Blessed was the day
and welcome was the hour
whereon God’s Virgin Mother
was brought forth.
For of that birth
and said in prophecy
that a noble tree would spring
out of the root of Jesse,
and that this tree a bloom would bear
on which the Holy Spirit
of God himself would rest.
Blessed was the day
and welcome was the hour
whereon God’s Virgin Mother
was brought forth.
King Alfonsus of Castile, 13th century
O Lord, we beseech thee, bestow on thy servants the gift of heavenly grace: that as our redemption began to dawn in the child-bearing of the Blessed Virgin Mary; so this festival of her Nativity may yield us an increase of peace; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
‘Here she is, the Queen of all the Cinderellas in history: the humble peasant girl; the carpenter’s wife, brought to bed in a stable; the refugee in Egypt; the mother of whom ill-natured neighbours said she was no better than she ought to be (she was not spared that taunt); the poor widow, who watched her Son die in agony because the great ones of the world feared this young man and put him out of the way; the silent humble old woman of the people, whose life was over for all that mattered, praying in obscurity for twelve or twenty years after the Ascension; and then – the Queen of heaven’.
Dom Gregory Dix OSB, 1901-1952
‘God has given to his Mother great privileges and a mighty power of intercession. No one need fear that she will misuse her gifts or her power. She will not attempt to divert us from God; she will not scheme to attract us to the worship of anything less than the Most Holy Trinity: she will not jealously capture our devotion and hug it to her own self; she will not eclipse or obscure the streaming light of the divine Christ; she will do nothing to detract from his supreme godhead or his perfect manhood. Her one and only wish is to remain the handmaid of the Lord, and that all things shall be according to his word. Her one desire for us is that we should be like her, and thereby like him, in hearing the word of God and keeping it, her one command to men is: “Whatsoever he saith unto thee, do it.”
There she sits enthroned at his right hand; a glorious suppliant Queen beside her Lord and King. Yet what a suppliant! So near to God, so understanding of his mind, so ready to co-operate with his will. Remember that the Christian must see the universe as a great fellowship of co-workers: all working together with God. It has pleased him to delegate much of his work; some to the holy angels, some to the saints, and some even to us sinners here below. And in our devotional life the perspective will be distorted (to say the least) if we do not give Our Lady thousand times ten thousand and thousands and thousands, it is only when we realise that upon the King’s right hand stands the Queen in vesture of gold, and that around them is the court of Heaven numbering ten thousand times ten thousands and thousands of thousands, it is only when we make contact with that glorious array that our minds are really opened to the full grandeur of God, who reigns not as a solitary tyrant in lonely state, but as the loving Parent of that most wonderful of families, from which every family on earth is named – the family of the Holy Catholic Church which is also the Communion of Saints’.
from an address in the Pilgrim Church, Walsingham, 1956, by SJ Forrest, 1904-1977
‘Alphonsian spirituality is in fact eminently Christological, centred on Christ and on his Gospel. Meditation on the mystery of the Incarnation and on the Lord’s Passion were often the subject of St Alphonsus’ preaching. In these events, in fact, Redemption is offered to all human beings “in abundance”. And precisely because it is Christological, Alphonsian piety is also exquisitely Marian. Deeply devoted to Mary he illustrates her role in the history of salvation: an associate in the Redemption and Mediatrix of grace, Mother, Advocate and Queen.
In addition, St Alphonsus states that devotion to Mary will be of great comfort to us at the moment of our death. He was convinced that meditation on our eternal destiny, on our call to participate for ever in the beatitude of God, as well as on the tragic possibility of damnation, contributes to living with serenity and dedication and to facing the reality of death, ever preserving full trust in God’s goodness.
St Alphonsus Maria Liguori is an example of a zealous Pastor who conquered souls by preaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments combined with behaviour impressed with gentle and merciful goodness that was born from his intense relationship with God, who is infinite Goodness. He had a realistically optimistic vision of the resources of good that the Lord gives to every person and gave importance to the affections and sentiments of the heart, as well as to the mind, to be able to love God and neighbour’.
