The Mall of America, the Ladybug, and the Queenship of Mary

I love the Mall of America!  Well, actually, I have two favorite spots there:  I love the restaurant at Nordstrom’s, where  they serve up a great salmon salad with a smile.  And down the aisle, I love to catch a good bargain at Nordstrom’s Rack, where designer-quality clothing and housewares can be found at discount-store prices.  And of course, the amusement park that fills the center court is a great spot for people-watching!

I’ve just read, though, that the Mall of America now has one more claim to fame:  LADYBUGS! 

Mall managers have been concerned about an infestation of aphids in the shopping center’s 30,000 live plants in their landscaped gardens, including more than 400 trees.  Rather than risk harm to their customers from harsh chemical insecticides, mall managers have just released some 72,000 ladybugs inside Bloomington, Minnesota’s enclosed shopping and entertainment complex.  The ladybugs don’t bite, don’t invade food supplies, but they DO eat pests like aphids.

The story makes me wish for one more business trip to the Minnesota area, so that I could stop and shop at the world’s largest shopping complex.

It also makes me remember an older post, explaining the religious significance of the common ladybug, named for—you guessed it!—Our Lady.




Ladybird, Ladybird, fly away home
Your house is on fire and your children are gone
All except one, and that’s Little Anne
For she has crept under the warming pan.

*     *     *     *     *

Throughout the month of May, Catholics honor Mary, the mother of Jesus and  our Mother. On August 22, the Church celebrates the Memorial of the Queenship of the Virgin Mary.  I thought that today, in honor of Our Lady, I would reminisce about this favorite nursery rhyme from my childhood.

The “ladybird beetle” (or “ladybug”) got its name in Britain, where the roly-poly red insect became known as “Our Lady’s bird” or the “Lady beetle.” In early paintings, Mary was frequently depicted wearing a red cloak.  The seven spots on the insect’s wing  were said to symbolize her seven joys and seven sorrows.

The cheerfully colored little insect, officially from the genus Coccinellidae, is linked to the Virgin Mary in some other cultures, as well.   In Germany, the ladybug is known as the “Marienkafer” or “Marybeetle.”

In some cultures, the insect is also linked to the feastday of  St. Barnabas (June 11), which occurs at about the same time as the insect appears.  They may be called any of a number of variations on the name:  “Bishop-Barnaby” or “Burnabee” or “Bishy Bishy Barnabee.”

But on to the Queenship of Mary….

Pope Pius XII established August 22 as the Memorial of the Queenship of Mary in 1954; but Mary’s role as queen over the universal Church finds its roots in the Scriptures.

  • At the Annunciation, the archangel Gabriel announced that Mary’s Son would rule forever on the throne of David.
  • At the Visitation, Elizabeth calls Mary the “mother of my Lord.”

The Old Testament foreshadows this queenship of Mary, by teaching us about the honor accorded to the Queen Mother in Israelite society.  Theologian Dr. Scott Hahn writes and speaks about the “Queen Mother,” called the “gebirah” in Hebrew.  In traditional Jewish life, the “gebirah” occupied a unique and powerful position throughout the history of ancient Israel’s monarchy.  When the Queen Mother, or gebirah, entered the room, the king would rise to his feet as a sign of respect; and the king always acceded to his mother’s wishes.

For example, Solomon crowned his mother Bathsheba, the “Queen Mother” who sat at his right side.  In all, through Israelite history there are 16 “Queen Mothers.”  It is this Queen Mother, who typically ascends to the throne after menopause, who exerts the greatest influence on the king.

In Hebrew culture, even if the king were deposed, even if he died, the Queen Mother would continue to rule from her throne.  She played an important role in leading the songs and worship; but she also was the king’s “wisdom counselor,” involved in political, military and economic affairs of court.  In fact, ancient records show that in some instances, the Queen Mother even dared to oppose the king on issues of state.

Proverbs 31, the only chapter of the Bible believed to be written by a woman, was penned by a Queen Mother as instruction for her son—preparing him to accede to the throne and to select a proper wife.

In 1 Kings 15:13, Jezebel, wife of King Ahab, was an evil queen in the rebellious northern kingdom of Israel.  According to Old Testament scholar Fr. Roland DeVoe, one significant cause for the disruption and unrest in the northern kingdom at the time of Jezebel and Ahab was that there was no Queen Mother.  The lack of “dynastic stability”—the history of one group being overthrown by another—meant a lack of continuity in the culture.

