On May 7, the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrated May Crowning. This custom of crowning an image of Our Lady, particularly in the month of May, is one of the most beloved Marian devotions. In all its forms in different times and places, it draws our hearts to reverence and love for Mary as our Mother and Queen.
The custom of crowning images of Our Lady dates back to the early Church, when icons often represented her with a royal crown. In Ad Caeli Reginam, Servant of God Pius XII noted that Christian artistic tradition “has since the Council of Ephesus [in the fifth century] portrayed Mary as Queen and Empress seated upon a royal throne adorned with royal insignia, crowned with the royal diadem.” His Holiness added, “The Roman Pontiffs, favoring such types of popular devotion, have often crowned . . . images of the Virgin Mother of God which were already outstanding by reason of public veneration.”
These crownings express a rich truth of Our Lady’s identity, as articulated by the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship in its “Order of Crowning an Image of the Blessed Virgin Mary”: “The queen symbol was attributed to Mary because she was a perfect follower of Christ, who is the absolute ‘crown’ of creation. She is the Mother of the Son of God, who is the messianic King. . . . Thus, in an eminent way, she won the ‘crown of righteousness,’ ‘the crown of life,’ ‘the crown of glory’ that is promised to those who follow Christ.” In crowning Mary’s images, her children express their faithful love for her as their Queen.
The dedication of May to Our Lady also goes back centuries, although no one knows its precise origins. Since May is the climax of spring, some opine that devoting this beautiful month to our Mother simply makes sense; Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote his “May Magnificat” on this theme. Numerous Marian feast days were celebrated in May as early as medieval times. Many sources also credit a Father Latomia, an eighteenth-century priest of Rome, who dedicated May to Mary as an antidote to immorality.
May devotions to Our Lady are a precious opportunity to draw near to her motherly heart, and to entrust to her the many needs of the world. Pope St. Paul VI, in his “Letter on the Occasion of the First of May,” noted that “the month of May is a powerful incentive to more fervent and trusting prayer,” and urged Christians worldwide that, since “the present hour is especially grave,” they unite in prayer to “the compassionate heart of our Blessed Lady.”
This May, we invite all to join us in “fervent and trusting prayer,” blessing our Mother and confidently entrusting to her all our needs. Regina caeli, laetare, alleluia!