Marian Devotions for May

As any parent of young children knows, sometimes our kids publicly repeat things that we have said in the privacy of our homes. Occasionally, the words and phrases are ones that we had hoped to keep, well, private (I’m looking at you, gossip and vulgarity), but sometimes, the ideas expressed are just plain hilarious coming out of the mouth of a child in an unexpected setting.

For instance, something that I often say to my children — passed down to me from my mother and grandmother — is the aphorism, “there’s no accounting for personal taste.” Meaning that there’s no way to understand individual preferences, I tell this to my children when I notice them commenting on the other’s choices with bafflement (“You don’t want sprinkles?!”), or worse, making some sort of accusatory judgement about a family member, friend or acquaintance (“She likes to play on the slide instead of the swings”). Because of both its old-timey sound and its solid wisdom, I was delighted when I overheard my three-year-old repeat the saying to my dad after he expressed surprise at her choice of a popsicle over a cookie.

“There’s no accounting for personal taste.” Not only have I integrated this gem into my parenting, but I also find it valuable when considering the spiritual life. God is infinite beyond our knowing, and our religious tradition is ancient and vast. The prayerful practices that assist one seeker in connecting with God may mean little to another, just as the religious art that draws one person’s soul heavenward may do nothing to move someone else. With that being said, I believe that there is great value in exploring different rituals, observances and traditions so as to be able to find ones that open your heart and mind to the deeper reality that we call God.

One set of these spiritual exercises, broadly, are Marian devotions, which are any sort of prayerful practice that are directed to the person of Mary, Mother of God. Within the Catholic tradition, there are a myriad of Marian devotions, and I’d like to introduce you to three today. Perhaps, during this “Month of Mary,” you might make time for all of them, if you don’t already.

The Rosary

I’ve written about the Rosary a lot before, and it’s because I know the devotion is beloved by many. The string of beads and its corresponding practice encapsulates fundamental prayers like the Sign of the Cross, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Hail Mary, serving as a statement of faith that can be used for both individual and communal prayer. Its Mysteries, reflecting on Jesus's life, offer profound meditation material, while the beads, iconic and sacramental, aid in prayer counting. The Rosary draws the person praying into the lives of both Mary and Jesus, and inasmuch, serve to nurture one’s faith on multiple levels.

As an added bonus, there are so many beautiful rosaries to choose from. Right now, I’m especially drawn to this rosewood rosary bracelet and this marigold rosary.

Regular Recitation of the Angelus

The Angelus is a simple and brief set of prayers based on the Annunciation as told in the Gospel of Luke. Folks who pray it regularly often begin and end their day with the prayers, as well as integrating them into their midday. By calling to mind Mary’s fiat — her “let it be done;” her “yes” — the Angelus invites us to also surrender to God’s invitations in our lives.

There are many ways to begin a regular practice of praying the Angelus. Quite simply, you could set alarms on your phone for 9 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m., at which time you google "the Angelus" to remind yourself of the words. There are also apps like Praying the Angelus that incorporate the prayers and the reminding. Or, you can pair up with your spouse or a Catholic friend and take turns calling one another to pray together.

The Miraculous Medal Novena

The Miraculous Medal, also known as the Medal of Our Lady of Graces, is a devotional medal that originated in France during the 1830s after a woman named Catherine Labouré experienced apparitions of Mary. The medal depicts Mother Mary, with her hands open (as she appeared to Catherine Labouré) on one side, and a cross intertwined with the letter M - signifying Mary and Jesus’s close relationship —as well as the sacred heart, on the other.

A novena is a form of worship that includes the repetition of certain prayers on nine successive days. There are hundreds of novenas (from the All Saints Novena to the Surrender Novena to the Christmas Novena to the St. Joseph Novena), and as you probably guessed, the Miraculous Medal Novena includes prayers to Mary and an integration of the medal.

Oh, and here’s an extra fun fact: the Miraculous Medal novena has been prayed at the Miraculous Medal Shrine every Monday since December 8, 1930.

May this Month of Mary grace you with the gentle faithfulness that our Mother Mary embodied!

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