mother.
The Greeks dedicated May to Artemis, the pagan goddess of fecundity or fertility; the Romans to Flora, the goddess of bloom or blossoms. And so, the Church appropriately Christianized the month of May by dedicating it to Mary, the Holy Mother of God, from whom blossomed the very source of life Jesus Christ.
As May is the month of bloom, the flower that is considered the queen of them all is the rose. The Church rightly refers to Mary as ‘the Mystical Rose.’ She is the most beautiful of God’s creation, ‘the Incarnate Rose,’ and there is no rose comparable to her on this Earth or in God’s heavenly garden in paradise.
Perhaps the most well-known of all the May Marian devotions is the crowning of a statue of Mary with flowers, traditionally accompanied by the hymn ‘Bring Flowers of the Rarest.’
There can be no flower, nor blossom fairer than the rose. As the rose is the queen of all flowers, the Rosary is the queen of all devotions. Our crowning of Mary with flowers is only a token of our devotion to Mary, but a sign of true devotion is to crown her with the Rosary every day. The very name “Rosary” means “Crown of Roses.” According to St. Louis de Montfort, when a certain monk was praying the Marian Psalter with its meditations one day, it was witnessed that beautiful roses kept issuing from his mouth at each Hail Mary and two angels were taking them one by one and placing them on Our Lady’s head while she smilingly accepted them. A beautiful crown was formed on Our Lady’s head upon its completion.
Whether this pious tradition is true or not, Our Lady has approved and confirmed this name of the ‘Rosary’ revealing to several people that each time they say a Hail Mary they are giving her a beautiful rose and that each complete Rosary makes her a crown of roses. The rose flower has accompanied Mary in many of her approved apparitions such as Guadalupe, Knock, Lourdes, and Fatima — where she appeared under the title of Our Lady of the Rosary, maternally asking us to pray the Rosary daily.
You can tell a tree by its fruit, and the fruit for those praying the Rosary has been exceptional, especially for families. It’s well known that “the family that prays together stays together.” The Rosary has always been a means of inestimable blessings for the family.
Our Lady began appearing at Fatima in May back in 1917, mainly to remind us of the necessity of saving our souls and that of others, exhorting us to pray the Rosary for that end. As our Mother, the greatest grace she desires to give us is the grace of saving our souls, and she will do so through our daily Rosary. As St. Maximilian Kolbe would say: “Many rosaries prayed, many souls saved.”
In the village of Ars, in France, a lady burdened with sorrow and despair came to visit the church because a few days before, her husband had died tragically. He committed suicide by throwing himself into a river from a high bridge. The thought that her husband may have been damned, terribly tormented the wife. Upon entering the church of Ars, the poor lady knelt in prayer and cried. Suddenly, the holy curate, St. John Marie Vianney, passed by and whispered to her: “He is saved.”
“What do you mean, Father?” she asked.
“Your husband is saved, and he is in purgatory in need of your prayers. From the railing of the bridge to the river, he had time to repent. It was Our Lady who obtained for him that grace. Remember what you would do in your room during May? Sometimes your husband, though he was irreligious, would join you in your Rosary and place flowers in front of the statue of Mary. That obtained for him the grace of repentance and last pardon.”
And so, if every day and not just in May, we are faithful to crown our Lady with the Rosary, we can cherish the hope that she will obtain for us from her Divine Son, a crown of immortal glory. This she has promised, through St. Dominic and Blessed Alan de la Roch, in the form of the Fifteen Rosary Promises stamped with approval by Holy Mother Church. Our beads will place us and leave us at the feet of Mary crowned with an everlasting diadem.
Father Murphy is the Coordinator for Marian Devotions of the Diocese of Brooklyn.