I just heard from a colleague of mine, a DRE who was a student at Quigley South High School when I taught there back in the 1980s! Patrick says, “Hello Joe! All is well at the parish. We finished a great year on May 3 with a May Crowning with all of the students.”
Yes, May Crownings still happen!
I remember with great fondness the May Crownings of my childhood…nothing said “spring is here” more powerfully than a good May Crowning.
Are May Crownings passe? Hopefully not. As catechists, a May Crowning is a good opportunity for us to help those we teach understand that Catholics do not worship Mary but rather honor her.
May Crownings may be considered out of date by some but, with the proper catechesis, they can continue to be a wonderful devotion and a way to bring us closer to Jesus. So what makes for “sound” Marian devotion? In his apostolic exhortation on Mary, Marialis Cultus (To Honor Mary), Pope Paul VI outlined five characteristics that are required, saying that sound Marian devotions and good Marian theology must be:
- Biblical—rooted in the testimony of Scripture
- Liturgical—in tune with the great liturgical seasons
- Ecumenical—in harmony with the agreements we have reached with fellow Christian churches
- Anthropological—sensitive to the changing role of women in society (i.e. presenting Mary as a woman who was passive and subservient does not resonate with the perception of women in today’s society)
- Theological—have God at the center—with Mary placed in relation to Christ and to the Church
You can celebrate a simple May Crowning with those you teach by doing the following:
- Place a statue of Mary on a pedestal.
- Sing a hymn honoring Mary.
- Read a Scripture passage about Mary such as Luke 1:26-38 (the Anunciation); Luke 1:39-45 (the Visitation); Luke 2:6-12 (the Nativity); Luke 2:41-50 (the boy Jesus in the Temple); John 2:1-12 (the wedding feast at Cana); Luke 23:27-29 (Mary meets Jesus carrying his cross); John 19:25-30 (Mary at the foot of the cross).
- Offer a brief reflection on the role of Mary as the first disciple (or, if you do this May Crowning for catechists, reflect on Mary as the model catechist).
- Walk in procession while singing or playing a Marian hymn.
- Place a garland of flowers on the head of the statue.
- Pray the Hail Mary, the Hail, Holy Queen, or the Memorare.
Click here for a good list of other Marian resources for catechists. If you are looking for a good explanation of why May is considered the month of Mary, click here. Finally, if you’re looking for a good resource to better understand the role of Mary in the Church, consider getting a hold of Jim Campbell’s Mary and the Saints, part of the Catholic Basics series.
Have you recently experienced a May Crowning? Tell us about it!
The church I work at is traditional. I did the May Crowning on Mother’s Day this year.
I had a local florist make the crown, and I bought a bouquet of flowers.
The tradition is that one of the First Communion kids crowns Mary. First Communion was the Sunday before so I called all the kids and invited them. Only one child who made First Communion came for practice so I didn’t have to choose someone to crown Mary. Then I asked all the children at the Mass to be in the procession (there aren’t many kids who come to Mass on Sunday:-( I took kids were were as young as four, but next year I would limit it to a little older (since they had to stand at the altar during the prayers).
The kids were in the procession at the beginning of Mass while a Mary song was sung. Each child had a tulip that they placed in the vase in front of Mary. Then the priest said the prayers that were in the missalette (including a litany of Saints). Father was kneeling in front of Mary while he prayed and the kids stood around him or knelt next to him. The girl crowning Mary also knelt. Then Mary was crowned.
It was a great opportunity for the kids to feel involved in the Mass. And there were lots of smiles on their faces that they could be in the procession and carry a flower.
I have to admit I was skeptical and thought it was an old tradition, but I was glad I was open to it. The kids were so proud, and the priest enjoyed interacting with the kids.
Thanks for sharing, Jenn. Did the May Crowning actually take place within a Sunday Mass or was it a separate liturgical experience?
We had the May crowning following our Family Life Mass on Mother’s Day.
We invited all the children who received their First Holy Communion to participate. Flyers were given out at Mass and through the CCD and Catholic school. The children were asked to wear their Communion attire. We picked a boy to carry the crown (crown was purchased from a local florist) during the procession and a girl who crowned Mary. We have the Blessed Mother Statue in front of our rectory. The children processed out of the church to the Blessed Mother statue. Parishioners were given a pamplet with the songs to be sung and Entrustment to Mary and Crowning Prayer. A decade of the Rosary was recited. We had about 15 Holy Communion children participate .Our Parish Priest participated. The week prior we did a crowning of the Blessed Mother at our Hospitality breakfast. We encourage the children who received their First Holy Communion to come to the breakfast. We than pick a child to crown Mary while the parishioners sing Bring Flowers of the Rarest.
