FAITH MATTERS: The Month of May

Each Thursday evening a group have been gathering in fellowship to share a first century Palestine inspired meal, watch an episode of The Chosen and engage in discussion.

Last week’s episode was very intimate, the disciples revealed something of themselves which led the group to share parts of their lived experience of the Church. Being born post Vatican II my experience of Church did not include the Latin Mass nor the green catechism which many in the group could relate to. It was agreed that changes in traditions brought on by Vatican II were good, it gave a recognisable dialect to the Gospel and permission to encounter Jesus in a more human way. A participant recalls one of the local Sisters explaining the change in receiving communion, from kneeing at the alter rail and the host being placed on the tongue to being able to receive the Eucharist with your hands and walking as a community to the alter which now faced the congregation. This change instilled a sense that Jesus was accompanying you on the journey.  

One of the highlights of this episode was when Mother Mary joins the nomadic group of those who have been chosen. Like the others she shared something of herself in the birth of her son and remarks that as Jesus grew, he needed less of her which is a common feeling amongst all mothers. In a later scene her words are flipped when Jesus returns exhausted from a day of healing the afflicted and Mary washes his feet demonstrating a mother’s love. It is this love and her blinded agreement to say ‘Yes’ that Catholics position Mary in a place with great honour and respect.

While it is purely a coincidence that several significant motherly elements are attached to the month of May, our Catholic imagination can create powerful links.

It is during May that we in Australia much like other parts of the world celebrate our mums on Mother’s Day and May is the month devoted to Mother Mary. Individuals and communities give special reverence to Mary during this month, they might focus on the rosary, include the Angelus into their prayer life, spend time contemplating the Magnificat, create artworks devoted to Mary or ceremonially crown statues of Mary with flowers. These ritual actions are vast and varied depending on traditions and commitment to devotions.

May is also the month that Pope Francis launched Laudato Si, this focus on stewardship calls us to care for not only our environment, our mother earth but all that is living within it. While it must be noted that this church document was launched on 24 May, the Solemnity of Pentecost in 2015, we know that we would not have the birthday of the Church if Mary had not been part of the narrative.

It was earlier this year that I learnt about the 2022 documentary titled ‘The Letter’ which can be freely accessed online. The film tells the incredible story of the Laudato Si' through the eyes of frontline leaders battling the ecological crisis across continents. The film features Pope Francis and diverse stories from India, Senegal, Hawaii, and the Brazilian Amazon. Each of these local leaders represent a voice that is not being heard, the voice of wildlife, the voice of the Indigenous, the voice of the youth, and the voice of the poor. The film follows these people coming together in dialogue with each other and with Pope Francis as they find unity in their distinct worldviews and strength in our common values.

Mary our mother was born from the creator and Pope Francis speaks of her as the Queen of all Creation in the encyclical.

‘Mary, the Mother who cared for Jesus, now cares with maternal affection and pain for this wounded world. Just as her pierced heart mourned the death of Jesus, so now she grieves for the sufferings of the crucified poor and for the creatures of this world laid waste by human power. Completely transfigured, she now lives with Jesus, and all creatures sing of her fairness. She is the Woman, “clothed in the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev 12:1). Carried up into heaven, she is the Mother and Queen of all creation. In her glorified body, together with the Risen Christ, part of creation has reached the fullness of its beauty. She treasures the entire life of Jesus in her heart (cf. Lk 2:19,51), and now understands the meaning of all things. Hence, we can ask her to enable us to look at this world with eyes of wisdom.’ (241, Laudato Si')

Mother’s Day is the biggest trading day for florists (so is Good Friday for fish and chip shops, but we will leave this tradition for another time) it is no wonder as there is much beauty in our creation that is birthed. Mother Mary is often depicted in art with flowers especially the lily which symbolizes purity, innocence and virginity and the rose as Mary is often given the poetic title of Mystical Rose.

There is much to ponder about traditions past, present and it is only by, reading the signs of the time, imagination, and creativity of how things may look in the future.

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