Month of Mary: Its History

Source: St. Isidore Church & Priory

The month-long dedication to a particular devotion is a relatively recent form of popular piety not found in general use until the 18th century.

Thus the month of St. Joseph (March), begun in Viterbo, was approved by Pius IX on June 12, 1855; the month of the Rosary (October), begun in Spain, was approved by Pius IX on July 28, 1868 and recommended by Leo XIII (1883); the month of the Sacred Heart (June), begun in the Convent of the Birds of Paris in 1833 and encouraged by Bishop de Quelen, was approved by Pius IX on May 8, 1873.

The month of the Holy Name of Jesus was approved by Leo XIII in 1902 (January), and the month of the Precious Blood approved by Pius IX in 1850 (July); the month of Our Lady of Sorrows was approved by Pius IX in 1857 (September), the month of the Souls in Purgatory approved by Leo XIII in 1888 (November).

The Month of Mary

As early as the 13th century, we find mention of it in the poems to Mary (Cantigas de Santa Maria) by King Alfonso X of Castile, known as the Wise (1252-1284). He compares the beauty of Mary to that of the month of May. In the following century, the blessed Dominican Henri Suso had, during the time of flowers, the habit of braiding crowns to offer them to the Virgin on the first day of May.

In 1549, a Benedictine, V. Seidl, published a book entitled The Spiritual Month of May, when St. Philip Neri was already urging young people to show special devotion to Mary during the month of May when he gathered children around the altar of the Blessed Virgin to offer her, with the flowers of spring, the virtues that he had brought to bloom in their young souls.

The promotion of the “month of Mary” owes much to the Italian Jesuits who published numerous works on the subject at the beginning of the 18th century. In this way the Jesuit father Alfonso Muzzarelli published in 1785 in Ferrara (Italy) The Month of Mary or May, which was widely distributed. He offers meditations on the virtues of the Virgin for every day of the month of May.

The Camillians claim the honor of having inaugurated the month of Mary in its present form, in 1784. The Jesuits emphasized the family aspect by recommending that an altar to Mary should be erected on the eve of the first of May, in each house, and be adorned with flowers, in front of which the family would gather to recite prayers in honor of the Blessed Virgin each day of the month before drawing lots for a ticket which would indicate the virtue to be practiced the next day.

These practices fell into disuse in the 1970s.

The Month of Mary in France

Thanks to the Jesuits’ work, the “month of Mary” reached France on the eve of the Revolution. The venerable Louise of France, daughter of Louis XV and prioress of the Carmel of Saint-Denis, was a zealous propagator. This practice only had a general character with the popular missions of the Restoration, and its official approval by the Holy See (November 21, 1815).

After the Jansenists, the constitutional clergy was fiercely opposed to this devotion and we know that Msgr. Belmas, concordat bishop of Cambrai, formerly constitutional bishop of Aude, was a resolute opponent. But thanks to the approval of Pius VII, the devotion triumphed.

Finally, let us recall that, since February 10, 1638, France had been officially consecrated to the Blessed Virgin following the vow pronounced by King Louis XIII.

Let us take advantage of this month which is dedicated to her to ask the Mother of the Savior for her powerful protection over ourselves, our country, and our families, and to pray to her to hasten the triumph of her Immaculate Heart.