As a lifelong Catholic, but more poignantly, an Italian Catholic, one of my first, and fondest, "Catholic" memories was of Mary at the annual May Crowning at our home parish of St. Paul, which took place on the first day of their annual Italian Festival! The songs are still fervently stuck in my head: Hail, holy Queen! Salve, Regina! Hail Mary, Gentle Woman! Ave Maria! And so many more!
I wish that all children were welcomed into the fold of Catholic faith with the innocence and tenderness of singing seraphim, with a mother of who exemplifies the epitome of mercy and love. And, I wish, too, that all could witness what I did so young: adults and children of all shapes and sizes, of all ages, coming together and bringing the statue of our Blessed Mother from inside the walls of our church to the streets where she was so needed! Adorned in a glorious blue cope, glistening crown of gold, and beautiful blue and white streamers flowing from her sides, she was such a beautiful site! I was always elated to be part of it!
I remember, too, how many of the residents living around the parish, mostly of Italian or Polish descent, would prepare well in advance of the scheduled Sunday processional by cleaning up after the harsh Erie winters. Some even painted their curbs blue and white in her honor! My mother’s aunt, who was the only grandmother I ever knew, Cha Cha, was always ready with a beautifully painted white curb and fresh flowers newly planted! As the procession would come by, the priest would stop and people would hand him money, or flowers, and say a prayer. Some would go up to the large statue and pin bills to her streaming ribbons in support of the work of the church. The priest would then give a blessing and off to the next home we would go! The procession had bells, incense, singing, a cross leading the way, and the fully adorned Knights of Columbus with swords drawn! Oh what a site! When I regale the stories today, many still look at me as if I am crazy! I assure, you, I am not. It was real and I am so very grateful for the memories that my parents allowed me to gain by taking me to see Mary on her special day!
Yes, one of the defining aspects of being Catholic is, without a doubt, our deep devotion to Mary. I favor no Marian celebration more highly than I do the beautiful May Crowning. It is a feast that recognizes Mary as queen of heaven and earth. To a person of any age, this is a mighty big title, but to a child of five or six or seven, it expands to enchanting, magical, almost unfathomable proportions! After all, how many queens does one get a chance to meet in a lifetime, much less place her beautiful crown of nature’s best upon her head? Yes, preparing for the May Crowning procession each spring was a wonderful part of my early life and I so long to bring it back. Now I can! Yes! After much pressure (I only exert it as pastor every so often!) the ministry team and parish board have both agreed that this is the year!! I am as excited as a boy on Christmas Eve!
Now I need your help. As I will announce this coming week, if you could help me with a donation to offset the needed cart and decorations, I would be so grateful. (You can do so by Clicking Here) And, just as important, please mark your calendars now to be with us at Saint Miriam on Sunday, May 4th 2014! Please don’t forget to bring the little ones and show them the lasting legacy of traditions of old!
I will be forever grateful to the Church for bringing me Mary, and grateful to Mary for bringing me her Beloved Son, Jesus, whom I adore without measure. For that was my route as a mere child. I may not have ever discovered the gaze of Jesus if I had not first felt the maternal, nurturing, and safe embrace of my heavenly mother. Mary was with me then. She was with me when I made a mistake when I was but a young 22 year old and sat in a jail cell. She is with me today as a priest - redeemed and forgiven, a true story of redemption and the power of God’s grace. That's why we crown her on our Catholic version of 'Mother's Day'! That's why I hovered over the tulips in my mother's flower garden for just the right one to bring to her. Through Mary, I became enamored with the sense of God’s unstoppable and relentless love. Through Mary I was invited into the Catholic fold and a deep legacy of love. It was through her feminine presence, and the safety of her divine motherhood, that helped me grow and accept a God of love and hope. My child's heart was so full of love for my own mother that it was because of that direct correlation that Mary's love was tangible and made so very real for me.
Yes, Mary, my blessed Mother delivered me like an innocent, saved me from myself and my own wickedness, perfected me like a new, spring flower and lightened my spirit when I was low. It was She who would bring the very aroma of heaven when I felt abandoned, hopeless, or lost.
St. Paul, the parish of my childhood, was monumental in bringing me such good tidings and fond memories. I pray that my parish of Saint Miriam will be the same for others, long after I am gone and but a memory.