For the love of Mary

By: Rosalie O. Abatayo May 19,2018 - 09:05 PM

Flore de Mayo

Eversince she was five, 15-year-old Ashlea Bea Cantilla has been spending summer in a way different from many children her age.

Instead of playing outdoor games or going to the beach, Bea and some others troop to the Inahan sa Kanunayng Panabang Chapel in MacArthur Highway along Cebu City’s North Reclamation Area.

Bea and her friends gather each morning to learn about  Catholic doctrines and the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In the afternoon, they pray the Holy Rosary and sing devotional hymns to the Blessed Mother inside the small chapel managed by the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral.

“While growing up, we enjoy spending time in the chapel and learning the values of Mama Mary,” Bea  told Cebu Daily News in Cebuano.

The activities that Bea attends each summer since she was little are part of Flores de Mayo (Flowers of May) — a Catholic Church festival held in the Philippines for the entire month of May to honor the Blessed Mother.

Bea explained that growing up, her mother and grandmother, both volunteer catechists of the Cathedral, always encouraged her to attend Flores de Mayo.

Today, she is more than just an attendee of the Flores de Mayo celebrations.

She has become a young volunteer catechist herself teaching the values of the Blessed Mother to children aged 5 to 12 years old.

Across the Philippines, Flores de Mayo starts with an opening salvo on May 1 to launch the daily floral offerings to Mary.

At the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, the devotional mass is said every 5:30 p.m. for the entire month.

Clad in white robes, little boys and girls with angel wings walk down the church aisles bringing all sorts o flowers for the Blessed Virgin.

“It’s an ancient tradition that we are trying to maintain,” said Fr. Erik Orio, the cathedral’s parochial vicar.

“We dedicate the whole month of May to Mary, the mother who said yes for our salvation,” Fr. Orio further explained.

Orio explained that honoring Mother Mary traditionally  falls on the month of May because it is the period after Lent.

“Her part in salvation did not end in the death of Jesus at the cross. She did not leave the apostles and she became their mother.

She is the mother of our Church,” Orio said.

Orio added that May, being the period when flowers bloom, is the best time to honor the Holy Mother.

Orio noted that prevalent social problems in the present time call for the faithful to be closer to God, through His mother.

“If there is someone that can bring us back to Him, Jesus Christ, that is nobody else except the Blessed Mother because of that special connection that a child has for his mother,” said Orio.

Orio called on people to reconcile their ways with the examples set by the Virgin Mary.

“Every day during the Flores de Mayo devotion, we introduce a symbol of Mama Mary based on the litany of the Holy Rosary to explain to our parishioners the right way of life,”said Orio.

Flores de Mayo culminates on May 31 with Santacruzan — a ritual pageant which reenacts the finding of the True Cross of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem by St. Helena of Constantinople, then the empress of Rome.

” We want to show that our devotion to Mother Mary will lead us back to the cross and to Jesus,” said Orio.

As for Bea, after 10 years of joining Flores de Mayo activities, she now considers being a nun to lead a life of prayer.

The teenager, who suffers from chronic heart disease, told CDN that while she has wanted to become a policewoman,  she is giving in to the wishes of her mother.

Her illness, she said, has made her realize that perhaps her complete devotion to the Queen of Heaven is destiny.

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