Crowning Mary in a Pandemic
“We are delighted and consoled by the pious custom associated with the month of May, which pays honour to the Blessed Virgin and brings such rich benefits to the Christian people. Since Mary is rightly to be regarded as the way by which we are led to Christ, the person who encounters Mary cannot help but encounter Christ likewise. For what other reason do we continually turn to Mary except to seek the Christ in her arms, to seek our Saviour in her, through her, and with her? To Him men are to turn amid the anxieties and perils of this world, urged on by duty and driven by the compelling needs of their heart, to find a haven of salvation, a transcendent fountain of life.” Mense Maio, an encyclical of Pope Paul VI from 1945
Now is the time we are usually attending May crowning celebrations at our parishes. This Sunday is Mother’s Day. I love going to Mass to honour our heavenly Mother and receive the blessing for earthly mothers. As I was reminiscing, I recalled the time when I organized a Rosary for Priests and a crowning ceremony at St. Peter’s Church several years ago. I had organized a harpist to play, readers to lead each decade, two little girls to place the crown on Mary and an edible rosary made from cupcakes to be consumed after the celebration. Minutes before it was all supposed to come together perfectly, I became somewhat anxious. The two adorable sisters that were supposed to crown Mary were nowhere to be seen. I saw Fr. Terry calmly look at his watch. The church was full of people. Two minutes left…I walked over to my family. I leaned over to my youngest daughter and said, “You have to crown Mary.” Her eyes got wide with fear. I said, “There’s nothing to it. All you have to do is walk down the aisle when the harp begins to play, and place the crown on Mary. Fr. Terry will be there to meet you and help you with the crown.” She got out of the pew, and went to the back of the church. The harp began to play. My delightful, twelve-year-old gymnast took off like she had been shot out of a canon. I fully expected a full-on tumbling line to ensue as she had so much speed. The lovely harpist was playing the Marian hymn, which was supposed to last for the entrance and the crowning. Emma was at the front of the church before the first bar of music was completed. I looked at Fr. Terry with disbelief. He was ever so calm as he assisted Emma to place the crown on Mary. Emma returned to her seat with the same speed with which she had made her crowning debut. The rest of the ceremony and social event afterwards went off without a hitch. These are wonderful memories. I laugh every time I think of it.
My dear Emma is now 19! We were talking about ways that we could honour Mary while at home this month. We have started praying the Rosary together. We have a statue of Mary on our bookshelf. We have also discovered virtual tours of Marian shrines such as the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wisconsin, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC, and the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Missouri. You can even make a virtual tour of the Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Apostolic Palace. (See the bottom of the page for links)
Another option to honour Mary is by reading about her. There are many scholarly works about the Blessed Virgin Mary available at the Pastoral Centre shop or in the library. Some examples are Daughter Zion by Joseph Ratzinger, Walking with Mary by Ed Sri, or Handmaid of the Lord by Adrienne Von Speyr. There are beautiful papal documents online such as Redemptoris Mater by Pope John Paul II, and Ad Caeli Reginam by Pius XII.
Pope Francis, in his Letter to the Faithful for the Month of May, writes “rediscover the beauty of praying the Rosary at home…either as a group or individually; you can decide according to your own situations, making the most of both opportunities.” The pope provides us with two new prayers to pray during this month of Our Lady.
You shine continuously on our journey
as a sign of salvation and hope.
We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick,
who, at the foot of the cross,
were united with Jesus’ suffering,
and persevered in your faith.
“Protectress of the Roman people”,
you know our needs,
and we know that you will provide,
so that, as at Cana in Galilee,
joy and celebration may return
after this time of trial.
Help us, Mother of Divine Love,
to conform ourselves to the will of the Father
and to do what Jesus tells us.
For he took upon himself our suffering,
and burdened himself with our sorrows
to bring us, through the cross,
to the joy of the Resurrection.
We fly to your protection,
O Holy Mother of God;
Do not despise our petitions
in our necessities,
but deliver us always
from every danger,
O Glorious and Blessed Virgin.
“We fly to your protection, O Holy Mother of God”.
In the present tragic situation, when the whole world is prey to suffering and anxiety, we fly to you, Mother of God and our Mother, and seek refuge under your protection.
Virgin Mary, turn your merciful eyes towards us amid this coronavirus pandemic. Comfort those who are distraught and mourn their loved ones who have died, and at times are buried in a way that grieves them deeply. Be close to those who are concerned for their loved ones who are sick and who, in order to prevent the spread of the disease, cannot be close to them. Fill with hope those who are troubled by the uncertainty of the future and the consequences for the economy and employment.
Mother of God and our Mother, pray for us to God, the Father of mercies, that this great suffering may end and that hope and peace may dawn anew. Plead with your divine Son, as you did at Cana, so that the families of the sick and the victims be comforted, and their hearts be opened to confidence and trust.
Protect those doctors, nurses, health workers and volunteers who are on the frontline of this emergency, and are risking their lives to save others. Support their heroic effort and grant them strength, generosity and continued health.
Be close to those who assist the sick night and day, and to priests who, in their pastoral concern and fidelity to the Gospel, are trying to help and support everyone.
Blessed Virgin, illumine the minds of men and women engaged in scientific research, that they may find effective solutions to overcome this virus.
Support national leaders, that with wisdom, solicitude and generosity they may come to the aid of those lacking the basic necessities of life and may devise social and economic solutions inspired by farsightedness and solidarity.
Mary Most Holy, stir our consciences, so that the enormous funds invested in developing and stockpiling arms will instead be spent on promoting effective research on how to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.
Beloved Mother, help us realize that we are all members of one great family and to recognize the bond that unites us, so that, in a spirit of fraternity and solidarity, we can help to alleviate countless situations of poverty and need. Make us strong in faith, persevering in service, constant in prayer.
Mary, Consolation of the afflicted, embrace all your children in distress and pray that God will stretch out his all-powerful hand and free us from this terrible pandemic, so that life can serenely resume its normal course.
To you, who shine on our journey as a sign of salvation and hope, do we entrust ourselves, O Clement, O Loving, O Sweet Virgin Mary. Amen.
The following are links to the virtual tours of Marian shrines: