Mary, Queen of May and Mother of the Universe
Once more we come to the Month of May, the Month of Mary the Blessed
Virgin. It is also the month of renewal when all nature comes to life
and the countryside is a blaze of colour with a profusion of blooms. It
has always been, for most of us, the time when we looked forward to the
May processions in honour of the Mother of Christ when we sang of
bringing the rarest and fairest of flowers to crown our blessed Mother,
Queen of the Angels and Queen of May.
Yes, I recall even as a child it was Mary’s month when our hearts
were filled with joy and everybody had its own shrine to our Lady at
which we gathered for the family rosary; and we gathered flowers to
bring to school where there was a shrine in each classroom.
Our Lady of Assumption
Devotion is not a mere matter of sentiment. Devotion to Mary is a
reverential and loving imitation of our heavenly Queen and Mother. It
contains three elements: Veneration, Affection and Service. Yet the
maternal and sympathising figure of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is so
close to the human heart - of any human heart - whatever its culture,
its time, its religion that the Blessed Virgin is loved and venerated
beyond the Christian world! The Virgin is universally honoured as being
pure; she is the Mother who is able to understand the human heart and
man’s need for love which is always the same on every horizon.
Thus for example, in various other religions so remote from the
Christian Revelation, Mary is perceived as a Mother full of love whose
tenderness is matched only by her courage to defend her beloved Son. For
this reason, many followers of these non-Christian religions are
attracted to the Mother of Jesus and go to extent of even praying to
her, as they would to their own mother. Mary appears as a living,
breathing, three-dimensional lady enveloped in exquisite light.
Visionaries and seers describe a beautiful, young woman glowing in
Seers, while describing her as brilliant to behold and arrayed with
every splendour, admit that the ‘Queen of Heaven’ transcends human
Indeed, her name is so exalted, so fêted that there are more
churches, shrines and women that bear her name more than any other both
locally and internationally.
So much so in fact a veteran editor/author once described the
phenomenon as: “Among all the women who ever lived, the Mother of Jesus
Christ is the most celebrated, the most venerated and the most honoured
in the naming of girl babies and churches.”
Visionaries also report seeing strange lights and glorious visions
that often accompany an apparition. Visions of angels, glowing orbs,
tongues of fire, mysterious solar phenomena, and peculiar luminous
clouds have been sighted. Because of the tremendous pleasure and joy
experienced by seers during an apparition, the term “ecstasy” is the
word most often used to describe this event.
Those who have witnessed her, admit that they are paralysed and
enraptured by her beauty and charm.
Numerous healings and miracles have been reported at apparition sites
around the globe. In addition, the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary
has repeatedly announced that the most significant signs and wonders are
yet future! She admits that she has not yet revealed her full glory to
the world. She predicts heavenly signs and events that the whole world
will witness in the very near future.
The popularity of the Virgin and her messages has grown to mammoth
proportions. Marian historians are quick to point out that apparitions
of Mary have been recorded throughout the centuries, but never in the
history of Marian apparitions has she appeared with such consistency and
frequency as in our day.
Our Lady Our Hope
In 1997, ‘Newsweek’ ran a cover story on the Virgin Mary. In the
article they write: “In many ways, the 20th century has belonged to
Mary. From almost every continent, visionaries have reported more than
400 ‘apparitions’ of the Virgin - more than in the previous three
centuries combined.… Taken together, these visions point to what the
Marian Movement believes is a millennial ‘Age of Mary’.
Prayer to our
Lady for Our Country
O Most Loving and Tender Mother,
Queen and Patroness of Sri Lanka,
We humbly ask you to look upon us,
your children, in our hour of need.
Dearest Mother, you have come to our rescue,
even in times of peril,
from war and destruction.
In your never failing love for us,
we earnestly ask you,
to dispel from our midst,
all forms of violence and hatred.
Help us to build in our land,
God’s Kingdom of Justice and Love.
Knowing your abiding Love
and concern for us, dear mother,
we entrust to your loving care and guidance,
all races and peoples of our country.
Help us to bring about brotherhood,
peace and unity in our society.
Guide the destinies of our nation
and obtain for us lasting peace
so that all of us may live as brothers
and sisters of one family.
