Mary’s month of May
The happy birds Te Deum sing,
’Tis Mary’s month of May,
Her smile turns Winter into Spring,
And darkness into day.
Although the weather isn’t really cooperating at the moment, the signs of Spring are all about us: the trees and flowers of the University Parks are blooming, the birds are singing, and there is much excitement in the air as more bars and restaurants prepare to reopen after months of lock-down. The Ancient Greeks and Romans celebrated the Goddess of Flowers, bringer of new life, during the month of May, and the Church, always eager to take what is good in human society and “baptise” it into the service of God, dedicated this month to the Mother of God. Mary is the new Eve, through whom the life of all has come into the world in the Person of her Son.
Catholics have traditionally held “May devotions” to Our Lady throughout the month, with processions and hymns, and the crowning of her statues. We are not able to have a May Procession again this year, but we will have our usual May Devotions next Tuesday after the evening Mass. As May is Mary’s month, and a special month of hope and new life, the Holy Father has asked all of us to enter into a “marathon of prayer” to Our Lady to ask for an end to the pandemic and “the resumption of social and work activities”. Each day of this month has a particular prayer intention, and has been assigned to a different Marian shrine throughout the world, beginning on 1 May with the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham here in England. The Pope has called on us to recite the Rosary and join our prayers with those the whole Church to our Mother who cares for all of her children, but especially those who suffer or who are alone and afraid.
Here at the Oratory we have the shrine of Our Lady of Oxford, Mother of Mercy. Blessed Pope Pius IX gave a painting of Mary to a young Oxford gentleman, Hartwell de la Garde Grissell, in 1869, and granted special indulgences to those who prayed before it. When Grissell died in 1907, he left the image of Our Lady of Oxford to St Aloysius’ church, on condition that a special chapel be built to house it. From that time, there has been great devotion to Our Lady in the Relic Chapel of our church — especially during exams! — and countless people have visited her here to ask her intercession and receive the hope and comfort that Our Blessed Mother gives us. While the shrine of Our Lady of Oxford is not listed as one of the major shrines in the world for the Holy Father’s special prayer initiative this month, nevertheless it is a very appropriate place for us to turn to the Mother of Mercy and implore her prayers. Today we need those prayers more than ever, and we know that in all our struggles and difficulties, she is there with her protective mantel to shield us from all harm. If we trust in Mary, we need have no fear, for a loving Mother will never abandon her children.
In addition to asking us to pray the Rosary, the Holy Father has composed a prayer to be used each day of May:
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.
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.
If you would like to follow the daily prayer intentions, the list of shrines can be found here.