Pope Benedict XVI
O God, who didst inflame blessed Alphonsus, thy Confessor and Bishop, with zeal for souls, and didst through him enrich thy Church with a new offspring: we beseech thee; that being taught by his wholesome precepts and strengthened by his example, we may be able to attain in gladness unto thee; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The bride saint saw the Mother of God, Queen of the Heavens, wearing a priceless crown. Her beautiful shiny hair fell around her shoulders. The Virgin was wearing a brilliant golden tunic and a veil as blue as the sky; Bridget fell into a contemplative ecstasy, as if an internal life alienated her from herself.
All of a sudden Saint John the Baptist appeared and said to her, “Listen closely: I am about to reveal the meaning of all of this to you. The crown means that the Blessed Virgin is the Queen and Lady and Mother of the King of angels. Her hair signifies that she is the purist of virgins and absolutely perfect. Her sky blue veil denotes that all worldly things are dead to her. Her golden tunic symbolises that she has proved ardent love and charity, both inwardly and outwardly.
Her Son placed seven lilies in her crown, the first is her humility, the second is her fear; the third is her obedience; the fourth her patience; the fifth her serenity; the sixth her sweetness, because she is sweet and gives to all who invoke her when asking for something; the seventh is mercy when in need: because if anyone invokes her she will give them whatever they need.
The Son of God has placed among these seven lilies seven precious stones: the first is her eminent virtue, because there are no spirits that have virtue of a higher degree than that of the Blessed Virgin; the second is her perfect purity because the Queen of Heaven has been so pure that not even the minimal stain of sin has been on her, and no demon has ever managed to find any impurity in her. She is truly the most pure for it was opportune for the King of glory to be placed solely in the purest vessel chosen above all the angels and all mankind. The third precious stone is her beauty, because the saints praise God for the beauty of His mother and this completes the joy of all the angels and saints. The fourth precious stone on the crown represents the wisdom of the Virgin Mother because being adorned with splendour and beauty she is filled to the brim and endowed with every wisdom of God. The fifth precious stone is her strength because through God she is strong enough to destroy and dispose of everything that has been created. The sixth stone is her sparkle and light, because she illuminates the angels whose eyes are clearer than light and the demons heel to her beauty and do not dare look at her splendour. The seventh stone is the fulness of every delight, of all spiritual sweetness, present within her with such richness that there is no joy that does not grow from hers, nor any delight that is not completed by the vision of her beauty”’.
from the Revelations of St Bridget of Sweden, 1303-1373
O God Most High, the Creator of all mankind: we bless thy holy Name for the virtue and grace which thou hast given unto holy women of all ages, especially Saint Bridget; and we pray that her intercession and the example of her faith and purity may inspire many souls in this generation to look unto thee, and to follow thy blessed Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Salvation to all that will is nigh;
That All, which always is all everywhere,
Which cannot sin, and yet all sins must bear,
Which cannot die, yet cannot choose but die,
Lo! faithful Virgin, yields Himself to lie
In prison, in thy womb; and though He there
Can take no sin, nor thou give, yet He’ll wear,
Taken from thence, flesh, which death’s force may try.
Ere by the spheres time was created thou
Wast in His mind, who is thy Son, and Brother;
Whom thou conceivest, conceived; yea, thou art now
Thy Maker’s maker, and thy Father’s mother,
Thou hast light in dark, and shutt’st in little room
Immensity, cloister’d in thy dear womb.
John Donne, 1572-1631
On this memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a few photos of a 2015 parish pilgrimage from Calgary to Aylesford Priory in Kent, home of Carmelites from the 13th century to 1538, and once again from the 1930s.
‘Queen of Carmel, hear the voice of the Church as she sings to thee on this day. When the world was languishing in ceaseless expectation, thou wert already its hope. Unable as yet to understand thy greatness, it nevertheless, during the reign of types, loved to clothe thee with the noblest symbols. In admiration, and in gratitude for benefits foreseen, it surrounded thee with all the notions of beauty, strength, and grace suggested by the loveliest landscapes, the flowery plains, the wooded heights, the fertile valleys, especially of Carmel, whose very name signifies “the plantation of the Lord.” On its summit our fathers, knowing that Wisdom had set her throne in the cloud, hastened by their burning desires the coming of the saving sign: there at length was given to their prayers, what the Scripture calls perfect knowledge, and the knowledge of the great paths of the clouds. And when he who maketh his chariot and his dwelling in the obscurity of a cloud had therein shown himself, in a nearer approach, to the practiced eye of the father of prophets, then did a chosen band of holy persons gather in the solitudes of the blessed mountain, as heretofore Israel in the desert, to watch the least movements of the mysterious cloud, to receive from it their guidance in the paths of life, and their light in the long night of expectation’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
‘Father Paul Wattson, founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, had a long and deep devotion to Mary, Mother of Christ. Even before he was received into the Roman Catholic Church, Fr Paul and Society of Atonement co-founder, Mother Lurana White, established the Rosary League of Our Lady of the Atonement. In 1903, he enclosed a pamphlet in the first issue of his publication, The Lamp, encouraging devotion to Our Lady by praying the Rosary.
