O Mary! We crown thee with blossoms today, Queen of the Angels, Queen of the Mary…
Eight-year-old Dominic McKenney waves at the two men riding a crane to the top of the golden Virgin Mary statue at the National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Equipped in hard hats and smiling to the crowd, they lift a giant crown of silk flowers of red yellow and purple 100 feet in the air and set it on the head of the 25-foot-tall statue that looks over this Catholic mountain shrine devoted to the Mother of God.
“She is the mother of Jesus. She is the mother of everyone,” Dominic says.
Today is a special day here and in Catholic centers around the world. It is the first Sunday in May, a month dedicated to Mary, and statues of all sizes are being crowned in similar ways–but most probably without the need of a crane. The crowd holds up cameras and phones to snap pictures of the men laying the crown on her head, squinting against the sun. They cheer and applaud when the flowers have been placed, silk streamers flowing down her back. A perfect fit.
Thousands gathered the crowning here at this replica of the Lourdes shrine in France, tucked amongst winding paths lined with azaleas bursting with purple blooms, and statues of the Blessed mother.
“For me it’s one of those holy moments that I want to witness,” says Celine Okoh of Gaithersburg. “One of the ways to adore Jesus and the Blessed Mary is to be here as they place the crown.”
The month of May has been dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary since Medieval times, honoring her as an example and devotion has been especially emphasized by recent popes who raise her up as an example of how to love and grow ever closer to God.
“To imitate Mary is to be open to God’s surprises,” says Sister Louis-Marie, with a smile and a wink. “Do you know you said that? Pope John Paul II.”