We might expect this phenomenon to occur in countries that are
predominately Catholic, but apparitions are being reported from Japan to
Africa, from Korea to Australia, from Iraq to Israel, from Egypt to
Whether looking deep within the former Soviet Union or among the
peoples of India, one thing is found in common - they are all allegedly
being visited by a woman who calls herself Mary, the Queen of Heaven,
Our Lady. Father Robert Faricy, quoted in the book ‘Queen of the Cosmos,
states: “Never in the history of Christianity has the Blessed Virgin
Mary appeared to so many people over so long a period of time with such
regularity. Moreover, it seems that the apparitions at Medjugorje have
ushered in a new Marian age. There are reports of her appearing
In his book ‘Call of the Ages’, author Thomas W. Petrisko writes:
“Millions and millions on all continents of the globe have heard and
responded to the Virgin Mary’s apparitions and messages. Indeed, there
is a significant upswing in attendance at Marian shrines everywhere.”
Almost all of the apparitions have stated that Mary is going to usher
in a new era of peace and unity.
Under her mantle all people will gather in peace and solve the
problems facing the world. Her emphasis on unity and ecumenism has
garnered attention from the media.
‘The Los Angeles Times’ reported in their December 25, 1998 issue in
an article entitled ‘Mary’s Rising Popularity Goes Beyond Faith’ that:
“A growing number of Americans from all Christian denominations are
reaching out to the Virgin Mary as a comforting conduit of spirituality
and a symbol of peace in troubled times. Reported sightings of Mary have
steadily increased across the globe in recent years.… Her maternal gaze
seems to have an ecumenical appeal.… It’s not just Roman Catholics who
are interested in Mary and following the apparitions.… Each day,
thousands of people bring their troubles to the sites where the Virgin
is claimed to have appeared.”
In 1996, ‘Life Magazine’ featured Mary on the cover and asked these
questions: “Why are two billion Hail Marys said daily? Why did five
million people, many non-Christian, visit Lourdes this year to drink the
healing waters? Why did more than 10 million trek to Guadalupe to pray
to Our Lady?… Why the apparitions? Why are Mary hymns creeping into
Methodist songbooks? … What is it about Mary?” The ‘Life’ article goes
on to list numerous apparitions and to quote various statistics. For
instance, ‘Life’ notes that “In Italy, 50 weeping Madonna statues have
been reported in the past two years.”
‘Life Magazine’ notes that Mary’s popularity is not just among
Catholics: “One of the intriguing aspects of the latest rise of Mary is
this: The emotional need for her is so irresistible to a troubled world
that people without an obvious link to the Virgin are being drawn to
It’s not news that Muslims revere Mary as a pure and holy saint -
she’s mentioned 34 times in the Koran,…but to see large numbers of
Muslims making pilgrimages to Christian Marian shrines is a remarkable
thing. Interdenominational Marian prayer groups are springing up
throughout the world.”
Why does she appeal to so many? Is it possible that many are drawn by
the numerous reported miracles, signs, and wonders? In a world that
seeks interaction with the supernatural, it is no surprise that many
flock to the miraculous.
These miracles, if true, would rival the miracles performed in Moses’
day. Consider that at several apparition sites, a phenomenon known as
“the Miracle of the Sun” has been seen by hundreds of thousands.
In Sri Lanka a special prayer to Our Lady was recited at every Mass
in every Church during the prolonged secessionist war (See Box).
The prayer of all peace-loving Sri Lankans was finally answered. The
country is at peace, but the prayer is continued to be recited in every
church at every service as a remembrance of thanksgiving to Our Lady of
More than 10,000 pilgrims attend Marian May
Virgin of Madhu, our bridge to peace and unity
Sri Lankans have once again begun praying to the Blessed Mother at
the national Madhu Marian shrine during May. More than 10,000 people
attended a special Mass and prayer service on May 22 at the shrine
located in the jungles of northeastern Sri Lanka.
The shrine, which was shelled many times during the country’s three
decade long conflict has re-opened although removing of land mines in
the area is still continuing. The venerated Marian statue was removed by
church authorities in April 2008 to prevent it from being damaged during
heavy fighting. The statue was returned to the shrine later on.“We pray
to Mother Mary to intercede on our post war problems. People are
disempowered and poor and they are marginalized and cut off from the
mainstream society and political life,” said Indrani Fernando, a pilgrim
from the south.