Later, this devotion led Father Paul to give the title “Our Lady of the Atonement” to the Blessed Mother. He felt that the Society of Atonement’s goal to re-unify Christians could not be accomplished without the help of prayer and the intercession of Our Lady. He wrote an editorial in The Lamp in March of 1910, “God forbid that the Children of the Atonement should ever be strangers to the passion and crucifixion of Jesus Christ”. He adds, “The very name Atonement is a perpetual reminder of the Cross. Our Lord hanging there in mortal agony; Our Lady standing by, the sword, foretold by Simeon, piercing her heart. This is the central scene in the mystery of the Atonement.” Fr Paul believed that her claim to this high title rests most solidly on the fact that she consented to become the Mother of the Redeemer and that she suffered with Jesus during the Passion. In the September 1932 issue of The Lamp, Father Paul wrote, “When we, therefore, give to our Blessed Mother the title of ‘Our Lady of the Atonement’, we mean ‘Our Lady of Unity.’”
In 1919, Pope Benedict XV granted Father Paul’s fervent appeal to bless the Atonement community by recognising the Graymoor custom titling the Mother of Christ as Our Lady of the Atonement, and she was given a feast day of July 9. Father Paul composed a prayer to Our Lady of the Atonement which continues to be prayed by the Friars and Sisters of the Atonement today’.
from the Father Paul of Graymoor Guild
O God, who dost gather together those that have been scattered, and who dost preserve those that have been gathered: we beseech thee, through the intercession of the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Atonement; that thou wouldest pour out upon thy Church the grace of unity and send thy Holy Ghost upon all mankind, that they may be one; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘“The Christian faith is first and foremost the encounter with Jesus, a Person, which gives life a new horizon” (Deus Caritas Est, n.1). St Cyril of Alexandria was an unflagging, staunch witness of Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God, emphasising above all his unity, as he repeats in 433 in his first letter to Bishop Succensus: “Only one is the Son, only one the Lord Jesus Christ, both before the Incarnation and after the Incarnation. Indeed, the Logos born of God the Father was not one Son and the one born of the Blessed Virgin another; but we believe that the very One who was born before the ages was also born according to the flesh and of a woman”.
Over and above its doctrinal meaning, this assertion shows that faith in Jesus the Logos born of the Father is firmly rooted in history because, as St Cyril affirms, this same Jesus came in time with his birth from Mary, the Theotokos, and in abundance with his promise will always be with us. And this is important: God is eternal, he is born of a woman, and he stays with us every day. In this trust we live, in this trust we find the way for our life’.
Pope Benedict XVI
O God, who didst strengthen thy blessed Confessor and Bishop Saint Cyril, invincibly to maintain the divine motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary: vouchsafe that at his intercession we, believing her to be indeed the Mother of God, may as her children rejoice in her protection; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Mary amazes us; her heart is limpid, totally open to God’s light. Her soul is without sin, it is not weighed down by pride or selfishness. Elizabeth’s words enkindle in her spirit a canticle of praise, which is an authentic and profound “theological” reading of history: a reading that we must continually learn from the one whose faith is without shadow and without wrinkle.
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord”. Mary recognises God’s greatness. This is the first indispensable sentiment of faith. It is the sentiment that gives security to human creatures and frees from fear, even in the midst of the tempest of history.
Going beyond the surface, Mary “sees” the work of God in history with the eyes of faith. This is why she is blessed, because she believed. By faith, in fact, she accepted the Word of the Lord and conceived the Incarnate Word. Her faith has shown her that the thrones of the powerful of this world are temporary, while God's throne is the only rock that does not change or fall.
