When I was little at school we always had a May alter to Our Lady, Mary. Each day we would bring in flowers and not necessarily garden flowers but daisies and buttercups or weeds if they looked pretty. We placed them in front of her statue. Then we would sing Queen of the May or some other hymn that honoured Our Lady. It was a simple but beautiful ritual each school morning.
I remember having my own little alter at home, with a small statue of her and put my offerings of a flower from my mother’s garden in an eggcup that acted as a vase! Most homes then had their own alters and some still do.
It is an age old tradition in Ireland to visit a grotto or shrine in honour of Our Lady three times during the month of May and ask for her blessings. It is something I like to do and a few days ago, although late in the month, I went with some of my family on our trip to see Our Lady.
Our first port of call was to Ballinspittal, Cork. This beautiful grotto was in all the media in 1985 when there were reports of the statue moving.
Then on route home we paid our final call to the local Blessed Well in Ballyhea, Charleville. It really is a secret garden and a place of peace.
We usually make a day out of this old tradition and stop off in various towns along our route to shop and look at places of interest. This year we stopped in Innishannon and who did we meet but the lovely writer Alice Taylor, author of so many popular books, her latest being The Gift of A Garden.
|Courtesy of The O'Brien Press|