Find ways to honor the Blessed Mother in your classroom during May.
By Rachel Gleeson
The month of May is dedicated to our Blessed Mother. During this month, which is named after her, we celebrate the important role of Mary in our faith. Here, in the height of Spring, there are numerous beautiful traditions which honor her. Many of these liturgical customs can easily be brought into the classroom.
A tradition in some homes, for this time of the year, is to set aside a table for honoring Our Lady. These are often referred to as “Mary Altars.” It can be easy to create one for your classroom. Take a small table or shelf and cover it with a white or blue cloth. On top of the table, can be placed statutes and images of Mary, as well as rosaries and other related devotional items. You probably have what you need at home or lying around school to make a simple Mary altar.
Use the Mary altar as a place to center prayer during the month. You can begin class by praying in front of the altar. Students can present petitions to Mary, writing them on slips of paper and placing them in a small jar on the table. You might also consider adding flowers to the altar to honor Our Blessed Mother. Perhaps get parents involved and ask them to rotate brining in bouquets. The table can become a focal point of the classroom for the month, reminding us to honor Mary every day.
Another tradition is a May Crowning. Students place a crown of flowers on a statue of Mary to symbolize her role as our queen. The ceremony usually includes Marian hymns and prayers. You might select a few students to place the crown or Mary’s head and perhaps have other students place flowers at her feet. This may be a large event with the whole school or just a small ceremony with your class. Either way, it is a great opportunity to highlight Our Blessed Mother and encourage students’ devotion to her.
May is also a great opportunity to discuss prayer to Mary. These can be included in your daily prayer or researched and discussed as part of class.
The Litany of Loreto is a prayer that features many titles and attributes of Mary that can be discussed with students. It can be used to showcase Mary’s virtues and students can share how they want to live those virtues in their life. The last part of the litany features various titles of Mary. Assign students to research what a title means and share with the class a poster or slide explaining the meaning.
The Feast of the Visitation is May 31. This is a great opportunity to discuss the Hail Mary and its biblical roots. The first portion of the prayer is spoken by the angel Gabriel when he comes to Mary for the Annunciation. A second portion is spoken by Mary’s relative Elizabeth during the Visitation. The last half is a prayer of supplication. Students can do a close reading of the prayer, breaking down its parts to better understand the whole. Younger students might begin by identifying words and phrases that are challenging. Even older students would benefit from a deeper understanding of things like grace. Many may be unaware that when we say Mary is “full of grace” we reference her being blessed as the Mother of God as well as her Immaculate Conception. Reading the first portions of the prayer within the Bible passages in which they appear can provide important context. Understanding more fully the prayers we say every day can open up the richness of the faith for students.
The Visitation is also the occasion of Mary’s Magnificat. This ancient prayer is used daily by religious in praying the Liturgy of the Hours. However, it may not be one most students are familiar with. The feast is a great opportunity to share this prayer with students and expose them to its beautiful poetry. Studying this prayer’s structure and symbolism could even be a creative way to tie faith in with a core subject.
May is Mary’s month. There are numerous ways to honor Our Blessed Mother throughout this month. Take this as an opportunity to share with students Mary’s special role in our faith and in God’s plan of salvation.
Rachel Gleeson is a middle-school and high-school theology teacher and liturgy coordinator at a PreK-12 Catholic school in Wisconsin.