It's the Month of Mary. What Shall We Do About It?

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Father Chris Alar, MIC, director of the Association of Marian Helpers here at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, shares some tips on how to make the most of May — the sweet month of Mary:

Fittingly, we'll celebrate three Marian feast days during May. On May 13, we honor Our Lady of Fatima on the occasion in 1917 when Our Lady first appeared to three shepherd children in Portugal. This May, for the first time, thanks to Pope Francis, the Church will celebrate Mary's role as "Mother of the Church" on the Monday after Pentecost - this year it's May 21. Pope Francis added the memorial to the Roman Calendar to encourage growth in "the maternal sense of the Church" and in "genuine Marian piety." Then on May 31, we celebrate the feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary - when Mary heard that her elderly cousin, Elizabeth, was expecting a child, she hurried to her to help.

As Fr. Chris says, the Church has a long history of dedicating the month to Our Lady, but history isn't what he wants to stress with you. Rather, he wants to stress that Our Lady is present here today. She is here for us. This is the same Mother of God who gave birth through the Holy Spirit to the Son of God so that we might be redeemed. This is the same Immaculate Virgin who has asked us for prayers, penance, and reparation for sin. Through her, we find our way to Jesus.

God uses Mary to save souls. She knows our needs. She answers our prayers. We can depend on her.

When we think of May, perhaps we think of spring cleaning. And indeed Mary's month provides an ideal time to "clean up" spiritually — to draw closer to Our Lady, reconnect with her, or begin the relationship.

With the Month of Mary, we have a perfect occasion to gratefully accept the gift Jesus gave us in the revelatory moments before His death. Remember, from the Gospel of John: "When Jesus saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing near, He said to His mother, 'Woman, behold, your son!' Then He said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother!'"

Here, Jesus establishes Mary's role in the life of the Church. She is to be our mother, too, our spiritual mother.

How shall we honor our mother in Mary's month? By drawing closer to her.

Father Chris recommends several ways.

Pray the Rosary daily - surrender your prayers so that she may use them as she pleases in a way that does the most good. The Rosary allows us to gaze at Christ's life through Our Lady's eyes. Mary promises us special graces when we pray the Rosary. It draws us close to Mary in our need.

Consecrate yourself to Mary - or reconsecrate yourself to her. You can do so through Fr. Michael Gaitley's 33 Days to Morning Glory do-it-yourself retreat - an accessible way to enter into the spirituality of some of the great Marian saints: St. Louis de Montfort, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. John Paul II, and St. Teresa of Calcutta. Each of these saints made Mary central to their lives and their mission of holiness. After 33 days of prayer and study, you can consecrate (or re-consecrate) yourself to Our Lady - entrusting your entire life to her.

Here's another suggestion from Fr. Chris: Informally check in with the Blessed Mother throughout each day. Ask her for help with whatever you may need. Talk to her naturally. She's a great listener. She wishes to intercede for us. We can lay all of it in Mary's lap knowing that she who has been called the "undoer of Knots" never fails to do the work that Jesus Himself entrusted to her when He said, "Woman, behold your son." Through prayer, allow Our Lady to help you - to protect you and to escort you to her divine Son, our Lord.

Here's a final suggestion: Consider a pilgrimage with Mary. Ever since the Magi journeyed from the East to adore Jesus in Bethlehem, pilgrims have sought out holy Christian places out of love for Jesus and Mary. Shrines allow us to leave the familiar in order to find God. There are many shrines to choose from that have a strong Marian devotion, including our own National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, here in the beautiful Berkshires of western Massachusetts.

Through a pilgrimage, you can turn to Mary because, first, we can learn from her. She is the one who always loved God with an undivided heart. And what is a pilgrimage if not a concerted effort on our parts to unite our divided selves to God. Unlike many of us, Mary never let the din of her daily life stand in the way of her relationship with God. He was always front and center. "May it be done to me according to your word," she said to the angel Gabriel.

A pilgrimage gives you the opportunity to stop, to put your lives in freeze frame, and, like Mary, say "yes" to God.

With Mary in our hearts, we can enter May with hope and trust of the unimaginable graces our Lord has prepared for us. No matter how far away we feel we are from God, Our Lady, who loves us dearly, can serve as our co-pilot, pointing us safely toward salvation.

We pray that this month you will embrace your God-given identity as a child of Mary - our heavenly Mother who continues to guide us with spiritual light on our earthly journey — this month, and every month.

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Judy K - May 3, 2018

There is another feast of Our Lady in May, that is the Feast of Mary Help of Christians celebrated on May 24th.

Elizabeth - May 2, 2018

Thanks Father Joseph:
I pray that God will give me the grace to draw closer to Our Blessed Mother.

Mary - May 2, 2018

Thank you, Fr. Chris.