For many decades the Catholic Churches in Lawrence celebrated the Queen of Heaven in a May Processional. This image was just given to the Library by Phyllis Tyler and shows the procession from Holy Rosary Church walking along Haverhill Street in the 1940s. The priest is Father Lorenzo Andolfi. Another series of photographs of the processional exist in the Ciofolo photograph collection.
During the Month of May — a month both named for and dedicated to Mary — Catholics have long honored her by placing a crown on her image. The tradition in the United States and many other countries has been for school children to have a “May Crowning” ceremony, with a procession, pretty dresses and a wreath of fresh flowers that one child gets to place on the statue. A song for these festivals, “Bring Flowers of the Fairest”, with its refrain “O Mary, we crown thee with blossoms today, Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May…” has been a familiar favorite for generations.
A crowning of a statue of Mary, and a procession in her honor were very popular in parishes in Britain and the USA in the 1950s and could easily be revived. By tradition, blue is Mary’s color. At my Surrey convent school the girls taking part in the crowning ceremonies — usually the year’s First Communicants — wore white veils edged with blue. The crown was carried on a cushion by the youngest girl in the school, and placed on the head of the statue by the oldest.
In its simplest form, the May crowning involves putting a statue of Mary on a pedestal, singing some hymns, and placing a garland of flowers on her head. Other floral tributes are then laid at her feet, and the shrine is kept going all May with fresh flowers.
The flower we call “May” is hawthorn blossom but it is only one of many flowers that bloom in this month. For a crowning ceremony, little girls wear their best dresses and garlands of flowers round their heads and carry posies or baskets of flowers. A boy carries the crown on a cushion to Mary’s statue, and the oldest girl taking part does the actual crowning. The other children then troop up and stack their posies around the shrine.
Laying flowers before Mary’s statue is deeply embedded in Christian tradition: some Catholic brides used to lay their wedding bouquets before a shrine of Mary after the wedding ceremony, and pray there for a blessing on their marriage.