May Blossoms, Part Two

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©Heidi Bratton Photography

The guy sitting next to me in the optometrist’s office bugged me. I mean, he really bugged me. He bugged me like I wanted to actually step outside and stand on the sidewalk by the front door until it was time for my appointment; that’s how much he bugged me. Rather than commit an act of violence or some other blunder of self-embarrassment, I decided to just… tune him out. But, I couldn’t, and that was exactly the problem.

The guy had a stack of CDs with him and one of those portable CD players. He had his ear buds in and the music was loud enough for me to recognize it as music, but not loud enough for me to make out the notes or lyrics. So, it was kind of like this irritating mosquito buzzing-type noise that makes you want to smack something, preferably its source. Additionally, this guy was one of those nervous nellies who are constantly in some kind of motion. He had one leg crossed over the other and was swinging it back and forth. What made it even worse was that he had on a pair of those plasiticy-ish athletic pants that make a swishy-crackly sound whenever you move. Buzz, buzz, buzz…swishy-crackle, buzz, swishy-crackle, buzz, swishy-crackle. I was debating whether what I was inclining toward doing would lead me to the confessional. 

“But Father! You don’t understand! His CD player was buzzing like a mosquito, and his pants were making repetitive, swishy-crackly sounds! I had to do it!”

“Oh, I see. Well, then, it looks like you’ve already done your penance. Go in peace.”

As my poor, deprived children will tell you, I cannot stand unnecessary noise. No reason in particular, it just… bugs me. Gum clacking, finger snapping, toe tapping… in my books they should all be absolutely verboten for all of mankind 24/7/365, permanently.  So, you can imagine I was not having a jolly time with this guy sitting next to me.

I guess the mosquito and crackly pants weren’t enough noise for him, because then he struck up a conversation with the receptionist — on the other side of the waiting room, mind you, and over the music, mind you — about what her kids got her for Mother’s Day.  I was ready to… never mind.

I tried harder to tune out the conversation, but it still invaded my mental space. He was telling the receptionist what he got his mother for Mother’s Day.

“I got her some flowers, a ring — a really sparkly one —  a picture, and a wooden elephant. She’s really gonna like that wooden elephant,” he bragged.

A wooden elephant? I cringed.

Then I realized that this guy had some kind of developmental disability. The unusual drawl, cadence of his speech, facial expressions, and motions made it obvious. Oh, dear. I really felt like a heel.  Rather than being bugged by him, I should have been complimenting him for the way he functions in society in spite of his disability. How awesome! Suddenly, I found myself filled with admiration for this guy and with appreciation of the gifts God is giving the world through him.

What’s more, I was taken in by the childlike simplicity of his gifts for his mother and his excitement in presenting them to her. I knew immediately that she had to have positively loved those gifts; not because they were exquisite — because they were not, materialistically speaking — but because he gave them to her. And in that respect they were indeed exquisite. I almost envied that fortunate mother. 

As I sat there, listening in to the conversation between the guy and the receptionist (it was unavoidable because of its volume, but I confess, I probably would’ve listened in anyway — yes, Father, I’ll see you Saturday), I started thinking of our Blessed Mother and how she must look forward to gifts from her children. What mother doesn’t? But, it’s different with our Lady because the gifts we give her are spiritual not material. Our wooden elephants come in the form of Hail Marys and little sacrifices made out of love for her. Our sparkly rings are deeds done as perfectly as possible and random acts of service to others.  She loves them all, as she loves each one of us in spite of the “disability” of our humanness and the effects of original sin.

Here we are in the month of May — an entire month traditionally devoted to Mary by Catholics all over the world. Of course we should acknowledge our natural, adoptive, and spiritual mothers on Mother’s Day, but should we not also acknowledge our Blessed Mother? Should we not bring her gifts on each day of the month in which she’s honored? What gifts do we have for this Mother who so unselfishly, limitlessly, cares for us night and day, 24/7/365, permanently?