The miraculous statue of Our Lady of Madhu
The 400-year-old shrine acts as a centre for devotion for both Tamil
and Sinhalese Catholics. It has also been a symbol of unity among people
of different religions, including Buddhists, Hindus and Protestants.
Special programmes were organised at the shrine in honour of the Blessed
Mother during May, traditionally considered the Marian month.
Although, the war that has been raging in the country for three
decades stopped the flow of devotees to the sylvan shrine in the ‘80s
and ‘90s, it nevertheless remained in the hearts and minds of the
faithful over the years.
This month the Madhu Shrine celebrates befittingly the usual Marian
devotions as lights in the Madhu Shrine flicker with thousands of
candles in honour of the Matriarch of Sri Lanka.
“It is a forest pilgrimage. Putting up camps in the forest and
praying in silence is a marvelous experience ,” said Dharshani Mendis a
devotee who had visited the shrine.
“The Madhu Church, in particular has an opportunity to build bridges
between the two communities because this is one place which straddles
the Tamil areas in the north and Sinhalese areas in the south,” she
added, explaining the significance of the shrine.
The Madhu Church which stands inside thick jungles of Mannar has been
historically famous for its miracles and the healing power of its soil.
In 1920, Bishop Brault who had a very specialdevotion to Our Lady of
Madhu, obtained the Pope’s sanction for the historic solemn coronation
of the Statue of Our Lady of Madhu. The Holy Father granted this favor
of coronation of Our Lady. In 1924 it was officially crowned by the
Papal Legate who came in the name of Pope Pius XI.
The Church was consecrated in 1944 during World War II. In
preparation for the consecration ceremony, a marble altar replaced the
old wooden structure and the whole sanctuary was covered with white and
blue marble. In spite of travel restrictions and difficulties finding
conveyance, more than 30,000 people came to the jungle shrine.
The statue of Our Lady of Madhu had been taken on procession thrice
to the parishes in Sri Lanka, in 1948, 1974 and in 2001. It was a
spiritual effort to encourage Catholics in Sri Lanka to pray for peace
and an end to the raging civil war.
In 1970 the new Bishop arranged an annual festival to be celebrated
on July 2. But in recent years the August 15 festival draws the biggest
crowds because it is one of the most hallowed days for Catholics
celebrating the day of Assumption of the most Blessed Virgin Mary into
Heaven and also because the school holidays facilitate entire families
to make the trip.
The jungles on the sides of the road are being cleared of mines.
Since the war ended the pilgrims have been arriving in the tens of
thousands, in vans, buses, trucks, public transport, and some in tuk-tuk
three-wheelers. At the shrine, the faint but constant hum of prayers and
hymns rise above the rustling of pilgrims’ feet. Large piles of
slippers, sandals and an assortment of shoes of every nature accumulated
by the doors outside the church. Families pray together, others line up
in a long queue that slowly snake around the church to get a brief
moment to touch the altar where the venerated statue is kept.
Though the main church, now renovated, has survived hardly unscathed,
the side church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on its right until recently
bore the marks of years of war. Its roof had blown off and at the end
was a ruined statue of Jesus Christ, destroyed by a shell that had hit
the building. Worshippers then tied coins to the statue as part of their
The Virgin of Madhu has survived wars and immense turmoil since her
arrival on the island in the 1500s. In the late 1600s, she survived
Dutch prosecution and was rediscovered, unharmed, hidden inside a tree,
400 years later. Last year, she survived shell and gun fire and has once
again returned to her home.
For the millions who believe in her, the Virgin of Madhu is the
beacon of hope and peace for a better country. As one pilgrim put it so
appropriately and with a touching ring of faith: “The Virgin will always
keep us safe...She will never let us down. She has always been with us.
She was with us for thirty years through war and she will be with us
For millions of other Sri Lankans, that hope, shines brighter than
Our lady visits Elizabeth
And Mary said:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
My spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months and then returned to her
Gospel of Luke 1:46-56