The month of May is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary

Fr. Pierre Mouroux incenses the statue of Mary after the May Crowning ceremony.

The month-long dedication to Mary is a population devotion that gained wide acceptance in the Church in the 18th century.

The Month of Mary

As early as the 13th century, Latin Catholics designated May as a special month to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary. Before his repose in 1284, King Alphonsus X of Spain, in one of his poems, sings of May as the month of Mary, describing how the people gather around her altar to sing her glories and pray for protection from all harm.

Not long after, the German monk Blessed Henry Suso, O.P., adopted the practice of honoring Mary in a special way during springtime. He would gather flowers, weave them into a crown, and then place them on the statue at Our Lady's altar. On one occasion he was privileged to hear angel choirs joining him in singing Mary’s praises, and another time he heard them singing the Magnificat. Similar devotions spread throughout Germany in the succeeding centuries.

By the 18th and 19th centuries, both the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists) had distributed devotional literature singling out May as a special time to honor the Queen of Heaven. Public liturgical celebrations became normative throughout Europe, eventually reaching North America and missionary lands as far as China.

By the 20th century, devotion to Mary in May had become so beloved by the Latin Catholic faithful that Pope Pius XII established the Feast of the Queenship of Mary on May 31 in his 1954 encyclical Ad caeli reginam. Though Paul VI would transfer this feast to August for the Novus Ordo missal, it is still celebrated in May by traditional Catholics following the 1962 missal. In establishing the feast, Pius XII observed:

From the earliest ages of the Catholic Church a Christian people, whether in time of triumph or more especially in time of crisis, has addressed prayers of petition and hymns of praise and veneration to the Queen of Heaven and never has that hope wavered which they placed in the Mother of the Divine King, Jesus Christ; nor has that faith ever failed by which we are taught that Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, reigns with a mother's solicitude over the entire world, just as she is crowned in heavenly blessedness with the glory of a Queen.

Prayer to Mary, Queen

From the depths of this vale of tears where sorrowing humanity makes weary progress -- through the surges of this sea of ours endlessly buffeted by the winds of passion -- we raise our eyes to you, O most beloved Mother Mary, to be comforted by the contemplation of your glory and to hail you as Queen of heaven and earth, Queen of mankind.
With legitimate filial pride, we wish to exalt your queenship and to recognize it as due to the sovereign excellence of your whole being, O dearest one, truly the mother of him who is King by right, by inheritance, and by conquest.

Reign, O Mother, and Queen, by showing us the path of holiness and by guiding and assisting us so that we may never stray from it.

In the heights of heaven you exercise your primacy over the choirs of angels who acclaim you as their sovereign, and over the legions of saints who delight in beholding your dazzling beauty. So, too, reign over the entire human race, above all by opening the path of faith to those who do not yet know your Divine Son.

Reign over the Church, which acknowledges and extols your gentle dominion and has recourse to you as a safe refuge amid the calamities of our day. Reign especially over that part of the Church which is persecuted and oppressed; give it strength to bear adversity, constancy never to yield under unjust compulsion, light to avoid falling into the snares of the enemy, firmness to resist overt attack, and at every moment unwavering faithfulness to your kingdom.

Reign over men's minds, that they may seek only what is true; over their wills, that they may follow solely what is good; over their hearts, that they may love nothing but what you love.

Reign over individuals and over families, as well as over societies and nations; over the assemblies of the powerful, the counsels of the wise, as over the simple aspirations of the humble.

Reign in the streets and the squares, in the cities and the villages, in the valleys and the mountains, in the air, on land, and the sea; and hear the pious prayers of all those who recognize that yours is a reign of mercy, in which every petition is heard, every sorrow comforted, every misfortune relieved, every infirmity healed, and in which, at a gesture from your gentle hands, from death itself there arises smiling life.

Obtain for us that all who now in every corner of the world acclaim and hail you Queen and Lady may one day in heaven enjoy the fullness of your kingdom in the vision of your Divine Son, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit, live and reign forever and ever. Amen.

At St. Peter's Basilica, November 1, 1954. Institution of the Feast of the Queenship of Mary.

Ad Caeli Reginam, Pius XII, 1954