Two special days – the feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the solemnity of Pentecost – mark the end of May, the month of Mary, which in their own way are each centered around birth. In 2020 both feast days will be celebrated May 31. 

Because a solemnity is a feast of highest rank, Pentecost “overshadows” the feast of the visitation. 

Pentecost, one of the major solemnities of the church, celebrates the birth of the church when the Holy Spirit descends upon the apostles in the upper room. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “From the day of Pentecost the church has administered holy baptism” (#1126). The sacrament of baptism, known as the sacrament of Christian initiation, marks the death of the baptized to sin and beginning of new life with Christ. And like the apostles at Pentecost, the sacrament of confirmation deepens the graces given at baptism.  

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The Visitation of Mary highlights the second mystery of the rosary, Our Lady’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth.  

After the Archangel Gabriel leaves Mary, she hastens to visit and help Elizabeth. St. Luke’s account of the visitation records a Holy-Spirit filled moment: “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me’ ” (Lk 1:41-44)?  

This feast of medieval origin was observed by the Franciscan Order before 1263, and soon its observance spread throughout the entire church. Previously, it was celebrated on July 2. Now it is celebrated between the solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord and the birth of St. John the Baptist, in conformity with the Gospel accounts. Some places appropriately observe a celebration of the reality and sanctity of human life in the womb. The liturgical color is white.  

It is fitting this year that during the month of Mary, the mother of the church, parishes are coming “back to life” to celebrate the sacraments as a community following two months of stay-at-home orders because of the coronavirus pandemic.  

So celebrate Pentecost and the Blessed Mother. Don’t worry, Mary won’t be “ushered out the door” at the end of May. On June 1, you can celebrate the newly instituted memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of the church. In March 2018 Pope Francis instituted the memorial into the Roman calendar to be celebrated the Monday after Pentecost.