(Note: This reflection by Sister Rosemary Nudd was given on May 6, at the annual May crowning of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s statue in the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods)

“Tis the month of our Mother, the blessed and glorious days.” (Traditional Mary hymn)

The Sisters of Providence have a long history of honoring Mary in May. In Sister Mary Borromeo Brown’s first volume of our history, we find a description of this time of year:

“When May with its lovely soft breezes, their first Maytime in Indiana, dawned at last in the woodland, the Sisters to the best of their ability began it devotedly and solemnly in honor of their Heavenly Queen. May devotions were not then general either in France or in America, but at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, they began from the first, and have grown from year to year in devotedness and love.” – Page 100

What a blessing that here we are, almost 178 years later, continuing this treasured practice of the community with “devotedness and love.”

I clearly remember the ritual of May crowning throughout my 16 years of Sisters of Providence education, especially in my early days in grade school at St. Joseph’s, Downers Grove, Ill. I could hardly wait for it. I loved the hymns, the flowers, the procession, and especially the tradition of the very sweetest, nicest eighth-grade girl (and she was!) dressed in white as a bride, crowning the statue of Mary in our church. I even loved rehearsal, not because it got us out of class, but because we got to sing the songs more than once! I loved singing the many titles of Mary: some clearly reassuring, some beautifully mysterious.

When I entered the novitiate, we prayed that same Litany of Loreto at Vespers, repeating every evening those familiar and vivid images.

That was then – this is now – and I began wondering what the litany might mean today to me personally, and to us as a Congregation. Here are some thoughts which occurred to me:

Today … we ask the intercession of Mary, Mirror of Justice, as our Congregation strives to act justly in all our decisions regarding our staff members and business partners.

This day … I can ask the prayers of Mary, Mother of Good Counsel, for patience with others when I am tempted to rash judgment or rudeness of speech.

This day … we can join our prayers with those of Mary, Health of the Sick, for those in Providence Health Care and for all persons without affordable health care.

Right now … we can ask Mary, Comforter of the Afflicted, to teach us compassion and care for all beings on this precious and threatened planet.

Right now … we can ask Mary, Queen of Families, and Our Lady of Providence, Queen of the Home, to hold our own beloved families close, as we pray for all families, especially those separated by divorce, deportation, war or death.

So the answer to my question is yes. This litany, long cherished and perhaps at times forgotten, can lead us today to new ways of thinking about and praying with Mary, Mary Mother of the Church, Mary, our model in faith.

“O Mary, we crown you with blossoms today …”

You, who are our caring mother, supportive sister, and cherished friend, pray for us, pray for our Woods, pray for our world.