Thursday April 30, 2015

The Custom and Tradition of May Crowning

The Custom and Tradition of May Crowning

Rising from the shelves of dusty cupboards – sometimes in the choir loft of churches that have them – the young folks these days are pulling out old hymnals and finding hymns like these:

Bring flowers of the rarest, bring flowers of the fairest
From garden and woodland and hillside and vale;
Our full hearts are swelling, our glad voices telling
The praise of the loveliest Rose of the vale.

Refrain:
Oh Mary, we crown you with blossoms today,
Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May.:

Our voices ascending, in harmony blending,
Oh, thus may our hearts turn, dear Mother, to you. 
Oh, thus shall we prove you how truly we love you; 
How dark without Mary life's journey would be. (Ref.)

Ever so often here at the Marian Library, someone will write in and ask for those “old, sweet hymns that touched our hearts.” As a result, several of the old favorites are posted on on our website along with examples for May crowning services that attempt to honor Mary by finding ways for everyone to offer Mary a poise filled with the symbolism of praise and thanksgiving for her precious and holy motherhood.

A personal experience…

And then there is my very favorite story of the preservation of the May crowning of our dear Blessed Mother. I was invited to a parish’s gathering of over seventy women who requested a talk on Mary for their May meeting. However, I was instructed not to mention May crowning; the pastor wanted nothing to do with it. He had had enough of pomp and circumstance and girls weeping because they hadn’t been voted in to crown or be on the court.

Naturally, I followed those instructions. When I arrived at the hall, there was a small ca. 18-inch statue of Mary in the center of the panel’s table. No fuss, no decorations. The ladies were chatting as one does at such gatherings. Yet, I felt a certain difference, the ladies were not focused on each other; they were focused forward in my direction, but also not on me. The chatter continued as one lady came forward and stood in front of the Mary statue. Most unobtrusively she opened a little box and pulled out a tiny wreath of flowers. Without a word she placed the crown on the statue. The chatter did not stop, but it noticeably dimmed in a simple quiet reverence. Suddenly I realized what was happening: Our Lady was crowned and quiet interior prayers were alive in many hearts. Without anyone calling for attention, the ladies took their seats and the program began. It’s truly difficult to erase long-standing and beloved customs from our hearts.

– Sister M. Jean Frisk, S.S.M., Assistant for Art and Special Projects

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