OPINION | No flowers for Mary

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“BRING flowers of the rarest, bring blossoms the fairest...” 

I say, a wonderful song, “Queen of the May” in memory of a wonderful Lady, Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ.  And the song?  I say it was composed in Mary's memory.  And it is one of several, honoring  the Blessed Virgin Mary. 

But the Catholic community here won't have the chance to hold the crowning ceremony for the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Normally, the month of May is, in many Catholic parishes, dedicated to the special devotion to the Virgin Mary, like Guam, and Saipan.  Many Catholic parishes designate the first day of May to honor the Virgin Mary, and it is held in many Catholic churches.

But this May, here on Saipan, Catholics will be missing out on the crowning pageantry of Mary, the Queen of May, due to Covid-19.  The churches are closed.  Soon, the month of May will be gone, and along with it, the opportunity to bring and offer flowers, as well as the garland of flowers, “the mwar” in Refaluwasch, to crown the Icon of the Virgin Mary.  I say, that to place a mwar on the head of a person, is telling that person that he or she is  “us” and that “we” that person.  The meaning is very touching.  It's from the bosom. 

Now, because of the Coronavirus-2019, The whole Marian mini-pageantry has to be let go this year.

The origin of the conventional May devotion is unknown.  However, a number of the Catholic traditions are linked to a person named Alfonso back to the 13th century.  And a Mr. Herbert Thurston was referenced as saying that the 17th century was the earliest instance of dedicating the month of May to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  And a Mr. Fred Holweck had it that the devotion originated in Rome where a Fr. Latomia of the Roman College of the Society of Jesus started the devotion to counteract the infidelity and immorality among the students.  Soon the practice  spread to other Jesuit institutions. 

But, regardless of when or where the veneration originated, East or West, it's already being practiced.  The crowning part is moving.  It's always a beautiful ceremony, the crowning is.  I say that the climactic moment in the crowning of the Icon of the Virgin Mary is the placing of the garland of flowers, the “Mwar” on the Icon's head, to the air of “Queen of the May” — the song composed for the occasion.  It's one of several, and is becoming a traditional hymn for the May crowning of the Virgin Mary. 

Other hymns I would hear in our community here are, “O Sanctissima, O Piissima; Ave Maristella, Flores Gualo, I Na Boninita. Hagu nai Bendita.”

Many years ago when I was living in Santa Rita, Guam — not the Santa Rita Fed Pen in Pleasanton, CA. — I had wonderful experiences attending the May crownings.  To be there and to participate in the crowning ceremony, and to hear the melodious, interweaving voices of the choir, is, simply angelic, worthy of a round of applause. 

I will not forget those experiences and that's years and years ago.  But I still could see the scene in my mind.  And it's not a mirage, even. 

It would be glorious, then, if we hold a crowning ceremony at the cathedral in Chalan Kanoa, by, say, the Mt. Carmel School students, and on Mother’s Day.  At the Kristo Rai Church, we do something like that, sans the crowning ceremony, every year.  We would pick flowers and bring them to mass and offer the flowers to the statue representation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of the May.  “In nai hau, Maria, ni flores gualo siha.” What more is fitting than that.

The writer is a resident of Garapan, Saipan.

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