A 3882

Mary’s Month:

Meditations on the Litany of Loreto for the Month of May

In his poem, “May Magnificat,” British poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889), a convert to Catholicism under St. John Henry Newman’s discipleship, suggests that it is fitting that the Church offer “Mary May” because of the natural confluence of spring, motherhood, new life, and the Easter season:

All things rising, all things sizing            

Mary sees, sympathising         

With that world of good,  

Nature’s motherhood.        

 

Their magnifying of each its kind          

With delight calls to mind     

How she did in her stored 

Magnify the Lord.               

This ecstasy all through mothering earth                

Tells Mary her mirth till Christ’s birth 

To remember and exultation              

In God who was her salvation.

It is unsurprising that St. John Henry Newman echoes these ideas in his “Meditations on the Litany of Loreto for the Month of May,” dedicated with a warm tone to the “boys of the Oratory school,” but meant for wider circulation. Indeed, the meditations, including one for each day of May, culminate in a lively defense of the doctrine of Mary’s Immaculate Conception to which the reader is commended. 

Before beginning in a daily reflection on each of the Blessed Virgin’s titles in the Litany of Loreto, the meditations for May 1 and May 2 introduce why May is Mary’s month: it is a month of promise, and a month of joy. 

Fresh foliage, green grass, wild winds and the rains of early spring suffuse May with blossoms of “gladness and joyousness,” the full experiences of “external nature” flooding our senses, a “fit attendant on our devotion to her who is the Mystical Rose and the House of Gold.” 

But what if May includes storms, rains, allergies, disappointment, bad weather? Even so, Newman says, May “begins and heralds in the summer,” and is thus a month of “promise and of hope.” Whatever brief unpleasantness we may experience, fine weather is coming sooner or later. God’s promises are real through all the brief or long spells of trial and pain in this life; in the words of the Prophet Habakkuk, “Brightness and beautifulness shall appear at the end, and shall not lie: if it make delay, wait for it, for it shall surely come, and shall not be slack” (2:3). 

Since the central promise of our faith is the Incarnation, and its glorious fulfillment our life in heaven, then what better way to celebrate May than with increased meditation on Our Blessed Mother?  Christ, our “Blessed Lord” is the flower of the “rod, or beautiful stalk or stem or plant” of “Mary, Mother of our Lord, Mary, Mother of God.” The prophets foretold a day when “God should come upon earth,” and He has most gloriously fulfilled this promise: he came among us, and now remains with us by the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, whose coming at Pentecost is the fulfillment of the glorious promise of the Easter season.

Further, taking Mary as a focal point is entirely fitting to the Easter season, a time of “frequent Alleluias,” since Christ is risen and ascended, and “God the Holy Ghost has come down to take His place,” a reality in which the Blessed Virgin Mary has first place as the “first of creatures” in God’s New Creation, in whom the Holy Spirit initiated our salvation in Christ through her Divine motherhood.

The month of May, devoted to Mary, likewise initiates us into two central realities of the Gospel: our call to bear the Divine Presence, and the purification of our rational nature to fully reflect that Presence. Mary shows us how to bear God’s presence, how to be a New Israel, our very bodies and souls temples of the Holy Spirit. This makes life a humbling and exciting adventure. Along this journey, we should beg to be protected under Mary’s mantle, and with her guidance to root out all sin so as to reflect the Divine Attributes of God in our rational souls. To be close to God is to burn with and share His very life. The Blessed Virgin Mary, the perfect disciple of Christ, our mother in the economy of grace and our Queen, can teach us how to be holy, how to be completely overshadowed with the Holy Spirit. 

In another poem on Mary, Hopkins compares the full life of heaven that Mary lived in to the air we breathe, a “world-mothering air” that mantles and provides a setting, an atmosphere, for life—in Mary’s case, the Divine Life of Christ among us: 

Not flesh but spirit now         

… makes, O marvellous!     

New Nazareths in us,                  

Where she shall yet conceive 

Him, morning, noon, and eve…

Like the new life about us in the month of May, keeping Mary’s life about us can make us, our very souls and lives, new Nazareths, new Bethlehems, new Incarnations of Christ’s presence and charity in the world. 

To kindle this, one need look no farther than keeping up with Newman’s daily Marian meditations on the Litany of Loreto titles for the remaining days in May.

Like this article?

Newman lays down a firm rule in the light of life's abundant blessings: the Christian is not allowed to be gloomy.

Newman wrote, “I have been accustomed to consider the action of the creator on and in the created universe, as parallel in a certain sense to that of the soul upon the body.”

Leave a comment

We need to remember our mortality, so that we may be ready to meet Our Lord each and every day. Lent and lenten mortifications have a role in this preparation. We must die to self daily, so that we may be brought to the glory of His resurrection. 

Our Books

About Cardinal John Henry Newman

Purchase Book


A Guide to John Henry Newman will interest educated readers and professors alike, and serve as a text for college seminars for the purpose of studying Newman.

