May Crownings, Adulting, and Devotion to Mary


Recently, I was invited by a local chapter of the Catholic Women’s League (CWL) to celebrate a Mass and lead the group in a Crowning of Mary. I had heard of “May Crownings” before, but had never participated in one—let alone led one!


In my preparations, I discovered the Church has an official ritual book for this devotion, but given the short notice, I wasn’t able to track down a copy. Providentially, I found an excerpt which I then adapted.

But my experience of that day reminded me of the role that devotion to Mary has had in my life … as well as serving as a wakeup call to how she had sadly taken a back seat. And it was an invitation for me to revisit the role that devotion to Mary can have in my own life, and the life of any Catholic family.


Although the mention of his name will probably raise eyebrows among some of you, there is an anecdote from the Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner, which I share because of the truth it contains:


“I asked Father Rahner how he explained the decrease of Marian piety in the Church. His reply is worthy of attention. Too many Christians, he said to me, whatever their religious obedience, have a tendency to make an ideology, an abstraction, out of Christianity. And abstractions have no need of a mother.”

Or, perhaps less controversially, two quotes from St. John Henry Newman, making the same point:


“There is this broad fact the other way;—that, if we look through Europe, we shall find, on the whole, that just those nations and countries have lost their faith in the divinity of Christ, who have given up devotion to His Mother, and that those on the other hand, who had been foremost in her honour, have retained their orthodoxy.”

and


“…for they knew full well that, if they could once get the world to dishonour the Mother, the dishonour of the Son would follow close. The Church and Satan agreed together in this, that Son and Mother went together; and the experience of three centuries has confirmed their testimony, for Catholics who have honoured the Mother, still worship the Son, while Protestants, who now have ceased to confess the Son, began then by scoffing at the Mother.”

I think we all instinctively know that Mary’s importance for Catholics is non-negotiable from the point of view of the catechism and of apologetics. But perhaps on a personal level, not all of us see—or feel—a real need for Mary to have a place in our lives, maybe aside from Catholic peer-pressure, whether it’s people we know making us feel “not Catholic enough” for not praying the Rosary daily, or social media posts we feel obliged to “like” in order to shore up our own perceived lack of Marian devotion.

I think it goes without saying that we’ve got nothing to lose by letting Mary into our lives and into our homes. She will take care of us and our children in ways better than any we could ever figure out on our own.

My own exposure to Marian devotion as a child was pretty simple. My paternal grandmother lived in our house and was an auxiliary member of the Legion of Mary. What that meant was that every morning she prayed the Rosary. She never invited us to join her, she just did it. The only time I can remember praying the Rosary as a family was the time my paternal grandfather was rushed to the hospital, and while he was in the emergency room, we went to the Catholic Church next to the hospital, lit a candle, and prayed a Rosary as a family. My parents explained that we would be saying 5 Our Fathers and 50 Hail Marys—the thought of it seemed like an eternity! But something that my grandmother would take the time to do every day without fail, and something we turned to in an emergency must have surely been important.


A little later on in life, in one of those father-son conversations about life, my dad told me about how when he was a child, my grandparents argued quite a lot and it scared him. And so he did the only thing he could think of at the time—he went into another room, closed his eyes, and prayed Hail Mary’s until they stopped arguing.


For me, these simple witnesses of the place that Mary had in my father’s and my paternal grandmother’s lives was sufficient to give Mary a place in my own life and in my Catholic identity. I would not say I was visibly or actively devoted to her right away, but in university when I was first challenged by an Evangelical Protestant friend (with whom I am still friends) about Catholic devotion to Mary, my first instinct was to defend her, rather than to dump or explain her away.


I think there is something essentially “arational” about devotion to Mary. I do not say irrational—which is against reason—but arational, meaning “beyond its confines.” Unlike Mariology, the reasoned and sometimes abstract sounding exploration of the theology of Mary, devotion to Mary is always necessarily personal. And our devotion to her, or lack thereof, will always be due to personal reasons.


It is common to make jokes about “adulting.” But it seems to me that the essence of “adulting” is figuring out how to do something all on your own. And it seems to me that this was exactly what Karl Rahner was talking about—no doubt a struggle he himself experienced. “Too many Christians, he said to me, whatever their religious obedience, have a tendency to make an ideology, an abstraction, out of Christianity.”


Are you “adulting” in your faith? Are you trying to figure it all out on your own?


Devotion to Mary is kind of an antidote to this kind of “adulting” because it is not something that we figure out all on our own for ourselves or our children. It is a relationship we live. Devotion to Mary is basically turning to Mama in your need. And whatever form that may take—it doesn’t have to be an Olympic endeavour—perhaps a prayer, or an image, or an activity like a May crowning; whatever it is, your children will pick up on it, as I did as a child from my dad and grandma. As one priest once said to a group of prospective seminarians at a Come & See weekend I attended: “You can’t fool the people. They will know if you have a devotion to the Holy Eucharist and to Our Lady or not.”


And so the month of May, traditionally devoted to Our Lady, is as good a time as any, I think, to have a look at the place that Mary has in our lives and in the lives of our families.


Does she even have a place?


Is my devotion to Mary just something I think I’m supposed to do because I’m “Catholic”?


Have I entrusted anything to Mary’s care?