Q. How did the month of May come to be associated especially with the Blessed Virgin Mary?
A. The custom of consecrating the month of May to Our Lady with special observances arose in relatively recent times—no earlier than the late 1600s. The May devotion in its present form originated in Rome about a century later. There, Father Latomia of the Roman College of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) wanted to counteract immoral behavior and a lack of faith among the students, so he made a vow to devote the month of May to Mary.
From there, the custom spread to other Jesuit colleges, and eventually to churches as well. By 1813, as many as twenty churches in Rome are known to have celebrated May devotions to Our Lady. From Italy, the practice spread to France, and throughout the nineteenth century, to other nations around the world. It represents the earliest example of a Catholic devotion extended to include an entire month.
The Marian title “Queen of May” is used in several countries, especially in Marian hymns. In English-speaking nations such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the United States, we hear lyrics such as these: “Hail Virgin, dearest Mary! Our lovely Queen of May! O spotless, blessed Lady, Our lovely Queen of May!” “O Mary, we crown thee with blossoms today, Queen of the Angels and Queen of the May!” In German-speaking countries, the equivalent term is Maienkönigin (“May-Queen”).
Why was the month of May chosen rather than another? Perhaps because of its natural association with flowers and all the beauty of Spring. It’s a fitting season to consecrate to a lovely Lady, “the Mystical Rose,” who since medieval times has had various flowers and herbs named for her.