Review by Catherine Maybanks
(Catholic Herald, April 1, 2023)

Review by Serenheed James
(Antiphon, April 2023)

Purchase Book

 
Fr Peter Conley takes us on an exciting journey into the spirituality and inner life of Saint John Henry Newman.
 

Purchase Book


Endorsement by Neyra Blanco (Amazon)
I bought this book for my son and he loved it, he wrote this review and urged my to submitted: “I think this book has a very beautiful message, because it shows how the young Newman was so determined to achieve his dream of becoming a priest, but even after his dream he continued to work in the church with passion until the day he died, it’s so admirable that even Newman so old and so weak still had that urge to continued his work of being a priest. And the book is well written with words not too complicated with very enjoyable texts and well illustrated pictures. I highly recommend this book for a 5th grader.  

Purchase Book


What is a Classical Liberal Arts Education? Why is it so important for the development of a person?

Fr. Juan R. Vélez answers these and more questions you might have about University Education in the 21st century. This book is aimed for parents, prospective University students, and educators. It will help you discern why adding Liberal Arts electives to your education will help it form it better, and help the student learn to reason, and not just learn.

He also explains how many Universities have changed the true meaning of Liberal Arts, and the subjects, and gives advise on how to choose College Campus, Subjects, and Teachers.

A wonderful book that every parent should also read way before your children are College bound. A Liberal Arts education can start earlier in life, even from home.

Purchase Book


Endorsement by Christopher Moellering (Goodreads, September 14, 2019)
In Passion for Truth Fr. Vélez gave us an outstanding biography of Cardinal Newman. In this work, he provides a concise overview of his thought and his devotion. This is a great work for someone who, perhaps hearing of Newman for the first time because of his beatification 13 October, 2019, wants to know more about this English saint.Vélez is a wonderful writer in his own right, and the frequent quotations from Newman round out the work nicely. I especially appreciated the frequent citing of Newman’s Meditations and Devotions, which show a different side of his spirituality than his more well-known works, Development of Christian Doctrine and the Grammar of Assent.

Purchase Book


Take Five: Meditations with John Henry Newman, endorsement by Illow M. Roque (Amazon, September 3, 2010)
“There is a time to put direct inquiry on hold and give ourselves to prayer and practical duties.” Sound advice from one of the earlier, thought-provoking reminders in this sparkling gem of a book: Take Five | Meditations with John Henry Newman, written by Mike Aquilina and Fr. Juan R. Vélez and published by Our Sunday Visitor. This particular paragraph, referenced above, which begins with a direct quote from soon-to-be canonized priest, cardinal and poet, John Henry Newman: “Study is good, but it gets us only so far . . .” is actually the 15th in a series of 76 concise, logically organized meditations moving from the elementary to the sublime. Each meditation–one per page–is built upon the great man’s writings and remarkably rich spirituality. Whether taken whole in one reading or in part page-by-page over a course of weeks and months, these wonderfully insightful meditations will open up, even to the busiest reader in the midst of the world, a unique pathway into prayer and contemplation. My advice to spiritual inquirers at all levels, from the novice to the spiritually adept, is to follow the authors’ recommendation to use this book as a guide for daily prayer and meditation. The structure of the book itself is ideal: first, the authors introduce us to Cardinal Newman, the man, where we are given the opportunity to get to know him through a brief sketch of his life and spirituality at the beginning of the book. This is something readers will likely find themselves referring to again and again, prompting many, I suspect, to even wider explorations of this most gifted Christian leader. Then comes the meditations, consisting of a short summary of Newman’s thoughts on subjects taken, as the authors explain, from various salient points for which Newman is justly remembered: The pursuit of objective religious truth; Teaching on the Virtues; Defense of the Catholic Church; A devout spiritual and moral life; and Generosity and loyalty in his friendships, which sets the topic and tone for each meditation to follow. Each meditation consists of an excerpt taken from Newman’s thirty-plus volumes of writings and diaries. Next comes three brief and extremely useful sections entitled: “Think About It,” which establishes a prayerfully resonant tone throughout the book; “Just Imagine,” which provides a vivid, prayerful experience of the Scriptures that tie in, and finally, “Remember,” a pithy summation which the authors suggest may be used as a daily aspiration. Each meditation is given its own page, which makes it ideal for daily reflection for readers on the go. This book is a must have for every serious Catholic who wants to take their faith to the next level, which is to respond appropriately to the universal call to holiness and seek interior union with God.
About Newman
Fr. Peter Conley

Slopes, Popes and Newman

Newman wrote, “I have been accustomed to consider the action of the creator on and in the created universe, as parallel in a certain sense to that of the soul upon the body.”

Read More »
Sermon Blog
David Warren

Endurance, the Christian’s Portion

Today, on Good Friday, we remember our Lord’s crucifixion, not as though it was a wrinkle in His otherwise peaceful earthly life, but rather as the focus and the pattern of His life.

Read More »
About Newman
Fr. Juan Velez

Fasting and Holy Week

In Fasting a Source of Trial, Newman reminds that we must not forget its main purpose: to unite ourselves with Christ.

Read More »