The Catholic practice of assigning a special devotion to each month goes back to the early 16th century. Since the best known of those devotions is probably the dedication of May as the month of the Blessed Virgin Mary, it might come as a surprise that it wasn’t until the late 18th century that this devotion arose among Jesuits in Rome. In the early years of the 19th century, it quickly spread throughout the Western Church, and, by the time of Pope Pius IX’s declaration of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854, it had become universal.
May crownings and other special events in May in honor of Mary, such as public recitation of the rosary, stem from this time. Sadly, such communal events are rare today, but we can take the month of May as an opportunity to renew our own devotion to the Mother of God by dusting off our rosaries and adding a few more Marian prayers to our daily routine.
Parents, in particular, should encourage Marian devotion in their children, since the non-Catholic Christians they encounter today often downplay (if not denigrate) the role that the Blessed Virgin played in our salvation through her fiat—her joyous “Yes” to the will of God.
Some or all of the following prayers to the Blessed Virgin can be incorporated into our daily prayers during this month.
In the Western Church, the rosary is the preeminent form of prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Once a daily feature of Catholic life, it is now seeing a revival after decades of disuse. May is a very good month to begin praying the rosary daily.
The Hail Holy Queen (also commonly known by its Latin name, the Salve Regina) is one of four special anthems to the Mother of God that have traditionally been part of the Liturgy of the Hours, and which vary depending on the season. This prayer is also commonly said at the end of the rosary and in morning prayers.
In this prayer, Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430) illustrates both Christian reverence for the Mother of God and the proper understanding of intercessory prayer. We pray to the Blessed Virgin so that she might present our prayers to God and obtain forgiveness from Him for our sins.
St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787), one of the 33 Doctors of the Church, wrote this beautiful prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary, in which we hear echoes of both the Hail Mary and the Hail Holy Queen. Just as our mothers were the first to teach us to love Christ, the Mother of God continues to present her Son to us and to present us to Him.
Hail, most gracious Mother of mercy, hail, Mary, for whom we fondly yearn, through whom we obtain forgiveness! Who would not love thee? Thou art our light in uncertainty, our comfort in sorrow, our solace in the time of trial, our refuge from every peril and temptation. Thou art our sure hope of salvation, second only to thy only-begotten Son; blessed are they who love thee, our Lady! Incline, I beseech thee, thy ears of pity to the entreaties of this thy servant, a miserable sinner; dissipate the darkness of my sins by the bright beams of thy holiness, in order that I may be acceptable in thy sight.
An Explanation of the Prayer to Mary, Refuge of Sinners
This prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary sounds a familiar theme: Mary as the font of mercy and forgiveness, through whom we obtain forgiveness of our sins and protection from temptation.
O Mary, my dear Mother, how much I love thee! And yet in reality how little! Thou dost teach me what I ought to know, for thou teachest me what Jesus is to me and what I ought to be for Jesus. Dearly beloved Mother, how close to God thou art, and how utterly filled with Him! In the measure that we know God, we remind ourselves of thee. Mother of God, obtain for me the grace of loving my Jesus; obtain for me the grace of loving thee!
An Explanation of a Prayer for the Grace of Love
This prayer was written by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930), the secretary of state for Pope Saint Pius X. It reminds us that Mary is the perfect example of the Christian life, who in her own actions shows us true love for Christ.
In this beautiful prayer, we ask the Blessed Virgin Mary for her protection and for the grace to imitate her in her love of Christ, and Christ in His love of her. As the Mother of Christ, she is our mother, too, and we look to her for guidance as we look to our mothers on earth.
O blessed Virgin, Mother of God, look down in mercy from heaven, where thou art enthroned as Queen, upon me, a miserable sinner, thine unworthy servant. Although I know full well my own unworthiness, yet in order to atone for the offenses that are done to thee by impious and blasphemous tongues, from the depths of my heart I praise and extol thee as the purest, the fairest, the holiest creature of all God’s handiwork. I bless thy holy name, I praise thine exalted privilege of being truly Mother of God, ever virgin, conceived without stain of sin, co-redemptrix of the human race. I bless the Eternal Father who chose thee in an especial way for His daughter; I bless the Word Incarnate who took upon Himself our nature in thy bosom and so made thee His Mother; I bless the Holy Spirit who took thee as His bride. All honor, praise and thanksgiving to the ever-blessed Trinity, who predestined thee and loved thee so exceedingly from all eternity as to exalt thee above all creatures to the most sublime heights. O Virgin, holy and merciful, obtain for all who offend thee the grace of repentance, and graciously accept this poor act of homage from me thy servant, obtaining likewise for me from thy divine Son the pardon and remission of all my sins. Amen.
An Explanation of the Act of Reparation to the Blessed Virgin Mary
Since the Protestant Reformation, many Christians have not simply downplayed devotion to Mary but have attacked Marian doctrines (such as her perpetual virginity) that are attested from the earliest days of the Church. In this prayer, we offer praise to the Blessed Virgin Mary and to the Holy Trinity in reparation for offenses against the Mother of God.
Thou who wast a virgin before thy delivery, pray for us.
Hail Mary, etc.
Thou who wast a virgin in thy delivery, pray for us.
Hail Mary, etc.
Thou who wast a virgin after thy delivery, pray for us.
Hail Mary, etc.
My Mother, deliver me from mortal sin.
Hail Mary, etc. (three times).
Mother of love, of sorrow and of mercy, pray for us.
Remember, O Virgin Mother of God, when thou shalt stand before the face of the Lord, that thou speak favorable things in our behalf and that He may turn away His indignation from us.
Thou art my Mother, O Virgin Mary: keep me safe lest I ever offend thy dear Son, and obtain for me the grace to please Him always and in all things. Amen.
An Explanation of the Invocations to the Blessed Virgin Mary
This short prayer is very similar in structure to the Angelus, and, like the Angelus, it includes repetitions of the Hail Mary. In it, we invoke the Blessed Virgin Mary for her help in safeguarding our virtue. The first verses recall Mary’s own chastity (through the doctrine of her perpetual virginity), setting her up as our example. Then the prayer turns to our request: that Mary may obtain for us the grace to avoid mortal sin. This is a very good prayer to pray at times when we are feeling tempted and afraid of falling into sin.
Normally, prayers that invoke the saints ask them to intercede for us with God. But in this prayer, we ask God that the Blessed Virgin Mary intercede for us.