Her Magnificat, at the distance of centuries and millennia, remains the truest and most profound interpretation of history, while the interpretations of so many of this world's wise have been belied by events in the course of the centuries.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us return home with the Magnificat in our heart. Let us bring the same sentiments of praise and thanksgiving of Mary to the Lord, her faith and her hope, her docile abandonment in the hands of Divine Providence.
May we imitate her example of readiness and generosity in the service of our brethren. Indeed, only by accepting God’s love and making of our existence a selfless and generous service to our neighbour, can we joyfully lift a song of praise to the Lord.
May the Blessed Mother, who invites us this evening to find refuge in her Immaculate Heart, obtain this grace for us’.
Pope Benedict XVI
Almighty and everlasting God, who in the heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary didst prepare an habitation meet for the Holy Spirit: mercifully grant that we, celebrating with devout mind the festival of the same Immaculate Heart, may be enabled to live after thine own Heart; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘[W]hat is the end of all Christ’s mysteries? To make of Himself the example of all our supernatural life, the ransom for our sanctification and the source of all our holiness; to create for Himself an eternal and glorious fellowship of brethren like unto Himself That is why Mary, like a new Eve, is associated with the new Adam; but much more truly than Eve, Mary is the “Mother of all the living”, the Mother of all who live by the grace of her Son. This association was not only outward. Christ, being God, being the omnipotent Word, created in the soul of His Mother the feelings she was to have towards those who being born of her and living by His mysteries, He willed to constitute His brethren. The Blessed Virgin, for her part, enlightened by the grace abounding in her, responded to this call of Jesus by a Fiat of entire submission and in union of spirit with her Divine Son. In giving her consent to the Divine proposition of the Incarnation, she accepted to enter into the plan of the Redemption in a unique capacity; she accepted, not only to be the Mother of Jesus, but to be associated in all the mission of the Redeemer. To each of these mysteries of Jesus, she had to renew this Fiat full of love until the moment when she was able to say: “All is consummated”, after having offered at Calvary, for the world’s salvation, this Jesus, this Son, this Body she had formed, this Blood which was her own. At this blessed hour, Mary entered so deeply into the mind of Jesus that she may truly be called Co-redemptress. Like Jesus, she, at this moment, achieved the act of love of bringing us forth to the life of grace.
Mother of our Head, according to the thought of St Augustine, in bearing Him corporally, she became spiritually the Mother of all the members of this Divine Head. And because here below she is thus associated in all the mysteries of our Redemption, Jesus has crowned her not only with glory, but with power. He has placed His Mother at His right hand that she may dispose of the treasures of eternal life by a unique title – that of Mother of God: “The queen stood on Thy right hand”.
Full of confidence, let us then say to her with the church: “Show thyself a Mother: Mother of Jesus by thy influence with Him; our Mother by mercy towards us. May Christ receive our prayers through thee, this Christ Who, born of thee to bring us life, willed to be thy Son”. Who, indeed, better than she knows the Heart of her Son?’
Blessed Columba Marmion OSB, 1858-1923
‘The joyous veneration given to the Mother of God by the contemporary Church, in light of reflection on the mystery of Christ and on his nature, cannot ignore the figure of a woman, the Virgin Mary, who is both the Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church.
In some ways this was already present in the mind of the Church from the premonitory words of Saint Augustine and Saint Leo the Great. In fact the former says that Mary is the mother of the members of Christ, because with charity she cooperated in the rebirth of the faithful into the Church, while the latter says that the birth of the Head is also the birth of the body, thus indicating that Mary is at once Mother of Christ, the Son of God, and mother of the members of his Mystical Body, which is the Church. These considerations derive from the divine motherhood of Mary and from her intimate union in the work of the Redeemer, which culminated at the hour of the cross.
Indeed, the Mother standing beneath the cross, accepted her Son’s testament of love and welcomed all people in the person of the beloved disciple as sons and daughters to be reborn unto life eternal. She thus became the tender Mother of the Church which Christ begot on the cross handing on the Spirit. Christ, in turn, in the beloved disciple, chose all disciples as ministers of his love towards his Mother, entrusting her to them so that they might welcome her with filial affection.
As a caring guide to the emerging Church Mary had already begun her mission in the Upper Room, praying with the Apostles while awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit. In this sense, in the course of the centuries, Christian piety has honoured Mary with various titles, in many ways equivalent, such as Mother of Disciples, of the Faithful, of Believers, of all those who are reborn in Christ; and also as “Mother of the Church” as is used in the texts of spiritual authors as well as in the Magisterium of Popes Benedict XIV and Leo XIII.
