We have all heard the adage “April showers bring May flowers,” but for Catholics, there’s something about Mary this month.
We celebrate our Blessed Mother during May and Pope Francis recently asked that we unite worldwide every day throughout the month to pray the rosary, pleading for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic and praying for those most affected by the disease and its consequences.
The global Catholic Church coming together to pray for an end to the pandemic represents the hope and faith of the people of God and how they find solace and strength together with Mary, said Servite Father Salvatore Perrella, a professor of dogmatics and Mariology at the Pontifical Institute Marianum in Rome.
“Mary knows what suffering is,” and just as she was at the foot of Christ’s cross, “she is at the foot of the many crosses other people bear, bringing them comfort, redemption and accompaniment in a self-centered world,” said the Servite priest, a theological expert in Mariology in a Catholic News Service article.
“The pope did the right thing to call this marathon of prayer to Mary,” Father Salvatore added.
Every shrine and sanctuary around the world have been invited to organize prayer initiatives according to their local customs, the priest said, and the places and people that can do so safely should take part.
For those who cannot visit a shrine, the Vatican will be broadcasting on multiple platforms starting at 6 p.m. Rome time each day from a different shrine around the world.
The theme of the month of prayer — “From the entire church an unceasing prayer rises to God” — is significant as well, he said. It refers to the miraculous event recounted in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 12:1-12) when all the church prayed for Peter, who was imprisoned.
“We can see the pandemic is like a prison that we want with all our heart to break out of” and can make people lose hope, Father Salvatore added.
On May 1, Pope Francis and about 160 young adults and families from Rome began the monthlong practice and prayed the rosary in St. Peter’s Basilica. They were joined remotely by people at the National Shrine and Basilica of Our Lady of Walsingham in England, the first of 30 Marian shrines around the world that will lead the rosary every day throughout May.
“At the beginning of the month dedicated to Our Lady, we join in prayer with all the shrines around the world, the faithful and all people of good will to entrust to our holy mother all of humanity so harshly tried by this pandemic,” the pope said, introducing the recitation of the glorious mysteries of the rosary.
The Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization coordinated the rosary marathon, the scheduling of the shrines and the assigning of a specific prayer intention for each day of the month traditionally devoted to Mary.
The Holy Father said those intentions would include people who have died or fallen ill with the virus, their loved ones, the medical personnel who cared for them, people who had lost their jobs, and students who long to return to school and to their friends. The prayers, he said, also will remember “the people, especially women, who endured violence within the home” during the pandemic lockdowns.
Father Perrella told CNS that Our Lady does not take any honor or focus away from Christ. The church emphasizes her role as “mother, sister and friend,” who always comes to help, “who prays for us,” and who points to and “connects us to Christ, and Christ responds to our human weaknesses.”
The rosary, he added, “is a gentle chain that unites us to God, unites us to each other, and Mary is witness to this.”
This week, we begin a series of stories from readers who share how the Blessed Mother has impacted their lives. As we wrote in promoting this package, “perhaps no saint in heaven is more beloved, fosters more devotion or is called upon more frequently for intercession and aid than the Blessed Mother Mary.”
St. Teresa of Kolkata may have best summed up the importance of Mary to Catholics when a Protestant gentleman asked her about her devotion to the Blessed Mother. “No Mary, no Jesus — no mother, no son,” she replied.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.