May, the month of love has always been dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Let’s find out how to pray for grace in this special month.
May has always been a month closely linked to the symbolism of rebirth and the cycle of life.
This year more than ever it seems important to us to remember how to pray for grace this May which will be different from any other we have experienced. Yet, despite the fears and concerns, despite the pain for those who are no longer there, and the constant anxiety for those who are sick or could get sick, we cannot stop the advance of this lush and hot spring. The sun continues to shine, despite everything, and the nature of awakening bursts, once again. Life continues, in its perpetual renewal, and once again May brings us hope, the desire to move forward.
This dimension of renewal of May has its origins in cults long before Christianity. As we mentioned in a previous article, dedicated to how to celebrate Our Lady in the Marian month, how pagan cults dedicated to ancient Greek and Roman deities that symbolised the return to life, fertility, have become over the centuries forms of popular devotion to Our Lady.
So it was for the rites addressed to Persephone, Proserpine for the Romans, kidnapped by Hades, lord of the Underworld, and forced to live with him during the winter season, and then return to the Earth, bringing with him spring. Or Maia, mother of Hermes, one of the Pleiades, goddess of fertility and the awakening of nature in spring, from whose name derives precisely ‘May’.
May is the month of rebirth, of renewal, therefore, but also the month of love. In ancient times they hung at the door of the beloved girl garlands of roses, to declare their love. Over time this romantic custom has shifted towards a higher and spiritual form of love, and wreaths of roses have gone to adorn the statues of Our Lady, in the month of May. Precisely from this custom also derives the practice of the Rosary.
Speaking of the Rosary, and since in this article we want to dwell in particular on how to pray for grace in the Marian month, the thought can only run to devotion to Our Lady who unties the knots. It is a particular form of devotion with which we turn to Mary in particularly difficult moments, to solve a problem or find comfort in a particularly burdensome situation. The knots are those blocks of various nature that prevent us from living serenely and welcoming God into our existence.
They can be forms of physical or mental discomfort, serious addictions to drugs, alcohol, medicines, but also living with sick or disabled people, or even problematic and in need of special care. The Madonna loosening the knots is depicted just as she tries to untie the knots of a rope with her fingers, and this symbolic image is charged with a deep spiritual meaning when we turn to her for help. As in many other representations of the Virgin, what we find in her is an ideal and perfect point of reference, to find comfort and help. Mary, Mother of all mothers, guides us and accompanies us on the most tortuous and difficult paths, she is at our side to face the most arduous trials.
Prayer to Our Lady to obtain grace
We started talking about the Rosary because there is a particular Novena dedicated to the Madonna that loosens the knots. It must be recited for nine consecutive days as a prelude or tail of the Holy Rosary, with the soul prepared for prayer, addressing Mary with the “Supplication to Mary who Loosens the Knots”. Alternatively, the petition can be recited at the end of the Rosary.
This particular Novena and, in general, the devotion to Our Lady who loosens the knots, is much appreciated by Pope Francis. Ever since the first Novena to Mary loosening the knots was written by the Argentine priest Juan Ramón Celeiro in 1998, the then Cardinal Bergoglio has supported it and recommended its diffusion.
Pope Francis, however, also proposed a prayer to Our Lady that unties the knots to be recited in the Marian month to obtain grace.
Virgin Mary, a mother who has never abandoned a son who cries out for help,
A mother whose hands work tirelessly for her beloved children,
because they are driven by divine love and the infinite mercy that comes from your heart,
turn your compassionate gaze to me,
look at the pile of ‘knots’ that suffocate my life.
You know my despair and my pain.
You know how much these knots paralyse me, and I put them all in your hands.
No one, not even the devil, can take me away from your merciful help.
In your hands, there is not a knot that is not loose.
Virgin Mother, with your grace and your power of intercession before your Son Jesus,
my Saviour, receive this‘ knot ‘today.
For the glory of God, I ask you to loosen it and untie it forever.
I hope for you.
You are the only comforter the Father has given me.
You are the strength of my weak forces, the wealth of my miseries,
deliverance from all that prevents me from being with Christ.
Accept my request.
Preserve me, guide me, protect me.
Lord God my refuge.
Mary, who loosens the knots, pray for me.
This year, faced with the difficult situation we are all debating, Pope Francis also wrote a letter addressed to all the faithful, precisely because of the Marian month. His invitation is to pray together, to recite the Rosary at home, with his family, to fight the pandemic. Because it is right to remain closed in their homes, it is important to keep hearts open to hope that everything can return to normal soon. For this reason, it is nice to recover the tradition of the Rosary in May, recited at home, with loved ones, as it happened in the past, rediscovering that family dimension that we have been forced to re-evaluate in recent weeks also in faith and prayer.
In addition to the Novena to the Madonna that unties the knots or the prayer of Pope Francis, what else can we do? How can we pray for grace in the Marian month and, in general, in this difficult moment?
Sacrifices have always been an instrument of intimate and powerful popular devotion. These are small sacrifices, a commitment, a promise, the deprivation of something we like, offered to Jesus or Our Lady as when a flower is given.
Another form of popular devotion that has always been widespread, especially in difficult situations, is ex-voto. It is then an object donated to God, to Mary, to a Saint, or to someone else that received a blessing. Tangible signs of God’s love, as well as manifestations of joy, relief and hope, the ex-vow, originates from the gifts that were made to the gods in ancient religions to thank them and show gratitude for a gesture of benevolence. Christianity has made this tradition its own and over time the ex-voto, as well as a manifestation of popular art, have in many cases become works of art and collectables, on the same level as sacred furnishings and sacred representations.
Although any object can become an ex-voto, it is usually an object that has had an active part in the attainment of grace or something that represents it. There are therefore crutches, work tools, clothing, wedding bouquets, but also works of art or objects intended for worship, such as a cross, a chalice and a lamp. Ex-voto that depicts anatomical parts, often made in the form of jewellery, are defined as objects.