Just a few days ago, the Montfort Father Stefano de Fiores passed away. He was an internationally renowned Mariologist who dedicated his life to the study of the role of Our Lady, and he wrote over thirty books on this subject. I have worked with him on several occasions as we were colleagues for many years at the Pontifical Gregorian University. I have happy memories of that time. He was a very pleasant and humble person, and a great communicator. He was a very committed priest and a scholar of high calibre, and he was always available to help out when needed. We used to call him “Our Lady’s globetrotter”.
It is the month of May, the month of Our Lady. This is the month when nature is flowering and life is reborn. All around us we breathe the perfume of the resurrection, of hope and of eternity. To spread Marian devotion in the month of May is a way to awaken Christian life in the hearts of the faithful. It asks us to grow and flourish spiritually under the gaze of Our Lady. As Fr. de Fiores said, “the success of this practice in the Catholic world is confirmation that it responds to popular devotion and to the cycle of the seasons”. The tradition of celebrating the month of Mary was to be found in the colleges of the religious and in private homes until the end of the 1600s. Then it spread to parish life, and by 1800 it had become a practice in the whole Church.
Last year, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about this tradition: “we feel in communion with every community, even with the smallest, in which the tradition of dedicating the month of May to Marian devotion is kept alive. This finds expression in very many signs: shrines, churches, works of art, and especially in the prayer of the Holy Rosary, through which the People of God give thanks for the gifts they continually receive from the Lord, through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, and entreat him for their many needs. Prayer [...] is always to make space for God: his action involves us in the history of salvation. [...] Prayer helps us to recognize in him the centre of our life, to remain in his presence, to conform our will to his, to do “whatever he tells us” (cf. Jn 2:5), convinced of his fidelity. This is the essential task of the Church, whom he crowned as mystical bride [...]. Mary is the model: it is she who holds out the mirror in which we are invited to recognize our identity. Her life is a call which brings us back to listening to and welcoming the Word through faith to give praise to the Lord, before whom our only possible greatness is that which is expressed in filial obedience: “Let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). Mary entrusted herself: she is the “blessed one” (cf. Lk 1:42), who is such for having believed (cf. Lk 1:45) [...] The dispositions of her heart: the listening, welcome, humility, the faithfulness, praise and waiting — correspond to the inner attitude and gestures that shape Christian life. The Church nourishes herself on them, aware that they express what God expects from her” (Benedict XVI, Recitation of the Holy Rosary with the Bishops of the Italian Episcopal Conference, 26 May 2011).
May we never lose our devotion to Mary, a woman of strength who sustains our faith; a woman who is closely united to God and God’s work; a woman who grew in wisdom through suffering, living and sharing; a woman who communicates with words and with silence; a woman with roots planted deep and with wide horizons; a woman who generates abundant life. There are countless writers, poets and mystics who have sung her praises. Surely this is exactly what our good friend Fr. Stefano is doing right now in heaven.
Nuria Calduch-Benages, MN