Thus the foundation is clearly established by which Blessed Paul VI, on 21 November 1964, at the conclusion of the Third Session of the Second Vatican Council, declared the Blessed Virgin Mary as “Mother of the Church, that is to say of all Christian people, the faithful as well as the pastors, who call her the most loving Mother” and established that “the Mother of God should be further honoured and invoked by the entire Christian people by this tenderest of titles”.
Having attentively considered how greatly the promotion of this devotion might encourage the growth of the maternal sense of the Church in the pastors, religious and faithful, as well as a growth of genuine Marian piety, Pope Francis has decreed that the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, should be inscribed in the Roman Calendar... and be now celebrated every year.
This celebration will help us to remember that growth in the Christian life must be anchored to the Mystery of the Cross, to the oblation of Christ in the Eucharistic Banquet and to the Mother of the Redeemer and Mother of the Redeemed, the Virgin who makes her offering to God’.
from the decree by Robert, Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 11 February 2018
A few photos of a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, made with the Manchester Oratory in April 2018.
‘We would be mistaken to think that Fatima’s prophetic mission is complete. Here there takes on new life the plan of God which asks humanity from the beginning: “Where is your brother Abel […] Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!” (Genesis 4.9). Mankind has succeeded in unleashing a cycle of death and terror, but failed in bringing it to an end… In sacred Scripture we often find that God seeks righteous men and women in order to save the city of man and he does the same here, in Fatima, when Our Lady asks: “Do you want to offer yourselves to God, to endure all the sufferings which he will send you, in an act of reparation for the sins by which he is offended and of supplication for the conversion of sinners?” (Memoirs of Sister Lúcia, I, 162).
At a time when the human family was ready to sacrifice all that was most sacred on the altar of the petty and selfish interests of nations, races, ideologies, groups and individuals, our Blessed Mother came from heaven, offering to implant in the hearts of all those who trust in her the Love of God burning in her own heart. At that time it was only to three children, yet the example of their lives spread and multiplied, especially as a result of the travels of the Pilgrim Virgin, in countless groups throughout the world dedicated to the cause of fraternal solidarity. May the seven years which separate us from the centenary of the apparitions hasten the fulfilment of the prophecy of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity’.
from his homily, 13 May 2010, delivered at Fatima, by Pope Benedict XVI
O God, who didst choose the Mother of thy Son to be our Mother also: grant us that, persevering in penance and prayer for the salvation of the world, we may further more effectively each day the reign of Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Why is May chosen as the month in which we exercise a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin?
The first reason is because it is the time when the earth bursts forth into its fresh foliage and its green grass after the stern frost and snow of winter, and the raw atmosphere and the wild wind and rain of the early spring. It is because the blossoms are upon the trees and the flowers are in the gardens. It is because the days have got long, and the sun rises early and sets late. For such gladness and joyousness of external Nature is a fit attendant on our devotion to her who is the Mystical Rose and the House of Gold.
A man may say, “True; but in this climate we have sometimes a bleak, inclement May”. This cannot be denied; but still, so much is true that at least it is the month of promise and of hope. Even though the weather happen to be bad, it is the month that begins and heralds in the summer. We know, for all that may be unpleasant in it, that fine weather is coming, sooner or later. “Brightness and beautifulness shall”, in the Prophet’s words, “appear at the end, and shall not lie: if it make delay, wait for it, for it shall surely come, and shall not be slack”.
May then is the month, if not of fulfilment, at least of promise; and is not this the very aspect in which we most suitably regard the Blessed Virgin, Holy Mary, to whom this month is dedicated?
The Prophet says, “There shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise out of his root”. Who is the flower but our Blessed Lord? Who is the rod, or beautiful stalk or stem or plant out of which the flower grows, but Mary, Mother of our Lord, Mary, Mother of God?
It was prophesied that God should come upon earth. When the time was now full, how was it announced? It was announced by the Angel coming to Mary. “Hail, full of grace”, said Gabriel, “the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women”. She then was the sure promise of the coming Saviour, and therefore May is by a special title her month’.