As was the custom in Israel, Mary was predestined to be the Queen Mother of Jesus.  Since Jesus was to be King of all creation, his mother Mary—in dependence on Jesus—was to be his Queen.  Since Jesus took his earthly flesh from His mother Mary, it was only fitting that her flesh, too, should have been preserved from the stain of original sin.

Mary was acting in her role of Queen Mother when, at the wedding feast at Cana, she turned to her Son for help– and then when she instructed the steward, “Do whatever He tells you.”

From the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 69:

“Let the entire body of the faithful pour persevering prayer to the Mother of God and Mother of men.  Let them implore that she who aided the beginnings of the Church by her prayers may now, exalted as she is in heaven above all the saints and angels, intercede with her Son in the fellowship of all the saints.  May she do so until all the peoples of the human family, whether they are honored with the name of Christian or whether they still do not know their Savior, are happily gathered together in peace and harmony into the one People of God, for the glory of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity.”

HAIL, MARY, FULL OF GRACE: A New Look at the Annunciation

On March 25—exactly nine months before Christmas—the Catholic Church commemorates the Annunciation, when the Angel Gabriel appeared to a young Jewish girl and told her that God would like her to be the mother of the Savior.  “How can this be,” Mary responded, “since I know not man?”

Contemporary artist John Collier tells the story of the Annunciation in a fresh way in this painting, which can be found in the narthex of St. Gabriel Catholic Church in McKinney, Texas.

In Collier’s “Annunciation,” Mary is a young schoolgirl dressed in blue and white.  When the angel Gabriel comes to her, she is reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah, chapter 7 verse 14, where the prophet proclaims the sign that God will give:  “The virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.”

Some of the traditional elements can be found in the painting:  The lilies are a recognizable symbol of Mary’s purity.  The intact glass pane next to the door typifies Mary’s perpetual virginity.  And look closely:  A dove, representing the Holy Spirit, rests on a nearby house—not presuming Mary’s response but awaiting it.

What Is Holy Week?

Holy Week—the week from Palm Sunday through Holy Saturday—falls this year on March 24-30.  Holy Week is a sacred time on the Catholic calendar, for it is the period when we commemorate the last week of Jesus’ life on this earth. These are the days leading up to the great Easter Feast. The Lenten season of sacrifice and self-denial is about to come to an end, but this coming week is extremely important for all Christians. The greatest focus of the week is the Passion (suffering) and Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the events that led up to it.

As early as the fourth century, the Church celebrated this “Great Week” with profound sanctity. It begins with Palm Sunday, which marks Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, with a procession of palms. At the Palm Sunday liturgy, the Passion narrative is read in its entirety.

Especially important for Catholics is the Easter Triduum, the three days just before Easter.

On Holy Thursday, we re-enact the Lord’s Last Supper, which He shared with His apostles on the night He was betrayed and arrested. At the Mass, the priest will wash the feet of twelve men, just as Jesus did. Also on this night, priests all over the world will renew their sacred vows. This is because at the Last Supper, Jesus not only instituted the Mass (Eucharist) but also the ministerial priesthood.

On Good Friday, the day of the Crucifixion and death of our Lord, Catholics participate in the veneration of the Cross. A service is held at three o’clock in the afternoon (the hour He is believed to have died) and another service is held later in the evening. We go forward and kiss Jesus’ feet on the Cross in order to show honor and respect for Christ’s sacrifice for our sake. There is no Mass, hence no consecration of the Eucharist on this day; and the Communion we receive will have been reserved in the tabernacle from the previous day.

On Holy Saturday, we keep watch expectantly for the rising of Our Savior. This was the day He went down into the netherworld in order to bring back up with Him into heaven those who had died before His coming. Up to this time, the gates to heaven were closed and no one could go there because of the original sin of Adam. Jesus changed that: By paying the price for our sins on the Cross, He gained for us our eternal salvation, and heaven was opened once more.

Also on this night, persons who have spent months of preparation will be received through Baptism and Confirmation into the Catholic Church for the first time. It is a joyous occasion.