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Crowning of the Virgin Mary

In the photographs above, Jozef Cardinal Glemp, of Poland, crowns a statue, and Polish children "bring flowers of the fairest" to honor the Mother of Our Lord. In the foreword to the book, The Madonnas of Europe -- Pilgrimages to the Great Marian Shrines of Europe, in which these photos appear, (The book by Janusz Rosikon, was published in Polish in 1998, in English in 2000, no longer in print)

History of Crownings | Mary the Crown of Creation | May Crowning with Flowers | Other Family Activities for May | Hymns

History of Crownings

Images of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Infant Jesus have been revered by Christians from ancient times. The reverence for the image is directed to the persons represented. Crowing a statue of the Lord's Mother is symbolic of the honor we give her as the one chosen by God to bear His Son, our Salvation.

Placing of crowns on icons of Christ and His Blessed Mother became a common practice in the Eastern Churches. The crowns, often made of made of gold or silver and richly jeweled — were intended to add splendor to the icon.

At Rome a special ceremony evolved out of this practice of crowning images. For example, the coronation of the picture of our Lady in Saint Mary Major. Pope Clement VIII (1592-1605) presented crowns to adorn the images of Lord and His Mother, as did succeeding popes. These crowns were lost over time, however.

In 1837, Pope Gregory XVI (1831-46) decided to replace them. On August 15, the solemnity of the Assumption, along with cardinals and bishops, Pope Gregory brought crowns, blessed them with a prayer, ceremonially sprinkled them with holy water, and incensed them. After the Regina Cæli was sung, the pope affixed the crown on the image of Christ with these words:

Sicuti per manus nostras coronaris in terris, ita a te gloria et honore coronari mereamur in cælis – As by our hands we crown you on earth, so may we deserve to be crowned by you with glory and honor in heaven

This ceremonial became a standard for similar formal crowning of such images.

(Principal source - Catholic Encyclopedia - 1913 edition)

Mary the Crown of Creation

In the Marian Year, 1987, the Congregation for Divine Worship issued a ritual for honoring images of Mary, Order of Crowning an Image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It described the honor of crowning as follows:

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. Mary is the Mother of Christ, the Word Incarnate... "He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High; the Lord will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His kingdom there will be no end" (Lk 1:32-33). Elizabeth greeted the Blessed Virgin, pregnant with Jesus, as "the mother of my Lord" (Lk 1:41-43). Mary is the perfect follower of Christ. The maid of Nazareth consented to God's plan; she journeyed on the pilgrimage of faith; she listened to God's Word and kept it in her heart; she remained steadfastly in close union with her Son, all the way to the foot of the Cross; she persevered in prayer with the Church. Thus, in an eminent way she won the "crown of righteousness" (II Tim 4:8), the "crown of life" (Jas 1:12; Rev 2:10), the "crown of glory" (I Pet 5:4) that is promised to those who follow Christ.

-- Order of Crowning an Image of the Blessed Virgin Mary

National Conference of Catholic Bishops, , 1987  (out of print.) 

May Crowning with Flowers

It is a Catholic tradition to honor Mary, our Mother, during the month of May by placing on her statue a crown of flowers. This lovely devotional ceremony is held in many parishes and often with Catholic children.  The May Crowning gives the children an opportunity to especially honor the Blessed Mother of Jesus, and to give thanks to her for bringing our Savior into the world. 

The May Crowning may be held on May 1 (or another day), either as a separate ceremony, or, preferably before Mass.  There is no official ceremony for this devotion, so it may vary widely among parishes.

The crowning ceremony may take place either inside or outside the church, where a special statue of Mary is placed for the occasion. The children dress their best for this special day, and line up for a procession to the statue of Mary.  Each child may carry a flower to place in a vase in front of the statue of  Mary; and one child is chosen to place the crown of flowers on the statue of Mary.

The familiar song, “O Mary we crown thee with blossoms today” may be sung during the procession and the crowning.

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.)

During the Mass that follows the May Crowning, the children pray for all mothers, and especially for their own mothers, grandmothers, and all the women in their lives who love and care for them.  

Another favorite Marian hymn, “Immaculate Mary”, may be sung at the end of the Mass.

Immaculate Mary, your praises we sing.
You reign now in heaven with Jesus our King.
Ave, Ave, Ave, Maria! Ave, Ave, Maria!

In heaven the blessed your glory proclaim;
On earth we your children invoke your fair name.
Ave, Ave, Ave, Maria! Ave, Ave, Maria!

We pray for our mother, the Church upon earth,
And bless, Holy Mary, the land of our birth.
Ave, Ave, Ave, Maria! Ave, Ave, Maria!

For suggestions about flowers for the May Crowning or other Marian feast, see Mary's Flowers

Other Family Activities for May

Family May Crowning

Plan a May Crowning with the family. Have a Blessed Mother statute in a place of honor. Children will want to make a crown and have a procession with flowers. Be creative!

May Baskets

A lovely old tradition for May Day is making May Baskets. Traditionally, homemade paper baskets filled with flowers and candy would be left anonymously on doorsteps of friends or neighbors on the first day of May. School children in America used to do this every year, but the custom has nearly disappeared. 

With a few modifications, this practice could be revived -- in your family or classroom. Each child in could select someone's name -- or the children could deliver baskets to neighbor children and elderly folks nearby.

Small baskets made from a cone of paper or a doily, with a strip of ribbon looped and stapled to the upper edge, make easy and inexpensive baskets. Besides flowers and candies, the surprises inside could include a spiritual bouquet of prayers said for that person, for example a note saying "a Rosary was said for you today" -- especially for an older person like a grandparent. You may want to add a prayer card (to order Angelus prayer cards see order page).

Pray the Hail Mary - You may want to have the children color a picture of Mary to hang in their rooms or on the refrigerator to be the reminder to pray. See Mary Coloring Page, with Hail Mary prayer

Pray the Rosary - May is a great time to teach children the Rosary. See Rosary Page.

If your family does not have time to pray the Rosary together each day you may want to pray one decade before dinner.

Making Rosaries (for the missions).  See Our Lady Rosary Makers' website for instructions.

Pray the Angelus - Don't forget to say the Angelus before dinner during Mary's month. Get prayer cards for every member of the family.

Hymns

Click here for larger PDF version

Click here for larger pdf version

Hymns are in the Adoremus Hymnal, links to Adoremus website for more information

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