St. Louis' teachings on Our Blessed Mother are so penetrating that, at the beginning of his papacy, our beloved Marian Pope, John Paul II, took for his motto, "Totus Tuus," later writing:
"The motto is of course inspired by the teaching of Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, who explained in the following words Mary's role in the process of our configuration to Christ: 'Our entire perfection consists in being conformed, united and consecrated to Jesus Christ. Hence the most perfect of all devotions is undoubtedly that which conforms, unites and consecrates us most perfectly to Jesus Christ. Now since Mary is of all creatures the one most conformed to Jesus Christ, it follows that among all devotions that which most consecrates and conforms a soul to our Lord is devotion to Mary, his Holy Mother, and that the more a soul is consecrated to her the more will it be consecrated to Jesus Christ.'"
--Pope John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, quoting "True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary" by St. Louis de Montfort (emphasis in original).
St. Louis was so faithfully devoted to Our Lady that I cannot help but think of his late April feast as her special favor to him, bestowing upon him the honor of heralding the glorious month of May! St. Louis reminds us that now is the time to freshen up our favorite tablecloths, take down vases, decorate pillar candles, and choose our most beautiful Marian statues to create a family May altar in time for Our Lady's blessed month. In the meantime, the young ones in our homes will enjoy creating personal May altars to grace their rooms during this Marian season and always.
Miniature May Altars
Small wooden hangable shelves from the craft store
Assorted acrylic paints and paintbrushes
Optional: decoupage tissue, white glue, and a sponge brush
The children began by decorating inexpensive wooden shelves in pastel colors. Agnes chose to adorn hers with roses, lilies, an an "M" wreathed in twelve stars, before decoupaging a flower-flecked "altar cloth" on top. The decoupage was done simply, by applying watered-down white glue to tissue with a sponge brush. "Mod Podge" decoupage medium could have been used to add a glossy coat to the decoupage, but we opted for the simple approach.
This photo below shows what the girls' four projects looked like after painting. (Back row: Theresa (age 10), Margaret (age 8); Front row: Agnes (age 12), Marie (age 6))
The next group shows what each painted shelf looked like once adorned with a Marian statue, holy water bottle, crucifix, rosaries, and scapular (or, in Marie's case, a bouquet of flowers). These photos were taken in our dining room, but, each of the girls will have a May altar mounted over her bed from now on. We usually say our family Rosary at night, so the beads will have a handy home, as will their scapulars. I am glad to think of my girls looking at the Crucifix and Our Lady of Guadalupe at eye level as they doze off to sleep, perhaps after a blessing of holy water from each individual bottle. It is difficult to make out from the picture, but each girl chose a distinct holy water bottle with images of the cross, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Grace, or Our Lady of Lourdes.
Cost per project: 97 cents without paint and other decorations; about $1.50 each with paint, brushes, glue, and special decoupage tissue. The adornments for the altar may be found around the house. If you do not have a small statue of Our Lady, a holy card mounted on cardboard would work every bit as well.
Other ways to improvise: If you do not have time to run to the craft store for small paintable shelves, use something on hand to create a similar effect. Even an upturned shoe box will look beautiful when covered with a piece of pretty fabric, statue, flowers, and a bowl of holy water. The main joy of the project for my girls seems to be that each one has an altar all her own right near her bed. Six-year-old Marie looks forward to keeping hers adorned with fresh spring flowers, and, for a setting so small, an empty film canister would make the perfect little vase!