A couple of years ago I was driving down Homestead Road in Santa Clara, when I passed a small church and this caught my eye –
a statue of Mary and Jesus with Mary wearing a floral crown. The May Crown … I had completely forgotten about this part of my Catholic history. Then when I was thinking about trying to find some May crowns this year I did a little research and I ran across this quote:
“Many American Catholics remember the beautiful May crowning ceremonies of a few years ago: girls dressed in frothy white dresses and boys with slicked-down hair and grown-up ties processed with songs, rosary beads, and a floral crown to place on the parish statue of the Virgin.” – Ann Ball, Catholic Traditions in Crafts
I do remember that and I remember something about the boy in the foreground of this next photo (taken during the era Ann Ball is referring to in the quote above).
That’s my brother Dennis at one of our annual Easter pilgrimages to Serra Retreat in Malibu. I remember something about him and a May crowning at his old school, Maria Regina in Gardena. Was he chosen to do something for the procession or did he do something naughty? Old Dennis the Menace certainly kept the nuns at that school on their toes.
My brothers were cute, but boy could they cause trouble. What’s so interesting about these photos though, is not just the people, but what’s around them. We were surrounded by religious imagery and items – not only at church, but in the places we visited and at home (like the picture hanging on the wall behind the boys). I guess it’s no wonder I’m still drawn to these things even though I’m no longer Catholic.
I couldn’t resist bringing home a second St. Francis statue (my first belonged to my mother) when I visited the mission at San Juan Bautista with the fourth graders from Samantha’s school last month. I didn’t steal it, of course. He was for sale in the gift shop. He’s such a beauty.
I guess the mission system has left a lasting Catholic impression on much of California. San Juan Bautista is a beautiful one to visit. Very well maintained, lovely part of the state (that shot in the upper left looks right over the San Andreas fault), interesting town. But back to Mary.
When I went out in search of May crowns this morning, I thought sure I’d find one on this statue. She’s located outside of St. Mary’s Church in Los Gatos. I was disappointed she wasn’t wearing one (perhaps there is another one inside?), but she does have an amazing grotto. I always say the only thing better than a good saint statue is a good saint statue in a grotto. I did learn about a movie about Mary from this church’s website. Lots of very good-looking European actors wearing beautiful textiles, but you know, slaughtering and crucifixions too. You can see the trailer for the movie here.