The Blessed Virgin – May Devotions
Following her, you cannot go astray; praying to her, you cannot despair; thinking on her, you cannot err; in her hands, you cannot fall; under her protection, you have nothing to fear; under her guidance you cannot feel fatigued; under her patronage, you will arrive at your heavenly country in safety.” – St. Bernard
Catholics have ever loved Mary, and since the earliest ages there never existed a Catholic Church where her intercessory power was not fully acknowledged as in our own days. Hence at all times we find either her pictures, statues (often on the wayside), oratories or sanctuaries, festivals and confraternities. Hence, also, the many public devotions, indulgenced prayers, rosaries, scapulars and medals.
The month of May is specially consecrated to her. The devotions this month should, if possible, be performed in union with the congregation in a public church; but if unable to attend, they can be made at home in presence of an altar furnished according to taste and means. These pious exercises are sure to bring down blessings on ourselves and our homes.
We should not forget, however, that these exterior devotions to Mary do not avail much unless accompanied with earnest desires and efforts to imitate her virtues, especially purity of conscience, resignation in sufferings, and the faithful discharge of the duties of our state of life. Who could approve of the devotion of a mother of a family who would hear Mass in honour of the Blessed Virgin, or visit her shrines, when her children’s care and domestic concerns required her presence at home? Who could be satisfied with the genuineness of a person’s love for Mary, who on returning from her altars, speaks ill of others, judges rashly of them, or provokes them to anger? Such persons rather do an injury to our Blessed Mother. True devotion to Mary always supposes fervour in the service of the Almighty.
Blossoms the sweetest and jewels most rare,
Tapers whose starry flames token our love,
Upward aspiring to praise her above.
Lay at her spotless feet Nature and Art,
But let the crowning gift e’er be thy heart.”
Example – Alphonse Ratisbonne
Alphonse Ratisbonne, the son of a rich Jew, was born at Strasburg May 1, 1814. He was highly educated, but cared little for religion save to detest Christianity. Having set out on a tour to see the world, he visited Rome, and there became acquainted with Baron de Bussiere, who was a fervent convert, and who tried to persuade him to become one also. Ratisbonne replied with a scornful smile and even blasphemy.
De Bussiere’s zeal was increased by the genuine pity he felt for his friend’s spiritual blindness, and he felt himself inspired to argue no further, but to try the effects of our Lady’s intercession.
Accordingly he gave him a miraculous medal, requesting him to wear it around his neck, which Ratisbonne promised reluctantly to do. Meantime De Bussiere got Count de la Ferronays, late Ambassador to Russia, and several other friends to pray fervently for his conversion. The Count died a few days later, and while the Church of St. Andrew was being prepared for the funeral obsequies, Ratisbonne entered it by chance about midday. What happened is best described in his own words: “Oh, what prayers the good Baron must have said for me! How happy I am! How good God is!
What a plentitude of grace and happiness! How deserving of pity are those who haven’t the Faith! I was only a minute in the church, when suddenly I felt myself seized with inexpressible trouble. I raised my eyes, and the edifice disappeared from my view, except a single spot which was a blaze of light. In the midst appeared the Blessed Virgin, tall, brilliant, full of majesty and sweetness, just as she is represented on the medal. I felt drawn towards her.
She made a sign to me as if to kneel down, but did not speak; but I understood what she would have said. O my God! this happened to me, who a half-hour previously blasphemed and had such a hatred against the Catholic religion.”
The celestial vision changed the disposition of his heart. He burst into tears, and was instantaneously converted from Judaism to Catholicism. After proper instruction, he was baptized. Later on he renounced the brilliant prospects held out by immense wealth and rare talents, and became a member of a religious Order.
Catholic Life or Feasts, Fasts, and Devotions of the Ecclesiastical Year