St John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
A few shots of the progress thus far on the grotto for Our Lady at St Edward’s House; a practical and devotional way to spend some spare time in this Marian month of May, and to make use of the natural resource of the abundance of rocks and stones. The structure needs to be built up at the back and sides, a statue has been sourced, and after some proper landscaping and planting of roses (for the entrance arch) and Marian flowers (for the rockery), we will have a decent enough grotto in this relatively quiet and secluded part of the garden.
The Walsingham Pilgrim Manual
Be thou then O thou dear
Mother, my atmosphere;
My happier world, wherein
To wend and meet no sin;
Above me, round me lie
Fronting my forward eye
With sweet and scarless sky;
Stir in my ears, speak there
O God’s love, O live air,
Of patience, penance, prayer;
Worldmothering air, air wild,
Wound with thee, in thee isled,
Fold home, fast fold thy child.
Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ, 1844-1889
In both the Ordinariate and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite, one week exactly before Good Friday, Our Lady of Sorrows is today commemorated. In the Ordinariate it is known as ‘Saint Mary in Passiontide’, a day to recall the sufferings of Our Blessed Lady at the foot of the Cross of her Son. A poem to share for this day, Pietà, by the Welsh Anglican priest R.S. Thomas (1913-2000), written in 1966.
Always the same hills
Crown the horizon,
Of the still scene.
And in the foreground
The tall Cross,
Aches for the Body
That is back in the cradle
Of a maid’s arms.
Today’s historic Rededication of England as the Dowry of Mary – centred naturally on the Image of Our Lady of Walsingham, the premier Marian shrine in that realm - brought to mind memories of many happy and peaceful pilgrim visits to Our Lady’s sanctuary there. Walsingham has long held a special place in my devotional and spiritual life; a place that offers safe harbour, protection, respite from the busyness of the world, and the sense of home beyond home. Entering into the Holy House – which remains the first pilgrim port of call in the village for those of us in the Ordinariate, as it did in our Anglican days – is an act to be accompanied by deep sigh of relief. Words from the 43rd Psalm, fittingly part of the Introit for today’s Mass for Passion Sunday, mark every pilgrim’s First Visit – ‘I will go into the house of the Lord, even the house of my joy and gladness’ – echoing and underlying that sense of homecoming and also of the joy – Mary’s joy – in the mystery of the Incarnation, to which Walsingham bears witness.
A fourth Canadian pilgrimage was planned for the spring of next year but, as with much else, that has had to be put on hold until a clearer path can be discerned in the wake of evolving circumstances due to the global pandemic. So for now, and for a little while longer, as with the Eucharistic fast, may we be content with and comforted by many spiritual visits to Walsingham, pledging our love and devotion to Our Blessed Lady, under that ancient title, and pleading to her for the conversion of England (and wherever else we may live), the restoration of the sick, consolation for the afflicted, and peace for the departed.
Here is Fr Alfred Hope Patten’s (Anglican) prayer ‘to Our Lady of Walsingham When Absent’, from an old copy of the Walsingham Pilgrim Manual.
Most holy Virgin! I prostrate myself in spirit before thy Shrine at Walsingham, that Sanctuary favoured by thy visits, favours and many miracles. I unite myself with all those who have ever sought thee, and do now seek thee, in that holy place, and join my prayers with theirs. But especially I unite my intentions with the intentions of the Priests who offer the holy sacrifice upon thy Altar there. I offer thee my love and devotion, asking thee to remember for all eternity that I am numbered among the pilgrims who have sought thy intercession in the Sanctuary of thy choice. I renew the promises and intentions I made when it was my privilege to salute thee at thy Shrine in the Vale of the Stiffkey. Dear Mother, Our Lady of Walsingham, remember me.
This evening my family and I completed our novena to Our Lady of Walsingham and recited the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary in preparation for tomorrow’s rededication of England as Our Lady’s Dowry. In normal circumstances, in the context of the parish’s Sunday worship, we would have done our bit to celebrate this historic occasion - the renewal of a personal promise of the English people, and of the entrustment vows made by King Richard II in 1381 - with formal devotions before the parish’s Image of Our Lady of Walsingham, and sprinkling with holy water from the village.
Alas, it is not to be. Instead, the rededication will now take place behind closed doors in churches and homes across England and the world, as indeed will be the case here in Victoria. Following the Noon Mass I will lead our prayers and conclude with the Act of Entrustment. It may, on the surface, seem the circumstances have rendered this day all a bit low key, but that would be to miss something of the essential nature of this timely consecration. The absence of a big ‘do’ should not be interpreted as a failure; rather it offers an opportunity to emphasise the personal and intimate character of this consecration; that it is about dedicating oneself and claiming Mary as my Queen and my Mother; that England, and its diaspora, are converted not by grand gestures but by small acts of witness and of love.