Visible signs help us to pay tribute on Mother’s Day to our natural mothers. Why not place visible signs in our homes to help us pay tribute to our Blessed Mother during the month of May? Here are some practical and spiritual suggestions:

  • Erect a May altar in our homes – a table, mantle, buffet, or even a corner of the kitchen counter can work just fine. Our altar can include any number of things such as a picture of our Lady, a crucifix, candle, Rosary, and of course flowers. Every mom loves flowers! An inexpensive remnant from the fabric store, a colored or patterned bed sheet with the edges folded in, or an already-made napkin, runner or table cloth all do the job nicely. Or, have no cloth at all. It can be as elaborate or plain as we like; the point is to give Mary a special place in our homes so that we can more easily focus our minds and hearts on her, not to stress ourselves out.
  • Do something special with her picture (If we don’t have one, this is the time to get one, ya think?), like framing it with a vine of real or silk flowers. Fabric twisted in fancy patterns can have the same effect. One year, I couldn’t find the flowers or fabric I wanted, so I used paper streamers instead. A bit…um…unusual, but it worked!
  • Make the effort to keep fresh flowers on the May altar or in some other prominent place throughout the month.
  • Offer her a crown made of flowers, paper mache, aluminum foil, even paper or cardboard. It’s the thought that counts, not the aesthetical value. We don’t need an involved ceremony like those held in parishes. It can be something as simple as standing with the crown in our hands and saying something like, “Mother Mary, I love you and I want to honor you with this crown. Please accept it from me as a symbol of your Queenship. Amen.” She will love it!
  • Place books about our Blessed Mother or the Rosary around the house for easy access. If they’re already out, we’re more likely to read them, even if it’s only for a moment here and there.
  • Incorporate the color blue – long held as symbolic of our Lady’s presence – into your décor as much as possible.  Blue vases, glassware, dishes, towels, sheets, place mats, photo frames, rugs, candles, napkin holders, coffee mugs and any number of other items can be found at thrift stores for cheap. Wouldn’t it be fun to have an entire place setting in blue for May?
  • Stick a small picture of our Blessed Mother on the bathroom mirror. What better way to start the day than looking into the eyes of our beautiful Mary? The same can be done with your bedroom mirror for nighttime. What better way to end the day?

And of course, the most important are the spiritual gifts we can offer our Blessed Mother during May:

  • Remember that crown we made for her? How about backing it up with prayers, sacrifices, and random acts of service to “up” its value?
  • Those flowers in the vase can become a spiritual gift, too. Each blossom can represent a Rosary we say for the Souls in Purgatory or the conversion of sinners.
  • The blossoms needn’t be real. We can make a poster of a crown, garden scene or bouquet of flowers, draw lines dividing it into small sections, and use crayon, marker, stickers, or even water color to fill in the spaces – one for each prayer, sacrifice or deed of love we’ve done. Filling the poster by the end of May can be a source of fun and blessing for children and adults alike.
  • Those of us less artistically inclined might like this: Buy a small, interesting-shaped jar from the thrift store and a package of those fake beads from the craft store. Fill the jar as a treasury of graces — each bead representing something special we’ve done for our Blessed Mother during the month. This, too, can be fun and challenging at the same time for both young and old.
  • Increasing our spiritual exercises during May can benefit our souls and please our Mother at the same time. We could try to go to daily Mass more often (if we don’t already), resolve to say the Rosary daily (or at least a decade), spend 10 minutes in meditation on Scripture, spiritual reading, just contemplating all the amazing qualities of our wonderful Mother , or visit a Marian pilgrimage place if there’s one within realistic travel distance.

This is just a smattering of ideas of things we can do to honor Mary during May; the possibilities are infinite! As long as it means something to us, that’s all that matters. At the end of the month, we could form our own private “ceremony” are we present our month’s striving to our Mother and Queen. Again, it can be as simple as quieting ourselves and offering our “treasures” to her with a short and spontaneous prayer. She is both child and mother; she understands that not all of us are eloquent pray-ers; nor are we all aesthetic or creative geniuses. Our Blessed Mother will positively love whatever gifts we bring her, even if they’re not exquisite, even if it’s only a wooden elephant… because she’s our Mom.

(© 2011  Marge Fenelon)

Marge Fenelon is a Catholic wife, mother, author, columnist, and speaker. She’s a frequent contributor to a number of Catholic publications and websites and is a regular guest on Catholic radio. She’s written several books about Marian devotion and Catholic family life and has touched the hearts of audiences in a variety of venues. Her latest book is Imitating Mary: Ten Marian Virtues for the Modern Mom (Ave Maria Press, 2013).