Thanks, Debbie. Sounds alot like what I experienced as a child!
We had a May Crowning at our parish on the Saturday before Mother’s Day. It is still a tradition in our parish…although not terribly well attended. We probably had 30-40 first communicants (out of 200+) attend and they proceeded in and laid flowers at the feet of Mary then one of them crowned her. It was beautiful. First time I had been in many years.
We prayed the Rosary first, then had the procession, then Mass. At the end of Mass, our pastor blessed any articles that our kids had received the week before from their First Communion (and any articles anyone else wanted blessed). It was a great way to spend a sunny Saturday morning!
Greg, sounds like a beautiful experience. Thanks for sharing.
The May Crowning at my Church was at the regular Sunday Mass at the beginning right after the procession in. The First Communion girl/Crowner of Mary wore a nice dress not her First Communion dress.
I don’t think many people would attend a seperate May Crowning. It makes me wonder if it was liturgically correct, but I prefer not to think about it since it was beautiful:-)
It has made me wonder what ways can I find for the younger kids to get involved in Mass each week.
Jenn, I was just curious. I’ve only seen a May Crowning incorporated into the Mass once before and it sounded to me like that’s what you were describing. I’ll leave the liturgical correctness question to someone with more expertise! I’m more accustomed to May Crownings being a separate event or as a short celebration after Mass.
Joe, your explanation and understanding of May Crowning was well stated. However, I do not believe it is good theology to mix a balanced understanding of Mariology with First Eucharist (or First Communion). The honoring of Mary goes way back to the early church and their understanding of Mary as the “Theotokos” or God-Bearer. First Eucharist for young children only began in the beginning of the 1900’s. I believe we should keep these rituals separate for good theological understanding.
Jeanne, thanks for your thoughts.
Each year our Catholic School crowns Mary at an evening prayer service. Second graders wear their First Eucharist clothes (or nice clothes) and Eighth graders, our school buddies and the oldest in the building, also are involved. The service is filled with the appropriate Marian hymns. We process in and recite the rosary. The priest announces the mystery with a very brief explanation. Mary’s Court (4 second, 2 eighth) recite a decade of the rosary. Next mystery. Second grade girls. Then second grade boys. The all of 8th grade. Then all of 2nd and 8th. Mary is crowned. Then (forgive me if I using the wrong term) the Benediction of the Eucharist occurs and the many present experience the exposure of the Eucharist for the first time. Somewhere in there is a long prayer as well. Quite moving, but not terribly well-attended. Few parishoners; mostly families of the 2nd and 8th.
Kimberly, thanks for telling us about your school’s May Crowning.
These descriptions are great! I believe our parish & school does this as well, but I’m out of the First Communion loop.
Christian, thanks for joining the discussion!
We recently had an evening May Crowning Service (before this our May crownings were tacked on to the end of one of the Masses, and the crowning itself was often completed before everyone could gather). We invited students to be part of the procession, and held a drawing to pick the “crowner” and their court. We were excited that a young man was picked; his parents were thrilled. There were not a lot of students (we have no school) who participated, but they were a variety of ages, not just First Communion kids.
Our prayer service consisted of readings, prayers and many Marian hymns. We had a nice size assembly for this; the people were a variety of ages, not just the mature members of our parish. As an aside, I spoke with the mom of the young man who crowned Mary — although religious, she was not raised with the tradition of May crownings, and said that she had no idea what a big deal it was. It turned out that her husband had signed up their son — who had a baseball game that started at 5PM, when the service was scheduled to begin at 6:30PM. We all lucked out; it was an evening threatening weather and rain, and his game got rained out!
Mary, what a wonderful story…love the rain-out angle!
Our music director prepared the May Crowning ceremony this year after the 10:00 Mass. We have a beautiful statue of Mary on our portico in front of the church which used to be in a grotto before the restoration of the church. All of the parish attending mass were invited to join him in front of Mary and we sang songs and two children crowned her with a wreath of flowers and ribbons. It was precious seeing the littlest children trying to get closer to the “action”. I think next year I will ask the new First Communicants to wear their outfits to Mass and celebrate again. In the past we had the religious formation classes participate but we changed to include the parish.