I’ll let Fr Christopher Hilton, Cong. Orat., a much-revered family friend and priest of the Manchester Oratory, have the last word on all of this. Listen to what he has to say. His memorisation of a section of Cardinal Newman’s introduction to his Second Spring sermon is a particular a joy to behold.
‘Arise, Mary, and go forth in thy strength into that north country, which once was thine own, and take possession of a land which knows thee not. Arise, Mother of God, and with thy thrilling voice, speak to those who labour with child, and are in pain, till the babe of grace leaps within them! Shine on us, dear Lady, with thy bright countenance, like the sun in his strength, O stella matutina, O harbinger of peace, till our year is one perpetual May. From thy sweet eyes, from thy pure smile, from thy majestic brow, let ten thousand influences rain down, not to confound or overwhelm, but to persuade, to win over thine enemies’.
St John Henry Newman, pray for us.
Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for us.
A sunny and warm start to the afternoon today, which cheered the four of us gathered for Mass on the solemn feast of the Annunciation (‘of our Lady’, as the 1662 Prayer Book calls it), offered for the recovery of a parishioner following recent surgery. Daffodils were picked from the garden and placed next to the statue of the Madonna and Child, happily recused from their sad abode in a West Lancashire storeroom a few months ago. Last year I posted the following, by the essential Caryll Houselander. Her words this Lady Day - rich in the language of surrender, trust, and sacrifice - are worth repeating, not only today, but time and again as we seek meaning and pupose amidst the things we have involuntarily surrendered.
‘Our Lady said yes for the human race. Each one of us must echo that yes for our lives. We are all asked if we will surrender what we are, our humanity, our flesh and blood to the Holy Spirit and allow Christ to fill the emptiness formed by the particular shape of our life. The surrender that is asked of us includes complete and absolute trust; it must be like Our Lady’s surrender, without condition and without reservation. What we shall be asked to give is our flesh and blood, our daily life, our thoughts, our service to one another, our affections and loves, our words, our intellect, our waking, working and sleeping, our ordinary human joys and sorrows - to God. To surrender all that we are, as we are, to the Spirit of Love in order that our lives may bear Christ into the world - that is what we shall be asked. Our Lady has made this possible. Her fiat was for herself and for us, but if we want God’s will to be completed in us as it was in her, we must echo her fiat’.
Caryll Houselander, 1901-1954
First Evensong of Lady Day has been said and tea and cake enjoyed to celebrate, in more muted a manner than usual, the Solemnity of the Annunciation. Our Lady of Walsingham, enthroned just to the left of where I say my Office, has been a great comfort in these days, especially as we’ve worked through the novena to her in preparation for Sunday’s rededication of England as her dowry. One of the prayers in the second form of the novena, as provided in the Ordinariate’s rather excellent St Gregory Prayer Book, addresses Our Lady with these words, ‘Our Lady of Walsingham, we commend to thy loving intercession our parish, its priests, deacons, and people. Guard us beneath thy loving protection from sin and sorrow, shield us against pride and envy, and all the snares of the devil; and teach us, loving thee, to love the Lord Jesus, and all souls for his sake’. Loving protection is absolutely what we all need at the moment, and Our Lady doesn’t disappoint in offering her loving maternal consolations and protection, especially in moments of great anxiety and distress.
Which is a nice segue to an e-mail received from my colleague Mgr Wilkinson this morning. He says that ‘one way we can keep our people focused on the season is through [the St Gregory Prayer Book]. There is of course a whole section on Lent and on Passiontide, and on Our Lady. People don’t know... what to say... this book would help them’. And he’s right. The book has proved indispensable on a number of liturgical and pastoral occasions; a treasury of our Anglican patrimony, user-friendly and full of gems not easily found elsewhere. I heartily recommend it, and even have a lead on a much-reduced offer. Contact me for details!
Lord, teach us how to pray aright
With rev’rence and with fear;
Though dust and ashes in thy sight,
We may, we must draw near.
We perish if we cease from prayer;
O grant us power to pray.
