“The month of May is almost here, a month which the piety of the faithful has long dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God. Our heart rejoices at the thought of the moving tribute of faith and love which will soon be paid to the Queen of Heaven in every corner of the earth. For this is the month during which Christians, in their churches and their homes, offer the Virgin Mother more fervent and loving acts of homage and veneration; and it is the month in which a greater abundance of God’s merciful gifts comes down to us from our Mother’s throne.”

– Pope Paul VI, ‘Mense Maio’, April 1965

Tomorrow sees the beginning of this beautiful month which the Church specially dedicates to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, as Pope Paul noted beautifully in the words given above. It is interesting that this lovely Encyclical bears a subtitle – ‘on prayers during May for the preservation of peace’. The Blessed Virgin is, after all, the Queen of Peace.

Only yesterday, our present Holy Father, Pope Francis, spoke to journalists about the perceived threat of nuclear war which currently casts a dark shadow across humanity. And so the following words of Pope Paul, written in the spring of 1965, seem to apply equally to the concerns of our own day, here in 2017 –

“Because the month of May is a powerful incentive to more frequent and fervent prayers, and because our petitions more readily find access to Her compassionate Heart during it, it has been a favorite custom of our predecessors to choose this month, dedicated to Mary, for urging the Christian people to offer up public prayers whenever the needs of the Church demanded it or some grave crisis threatened the human race. This year, Venerable Brothers, we in turn feel compelled to call for such prayers from the whole Catholic world. Looking at the present needs of the Church and the status of world peace, we have sound reasons to believe that the present hour is especially grave and that a plea for concerted prayer on the part of all Christians is a matter of top priority.”

This particular month of May is a very special one; it marks the Centenary of the Appearances of the Blessed Virgin at the Cova d’Iria in Fatima, Portugal. In the course of the six ‘public’ appearances there, the Mother of God asked consistently, each and every month, for the prayerful recitation of the Rosary “in order to obtain peace for the world”. In two weeks, the Holy Father will visit Fatima and canonise two of the child visionaries who were blessed to see the Woman who, in Her final appearance there on 13th October 1917, would call Herself “the Lady of the Rosary”.

It perhaps seems strange that words from 1917 echo down the years and, coupled with further words from 1965, find a resonance in our own day and in our own lives. The threat to world peace; recourse to the Mother of God; the prayer of the Rosary – how gracious that Heaven gives us the means we need, when we need them. If only we would pay attention and do what is asked of us.

Pope Paul was very explicit in his thoughts on the threat to world peace –

“The supreme benefit of peace is again being placed in jeopardy. Today we see tensions worsening gravely between nations in certain parts of the world, as if no lesson had been learned from the bitter experiences of the two world wars .. Cognisant of these grave dangers threatening mankind, and conscious of Our duty as Supreme Pastor, We deem it necessary to voice our anxious concern and our fears that these tensions may degenerate into a bloody war. We implore all those who bear the responsibility of public authority not to disregard mankind’s unanimous desires to achieve peace.”

Of course, the Lady of the Rosary at Fatima was equally explicit in Her own thoughts on world peace and how to obtain and sustain it. The prayer of the Rosary. Always the prayer of the Rosary.

Pope Paul recognises the role of the Blessed Virgin perfectly well, for he writes –

“And so we shall obtain this lofty benefit by praying to God; by praying with constancy and watchfulness, as the Church has been wont to do from her very beginning; by praying, in particular, for the intercession and protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is the Queen of peace. So, Venerable Brothers, throughout this month of May, let us offer our pleas to the Mother of God with greater devotion and confidence, so that we may obtain Her favor and Her blessings. Even if the grave sins of men provoke God’s justice and merit His just punishments, we must not forget that He is ‘the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort,’ that He has appointed Mary most holy as the generous steward of His merciful gifts.”

Finally, Pope Paul ends with this heartfelt prayer of a benevolent father –

“May she graciously lend an ear to the devout pleas of those all over the world who beg Her for peace. May She enlighten the minds of those who rule nations. And finally, may She prevail on God, Who rules the winds and storms, to calm the tempests in men’s warring hearts and grant us peace in our day..  Since this is a perfect occasion, do not fail to put repeated emphasis on the recitation of the Rosary, the prayer so pleasing to Our Lady and so often recommended by the Roman Pontiffs.”

Each day of this coming month of May, may all of us hear and listen to these words echoing down the years and resonating in our hearts; and may our response be one of trustful prayer, expressed in our recitation of the holy Rosary. In praying the Rosary, may the Queen of Peace look kindly upon us and obtain for us the grace of true and lasting peace.

Our Lady of Fatima, Queen of the most holy Rosary, pray for us.