I am in charge of the May Crowning at our parish and am amazed at the number of children who want to participate….ours is not formally done with rehearsals, etc., but the way I feel Our Lord would want us to honor his Mother….let the children come to me….and come they do for this beautiful ceremony.
I’ll address the issue of when to hold a May Crowning–during Mass or on a separate day. Like most parishes, ours is made up of busy families and sadly, getting to Mass, let alone a separate celebration, is a challenge for many. But I agree that it’s not liturgically correct to hold the celebration during Mass. So many of us catechists schedule a weekday Mary crowning during our catechism classes. I realize it’s not as much of an “event,” but we do our best. I’ve had the kids make blue tissue paper flowers (or I’ve made them myself ahead of time) to place around Mary’s statue. (Sometimes we’ll make an extra one they can bring home to Mom.) I also have a florist friend who is Catholic who gets really excited about donating the flower crown. Depending on the age group, we’ll do a lesson about Mary, and then make the procession to one of the statues in or around the church. My older kids won’t sing, but they like the procession idea, so we’ll usually play some music while they process. I wouldn’t call it processing, though, with the older kids. More like shuffling. Still, they’re starting to “get it.” Sometimes that’s all I can ask for!
Connie, thanks for sharing your experience. This is very helpful and shows that there is always a way to pass along our faith heritage.
Our Catholic K-8th school has had a May Crowning yearly. We do it on a school day in May. All students participate and parents who would like to. The second graders are invited to wear their First Eucharist clothes. Eighth grade students choose representatives for the May Court based on examples of Faith, Hope and Love. Our parents make beautiful arches of fresh flowers, we pray the “living rosary”, representatives from each class lead a Hail Mary. The May Court leads the rosary and crowns the Mary statue. Our music minister and children’s choir lead the music with Marian hymns. Recently we have added images of Mary with a powerpoint of sacred images of the mysteries and the words to the hymns and the Apostles’s Creed and the Hail, Holy Queen, so our students who do not know these prayers by heart can join in. Our families from Guatemala have begun making a carpet of flowers on the ground as is the tradition in their country. This year a priest has been asked to join us. Are there prayers anyone has as suggestions, if father needs them?
Joyce, what a beautiful description of your May Crowning! Thanks for sharing!
May crownings definitely exist in our parishes. I teach in a consolidated Catholic school and each parish(there are 5) has its own crowning. As a school we do as well. We are a 6,7,8 middle school. Everyone attends (it is during school and parents and other parishioners are invited–some come). Our eighth graders study Mary as she is revealed to us in Scripture. Then they choose 5 students from their class that best exemplify Mary and her virtues.
These students form the May Court–boys and girls have equal opportunity here. The students have ALWAYS done a thoughtful and reverent job making their choices by secret ballot. Then the 5 court members each write an essay about how they are most inspired by Mary and how they reflect her virtues in their lives. 3 -5 teachers read the essays blindly and from their rankings, the crown-er and the crown bearer are chosen. All students in the Court have a reading part in the ceremony. Our principal writes a brief talk using the ideas from the essays. Our student government leaders lead a decade of the Rosary; we process out from Church to our statue; we sing two hymns; we dedicate our lives to God and ask for Mary’s help to do this. It is a beautiful ceremony that is always well received by all who attend. The sixth and seventh graders really soak up the good attitudes and look forward to their own year.
Thanks, Karen…this is very informative.
What do you think about having a short May crowning after each Mass on the weekend? Our Pastor is thinking abut doing that so that all the Parishioners may have the experience of crowning Our Blessed Mother – we have a VERY large parish – 5200 families….
Fran, I see no reason why that can’t be done!
Our school May crowning ceremony is being cancelled by the DRE and music director this year. They have stated that the crowning should be in done in a parish only ONCE as far as liturgy should go. Can anyone shed some light on this for me? It is such a shame to lose our school ceremony. It is much like the beautiful ceremonies described above. By the way, we have a school liturgy Every Thursday. I’d like to know if it is indeed inappropriate to have a separate school crowning.
Beth, that comes as a surprise to me. I’ve not heard of any limitation concerning a May Crowning and can’t think of a reason why it needs to be limited. Maybe someone else out there knows something.