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May Crowning

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Did you ever wonder where the May Crowning tradition came from?

To recall a bit of Church history, monotheism, or the belief in one god, was rare in the ancient world. Abraham, according to our faith tradition, was the first to interact with God in order to establish a belief system rooted in the one true God. God establishes a covenant with us through Abraham that connects the faithful to Him throughout time.

A common practice of the polytheistic cultures, those who believed in more than one god, was the practice of making offerings on an altar to a particular god or group of gods in order to find favor with them. If you were found to be in favor with the gods, good things would happen. If you were not in favor with the gods, not so good things would happen. Abraham understood this polytheistic practice. Abraham did many things that demonstrated the application of polytheistic practice to a belief in the one true God. Abraham even made an offering on an altar after God spared Isaac's life because that is all ancient people knew what to do to honor the gods. Abraham applied what he knew to God. Altars were for sacrifice. Altars were for prayer. Offerings were often burned on altars so that the prayers would rise to the heavens in hopes that the gods would find favor.

Sound familiar?
Jesus's sacrifice is the Eucharist. The celebration of that sacrifice is done at the altar. Incense is burned to symbolize our prayers going to heaven. Many of our church rituals are rooted in these ancient ways. 

The May Crowning is no different because many polytheistic cultures honored spring by burning offerings to the goddesses in their belief systems. Whether it was Minerva, Hera, or Persephone, flowers were brought to an altar and burned as prayers were lifted for fertility, a good harvest, family, etc. As Christianity spread among the Roman Empire, they attached an old practice to a new belief; offerings to Mary as opposed to the goddesses. This would explain the procession of flowers and the burning of incense.

While some believers may come with intentions of fertility, harvest, and family, we all come to honor Mary as our Mother and our gratitude for her intercessory power that goes directly to the heart of her Son. We honor her. We celebrate her. We love her. We bring her gifts to demonstrate that love just like we do to our earthly mothers and those that are like mothers to us.


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I love Doubting Thomas! He’s one of my favorite saints, because he’s just so relatable. We often use his title as a negative thing, perhaps calling someone a “Doubting Thomas.” Really, he is just like you and me. Thomas put his heart and soul into Jesus, followed Him for three years, and gave away everything to be His disciple. Then what happened? Jesus was killed and laid dead in the tomb. Thomas’s heart was shattered.

So many events happen in our lives that shatter our hearts and which cause us to put up walls to protect ourselves. Like if we burn our hand on a hot stove—we make sure to be more careful the next time. Thomas got burned once, so he was not going to blindly believe and get burned again.  However, when Jesus appeared to him and showed Thomas his hands, feet, and side, what was his response? Thomas fell to the ground and cried out “My Lord and my God!” He simply believed.

Jesus says, blessed are those who believe and have not seen. True, we have not seen him like the disciples did in the upper room. However, we have seen the risen Jesus in many ways. In particular, we receive Jesus in the Eucharist.  Every time Jesus is placed in our hands, we should be filled with joy and be reminded of just how much Jesus loves each one of us.

A Voice in the Crowd

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Every Palm Sunday I struggle. As members of the parish in the pews, we are asked to participate in the Gospel, reading aloud the role of "the crowd." We have lines like: "Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us." And "Crucify him! Crucify him!" The crowd persists in their call for Jesus' death, and sadly, their voices prevail.

It's hard for me to recite these words during Mass. I understand that I'm playing a part. I know that I'm simply participating in a dramatic interpretation of the events. But it's still hard. Sometimes I simply sit and listen to others read the lines. While the reading of the lines has made me a bit uncomfortable, this experience has actually made me think. What would I say if I was actually a member of the real crowd, the one in Luke's Gospel? Would I join in and cry "Crucify him? Crucify him!" Would I stand silently by and simply listen?

Or would I have the courage to speak up and say, "I believe him. I think he truly is the Son of God."

Crowd mentality is real and it's challenging. It's easy to simply blend into the group and be swept along with the emotion at hand. We experience it today, some 2000 years later.

So that's my challenge this Holy Week. If I'm a believer, a true disciple, am I willing to stand out above the crowd and speak my truth? Am I willing to fight for my faith? Even at a consequence? If I'm not willing to speak the negative words at Mass, am I ready to say the positive words in my daily life?


Posted by Dan Herda

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