Mary is the most important woman in our Catholic Faith. She is honored, or venerated, as the Mother of Christ and Queen of Heaven. The tradition of May Crowning is a special way for Catholics to honor Mary as the Queen of Heaven. From the successor of Saint Peter solemnly crowning an image of Mary to a four-year old girl placing a tiny paper crown on a statue of Mary outside her house, the love of our Blessed Mother which inspires the May Crowning remains the same. Devotion to Mary is nothing new in the Catholic Church and the tradition of the May Crowning is one that has been around for several hundred years.
Devotion to the Blessed Mother has been a part of the church since ancient times and images of Mary wearing a crown have been part of the earliest iconography. Statues of Mary have been made with crowns since medieval times. Many times, these crowns were of solid gold, and set with precious gemstones, just as the crowns of the royalty of the day were made. However, this made the crowns a target for marauders, and many times the crowns would be stolen by the unscrupulous. In the 1800’s, Pope Gregory XVI solemnly crowned an image of Jesus with His mother which had had its crown stolen in the late middle ages. Since then, the practice of crowning statues or images of Mary became popular throughout the church, especially during May, the month of Mary. Most Catholics have at least a few favored Marian devotions and, for many, it includes the May Crowning.
Today we are blessed with many ways to continue this tradition. Oftentimes, churches will do a May Crowning that the whole parish can attend. Many Catholic families also do their own May Crowning at home. This is a wonderful way for the entire family to participate in one of the traditions of the Church in a more hands-on way. There is no specified way the May Crowning must be done, and there are many days in May that would be appropriate for the May Crowning: First Saturday, Mother’s Day, or any one of the many Marian feast days during the month of May. Some families choose to keep their ceremony simple, with just one daughter crowning the chosen picture or statue. Other families let the rest of the children bring flowers to Mary as part of the ceremony while the whole family sings a Marian hymn together.
My family has done our own May Crowning now for several years. It is one of the simple yet very meaningful traditions that make the faith come alive for me. In some small way, it is as though I am able to see a tiny slice of the Fifth Glorious Mystery, the Crowning of Mary as Queen of Heaven. Not only is this an awe-inspiring thought, but it also brings me closer to the Queen of Heaven, and through her, closer to her Son. Participating in these traditions together with my family brings us all closer to each other, and also closer to God. The tradition of May Crowning is a wonderful way for families to honor the Mother of God together during her special month.
Queen of Families, pray for us!