And when to meet thee we prepare,
Lord, meet us by the way.
James Montgomery, 1771-1854
Under the watchful and maternal care of Our Blessed Lady, a Mass of Our Lady on Saturday was offered today for my absent parishioners, concluding with the Ave, Regina Caelorum. A number of penitents came for confession afterwards. Thoughts turned to Donne.
Absence, hear thou my protestation
Against thy strength,
Distance and length:
Do what thou canst for alteration,
For hearts of truest mettle
Absence doth join and Time doth settle.
Who loves a mistress of such quality,
His mind hath found
Beyond time, place, and all mortality.
To hearts that cannot vary
Absence is present, Time doth tarry.
My senses want their outward motion
Which now within
Reason doth win,
Redoubled by her secret notion:
Like rich men that take pleasure
In hiding more than handling treasure.
By Absence this good means I gain,
That I can catch her
Where none can watch her,
In some close corner of my brain:
There I embrace and kiss her,
And so enjoy her and none miss her.
‘That Time And Absence Proves Rather Helps Than Hurts To Loves’
by John Donne, 1572-1631
‘How wonderfully Lourdes proclaims the gospel. One cannot but be tempted to compare the simple and clear words of the apparition with the simplicity and clarity of the beginning of St Luke’s Gospel – the announcement to Mary, and to the world, of the incarnation.
One cannot go wrong here, for the words are all of the same source and inspiration, of the same Spirit. The one guarantees the other. It is the same heart and soul, the same Mary, who listens to the angel and who speaks to Bernadette. It is the same Spirit who gives Mary the grace to understand the angel’s message, and who moves her to speak to Bernadette according to God’s will.
The faithful and simple response of Bernadette is a replica of Mary’s. An innocent girl, ignorant of evil and wishing to know none, unpretentious and simple, putting herself at God’s disposal, strong in humility and, because of her humility, strong and firm in reacting to the divine Word: such was Mary and so was Bernadette to be’.
Gabriel, Cardinal Garonne, 1901-1994
O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary didst consecrate a dwelling-place meet for thy Son: we humbly beseech thee; that we, celebrating the apparition of the same Blessed Virgin, may obtain thy healing, both in body and soul; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘In the revised ordering of the Christian period it seems to us that the attention of all should be directed towards the restored Solemnity of Mary the holy Mother of God. This celebration, placed on 1 January in conformity with the ancient indication of the liturgy of the City of Rome, is meant to commemorate the part played by Mary in the mystery of salvation. It is meant also to exalt the singular dignity which this mystery brings to the “holy Mother… through whom we have been found worthy to receive the Author of Life”. It is likewise a fitting occasion for renewing adoration of the new-born Prince of Peace, for listening once more to the glad tidings of the angels, and for imploring from God, through the Queen of Peace, the supreme gift of peace’.
Pope St Paul VI, 1897-1978
O God, who by the fruitful virginity of Blessed Mary hast bestowed upon mankind the reward of eternal salvation: grant, we beseech thee, that we may know the help of her intercession, through whom we have been counted worthy to receive the Author of our life, Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Our second Rorate Mass of the Advent season was offered at 7 am this morning, the above photo shows the church, just after 6.35 am, ready to receive the faithful and to honour Our Blessed Lady. The Alma Redemptoris Mater was sung following the Mass.
‘The Church has willed – and what is more just? – that the liturgy of Advent should be full of the thought of the Blessed Virgin; she continually makes us sing the divine fruitfulness of the Virgin, a wonderful fruitfulness that throws nature into astonishment…
There is something truly ineffable about the Virgin during those days. She lived in an intimate union with the Infant God whom she bore within her. The soul of Jesus was, by the Beatific Vision, plunged in the divine light; this light radiated upon his Mother. In the sight of the angels, Mary truly appeared as “a woman clothed with the sun”, all irradiated with heavenly brightness, all shining with the light of her Son…
Let us humbly ask her to make us enter into her dispositions. She will hear our prayer; we shall have the immense joy of seeing Christ born anew within our hearts by the communication of a more abundant grace, and we shall be enabled, like the Virgin, although in a lesser measure, to understand the truth of these words of St John: “The Word was God… and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory… full of grace and truth… And of his fulness we have all received, grace upon grace”’.
Blessed Columba Marmion OSB, 1858-1923
Fr Lee Kenyon
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