The scent of flowers is intoxicating, the rebirth of nature is evident, the cold winter seems to be just around the corner: May is here, the Marian Month par excellence with its colours and nice scents.

Among these scents, that of the roses is certainly the most evocative one. May is, indeed, the Month of the Rose, symbol of rebirth and femininity.

The fifth month of the year takes its name from the Latin word Maius = Maia and it was originally a celebration of the Divinity Maia, the Goddess of Abundance and Fertility or the Great Mother Earth. The month of May thus becomes an opportunity to celebrate Life, Birth and Femininity. Therefore, it is no coincidence that, as time goes by, motherhood and rebirth are associated with the Mother of Mothers, the Virgin Mary. A pairing that has been inseparable for centuries, the May-Marian Month association stems from the teaching of St Philip Neri to young people in 16th century Rome.

The saint taught them to embellish and decorate images of the Virgin Mary with flowers, especially roses, as a sign of devotion. Paying homage to Our Lady with roses, however, did not come about by chance. This beautiful custom finds fertile ground in Christianity but its roots should be sought a little further afield.

The Celts used to celebrate the Return of Spring, the Return of Life, on the night between the 30th April and the 1st of May, by going to the woods to gather trees and flowers with which they adorned their bodies, their families and their homes. The ritual of flower-picking often included the courtship of young men to maidens, sometimes leading to amorous encounters and marriages in the approaching summer or the following autumn.

And while the Celts celebrated the Beltane, the Romans celebrated Spring and the Maia’s Month by celebrating the Goddess Floralia. A fairly rustic and simple festival, Floralia later became an occasion to give vent to licentiousness and rather spicy stage performances much loved by the Roman people. And it was this licentiousness, together with the immoral behaviour of the students, that prompted the Church in the 16th century to institute May as a Marian month.

"The Flower of Flowers, Woman among Women, Only Lady, Light of Heaven..." finds in May the month of greatest devotion.

Mary, from the Hebrew Lady and Mother afflicted by the Death of her Son, will become the one who brings Light. And Pope Francis, well aware of all this, could not have chosen a better month to launch this marvellous initiative in which we would like you to participate.

From the 1st of May until the end of the month, in fact, every evening at 6pm, Pope Francis has invited all the faithful of the world to join together, even if distant, in the recitation of the rosary dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, in the hope of being able to bring Light in the dark period caused by the Pandemic.