A Modern Look at Mary’s Role in the Church
On this day, O beautiful Mother,
On this day we bring thee our love.
Near thee, Madonna, fondly we hover,
Trusting thy gentle care to prove.
For Catholics of a certain generation, these words represent the best of childhood memories: May crowning, rosary processions, girls in white dresses, and petals strewn as far as the eye could see. For others, it represents the worst of sugary-sweet hymnody: a devotional life divorced from the liturgy of the Church and traditional forms of Marian devotion void of ecumenical sensibility.
For me, it represents neither. My memories are drawn not to elementary school, but to a local nursing home—Bishop Drumm Retirement Center. I remember going there as a kid to take my grandma to Mass and always seeing Sr. Edith, as old as any of the residents, still pounding away at the organ as best as she could. Her repertoire was limited by age and arthritis, so you could almost bet that at least once each week you’d get a rousing rendition of “On This Day.” It didn’t matter whether it was Tuesday of the fourth week of the year or the second Saturday of Easter. I wasn’t even aware that it was a May-crowning hymn until I entered the novitiate for the Dominicans; then again, before that time I’m not sure I understood exactly what May crowning was.