Venice | The Blessed Virgin Mary’s path of faith and hope serves as an example to all.
This is just one of the reasons that the Universal Church dedicates the month of May to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The month serves as an opportunity to reflect upon the season of the Liturgical Year, which largely corresponds with the 50 days of Easter. Therefore, time should be taken to reflect on Our Lady’s participation in the Paschal mystery and in Pentecost with which the Church begins.
Pope Francis said “the message of hope contained in God’s blessing was fully realized in a woman, Mary, who was destined to become the Mother of God, and it was fulfilled in her before any other creature.” The Holy Father added that “our journey of faith is the same as that of Mary, and so we feel that she is particularly close to us.”
During May, Pope Francis has called for laypeople to use their creativity for the good of others, especially the most disadvantaged. The Holy Father applauded laity who bravely provide “reasons for hope to the poorest, to the excluded, to the marginalized. … Let us pray together this month that the lay faithful may fulfill their specific mission, the mission that they received in Baptism, putting their creativity at the service of the challenges of today’s world.”
May is also the time when young Catholics often receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion for the first time. Parishes and Catholic schools in the Diocese have May Crowning ceremonies in which a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary is given a crown of flowers. St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Academy in Sarasota joined together May 4 for a Mass and May Crowning which was a public commitment by the students to pray for the intercessions of the Blessed Virgin Mary throughout the month. On May 7, Bishop Frank J. Dewane led a May Crowning prayer service for the staff of the Catholic Center in Venice.
To honor Our Lady in a special way in 2018, the Diocese of Venice Office of Evangelization invites everyone to the May 19 “Walk to Our Lady: A Marian Pilgrimage to the May Crowning.” This will be a 6.6-mile walk and public display of the faith from Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, 1301 Center Road, Venice, to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center, 3989 S. Moon Drive, and will be followed by a May Crowning and lunch.
May should also be used as a time to renew a commitment to praying the mysteries of the rosary (joyful, sorrowful, glorious and luminous). Our Lady has 117 titles, but selected this title at Fatima: “I am the Lady of the Rosary.” St. Francis de Sales said the greatest method of praying is to “Pray the Rosary.”
On the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Dec. 24, 2017, Bishop Dewane, in unity with the priests and faithful of the Diocese of Venice, formally consecrated the Diocese to Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The consecration was the culmination of the structured 33-day “Diocesan Advent Journey to Jesus through Mary.” By this Act of Consecration, the faithful confided the Diocese and its good works to Our Lady so as to fulfill more readily the will of her Divine Son for His Church.
Our Lady is an important symbol throughout the Diocese. Our Lady of Mercy is the Patroness of the Diocese of Venice and is the name of a Parish in Boca Grande. In addition, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice bears her name, and numerous other parishes are named in honor of Our Lady including: St. Mary, Star of the Sea, Longboat Key; Our Lady of the Angels, Lakewood Ranch; Our Lady of Grace, Avon Park; Our Lady of Guadalupe, Immokalee; Our Lady of Light, Fort Myers; Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Bokeelia; Our Lady of Lourdes, Venice; Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Osprey; Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, Sarasota; and Our Lady Queen of Heaven, LaBelle.
Pope Paul VI wrote an encyclical in 1965 citing the Month of Mary devotion as a means of obtaining prayers for peace. May is the “month which the piety of the faithful has especially dedicated to Our Blessed Lady,” Pope Paul VI wrote, and May is the time for a “moving tribute of faith and love which Catholics in every part of the world (pay) to the Queen of Heaven. During this month Christians, both in church and in the privacy of the home, offer up to Mary from their hearts an especially fervent and loving homage of prayer and veneration. In this month, too, the benefits of God’s mercy come down to us from her throne in greater abundance”
The Christian custom of dedicating the month of May to the Blessed Virgin arose at the end of the 13th century. In this way, the Church was able to Christianize the secular feasts that usually took place at that time. In the 16th century, books appeared and fostered this devotion.
Pope Francis notes the Blessed Virgin Mary has always been present in the hearts, the piety and above all the pilgrimage of faith of the Christian people. “Our pilgrimage of faith has been inseparably linked to Mary ever since Jesus, dying on the cross, gave her to us as our Mother, saying: ‘Behold your Mother!’ These words serve as a testament, bequeathing to the world a Mother. From that moment on, the Mother of God also became our Mother! The ‘woman’ became our Mother when she lost her divine Son. Her sorrowing heart was enlarged to make room for all men and women, whether good or bad, and she loves them as she loved Jesus.”