Giving honor to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the month of May is an ancient tradition, which dates back to hundreds years ago. Among the plenty devotions that developed over time was the custom of visiting a Marian shrine, church or grotto.
This pious tradition has given inspiration to numerous saints over the centuries and deepened their affection for the Blessed Mother.
For instance, St Josemaria Escriva was inspired after one such pilgrimage by the event and he made it a part of growing his spiritual movement.
He explained his encounter as thus,
“Having decided to go to the Shrine of Our Lady of Sonsoles, I wanted to celebrate Holy Mass before setting. So during the Mass, I pleaded with Our Lord Jesus to increase in us our love for Mary. So when we were on the train, my thoughts kept returning spontaneously to the same idea: that Our Lady is no doubt pleased with our affection, crystallized as it is in substantial Marian devotions. But during the month of May, something more was needed. Then I thought about the ‘May Pilgrimage’ as a customary thing that must be incorporated”.
In some consequent times, Marian shrines around the world receive a flock of pilgrims each year during this month of May which is characterized by beautiful weather.
Particularly, the shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal is one of the most popular during May, in coincidence with the first apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary on May 13, 1917.
Pope Francis made his own May Pilgrimage to Fatima in May, 2017 in paying homage to Our Lady on the 100th anniversary of the apparitions.
Generally, pilgrimages are excellent ways to inflame our faith. However, they remind us of the journey we are all on towards Heaven and they reconnect us to the true, good and beautiful spiritual life.
The Catechism highly regards this practice as a way to boost our prayer life.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, (CCC 2691), pilgrimages evoke our earthly journey toward heaven and are in a traditional way, very special occasions for renewal in prayer. Moreover, for pilgrims looking out for living water, shrines are special places for living the forms of Christian prayer “in Church.”
Normally, pilgrimages take us outside of our surroundings and are supposed to be different and unfamiliar. Often times, we need to be jolted out of our every day humdrum to experience something other than ourselves.
May Pilgrimages don’t have to involve traveling around the world or to be extraordinary, it could be as simple as traveling to the nearest church that is dedicated to Mary or finding a local shrine, which maybe small, just to visit.
The main goal is to make it a deliberate event by which you honor Mary in some way.
Anyways, even in a month when we celebrate Mother’s Day, don’t we try something different and make an extra effort to honor our wordly mother?, why can’t we also try something extraordinary just to honor our spiritual Mother.