Thursday, May 17, 2007

Hail Holy Queen

St. Benedict's school, Eggertsville, NY.

Did you know that May is the month of Mary? One of the observances that the Catholic church seems to have quietly dropped is May Crowning. At least, I haven't noticed it lately. When I was a kid, May Crowning was a big deal. The ceremony took place on a weekday, during a special mass, and the whole school participated. A second grade girl was chosen to put the crown of flowers on Mary's head, second-graders being the most holy children in the school, since we'd all just made our first communion.
Naturally, there was much speculation among the second grade girls as to who would be chosen. Generally the prettiest and best-behaved girl got the honor. I was far from the prettiest girl in the second grade, and while I was well behaved most of the time, my second grade teacher, Sister Maurice, hated me with a passion. She really did. The only thing I had going for me was that I was relatively tall and could reach Mary's head without falling off the stool and making an ass of myself. I knew I didn't have a chance, and if bets had been placed, I'd have put my money on Rachel Joyce who was beautiful, blond, tall, and angelic. Instead, the chosen one was Joanne Cole, which came as a shock, since she was the only girl I thought had even less of a chance than I did. She wasn't particularly pretty, was not well-behaved, and she was the shortest girl in the entire second grade. Rehearsals began. This involved Joanne Cole simulating the act of placing a crown of flowers on the head of a statue of Mary, placed prominently near the altar. Then we practiced the songs I have great fondness for the Mary antiphons. The nuns would go into paroxysms of joy singing “Hail Holy Queen” which is one of my all-time favorite favorite hymns. I even paused in this trip down memory lane to buy it from itunes.
May crowning day was usually hot. It was strange attending mass on a weekday afternoon. All our parents, indeed the entire town, were in attendance, although my mom always absented herself. Joanne Cole, dressed in her first communion dress, was surrounded by a court of girls also in fluffy dresses. I don't know if they were second-graders or not, all I know is that I wasn't one of them. I was stuck in the human rosary.
The human rosary was a line of fifty kids in groups of ten, representing the five decades of the rosary. A single eighth grader stood between each decade, representing the bead on which you pray the “Glory Be.” The human rosary was grouped to surround all the pews, in effect, a chain of bouncers preventing anyone from sneaking out of mass early. I can think of few experiences in my life more dismal than standing through an entire mass, on a hot May afternoon buried in the middle of the second decade of the human rosary, enviously watching Joanne Cole crowing Mary with flowers.
This is me during the May Crowning era. Actually, this is third grade. I'm the girl in the very front, on the right, with the Dorothy Hamil haircut.

1 comment:

  1. Eggertsville, NY.. cool. I grew up at 109 Buckeye Road ! off Sheridan Drive