Confessions of a Cynical Catholic: Hail, Holy Queen

May Crowning   It was early one morning in May during my second grade year when my best friend arrived at my house to catch the school bus holding two droopy tulips that were wrapped in a damp paper towel.

“What’s up with the flowers?” I asked, hoping he had not developed some weird boy/girl thing on his teacher, classmate or worse yet…me.

I shouldn’t have worried.  “I’m taking them to Mary,” he said, like the answer should have been obvious.

“You mean Jesus’ Mom Mary?” I clarified. (Just because I am Catholic does not mean that I presume every mention of the name Mary has something to do with the Blessed Mother.)

“Of course I mean Jesus’ Mom! How many other Marys do we know?” It was a rhetorical question. He and I hung out with the same bunch of kids and not one of them was named Mary. He also informed me that this was the day in which everyone was to bring in a flower of some kind to be placed at the base of her statue during a special Mass and someone would actually have the honor of crowning Our Lady with a ring of roses. “It’s the May Crowning.”

He acted like I should have known about this, but I didn’t and for reasons that I still cannot explain, I have ZERO memory of this event prior to that day. Although I went to the same school the previous year and I can’t believe they didn’t have a May Crowning Mass, this was all new to me. I suppose it’s possible I was sick that day, or simply didn’t notice it, but a flower parade a coronation, a big, and the singing of “Hail, Holy Queen” (hands down one of the best Mass songs EVER!) are kinda hard to forget.

“And everyone has to bring a flower?” I asked, making sure to have my facts straight. After all, I had dressed up as Mary earlier that year for All Saints Day and I was not about to let her down but showing up to her big shindig empty handed.

“Of course!” He told me.

That was all I needed to hear. I quickly located my mother, hurriedly explained the situation, told her that I needed a flower of some kind immediately or I would be the only kid in school not to have something to put at the feet of the Blessed Virgin. (You must imagine me saying all of this in a single, urgent breath as if it were a life or death scenario.)

There was only one problem. My mother didn’t have any flowers. I mean none. The only thing of color we had growing in our yard was the occasional dandelion, but something told me that wasn’t the kind of flower Mary would appreciate. Dandelions are good for moms, grandmas, and a nice neighbor lady you consider to be family, but NOT the mother of God.

“Julie I don’t have any flowers to give you,” My mother said.

“Well we’ve got to do something because I cannot show up at school with nothing. Lookit…he’s got two tulips and I’ve got nada!”

My mother checked all of my facts with my friend, who at the worldly age of eight knew all about these things of course and he assured her that every child was expected to bring something. With the bus due to arrive at any minute and nothing but a potted  philodendron to send with me, my mother came up with a desperate plan. She sent my brother out to hack off some blooming forsythia limbs off of the bush in the backyard.

Now, I suppose he could have snipped off one little branch and that would have been sufficient, but instead he clipped off a ton of twigs, which my mother placed in a Folger’s coffee can wrapped in aluminum foil. This was not a simple little “flower,” it was a freaking arrangement!!

And wasn’t I proud? Children often equate love with how big or small a present is. Though St. Therese championed the little ways in which we could demonstrate our love, deep down I knew bigger was always better and I was certainly going to score some brownie points with the Higher Ups when Mary saw how we went above and beyond for her.

My reverie was short lived. Apparently I was far from the only person who did not know about this event and several of my school chums showed up with nothing. My teacher, thrilled with my largesse suggested that I share with the class by snipping off stems to distribute so that everyone could have something to give. I did as I was told, but I was chagrinned that my foresight (or rather my buddy’s since this was his caper in the first place)was now being leveraged to bail  everyone else out of their own failings. I’m sure I should have been charitable about this, but needless to say, that was not in my nature at the time.

From that day forward, I was never without something to offer on May Crowning. The following year, my mother actually planted tulip bulbs and daffodils in the yard and while she never said that they were for May Crowning purposes, when the school changed the policy to allow everyone to bring in a dollar to buy a cut stem from a local florist, my mother’s crop winnowed out. Coincidence? I doubt it. Still, it goes to show that mothers, whether Biblical figures or not are the most special people in our lives and they all deserve a coronation whether it’s raising a young man to fulfill His destiny or simply making sure you aren’t the odd kid out, they go above and beyond the call of duty and are there for us while they are here and in the Hereafter.

 

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