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The Dowry of Mary

The Dowry of Mary

“the wonderful filial love which burnt within the heart of your forefathers towards the great Mother of God … to whose service they consecrated themselves with such abundant proofs of devotion, that the kingdom itself acquired the singular and highly honourable title of ‘Mary’s Dowry’.”

– Pope Leo XIII

I remember, as a child at school in the south of England some fifty years ago, that we were particularly dedicated to Our Lady of Ransom, and to the idea of England being the ‘dowry of Mary’. Even as a young child in those days, I thought this was a beautiful thing although I had very little sense of what it really meant. Of course, it expresses the notion that the Blessed Virgin regards England with a particular fondness, that She is our special protectress and patroness.

The notion that England is the ‘dowry of Mary’ goes back as far as 1051 according to some sources, even though there is no certainty over the actual origin of the title. In 1381, King Richard II dedicated England to Mary, setting it apart for Her. And the title finds itself written down around the year 1400, when Archbishop Thomas Arundel noted that –

“we English, being ..  Her own dowry, as we are commonly called, ought to surpass others in the fervour of our praises and devotions..”

As the Archbishop described the title as being ‘commonly’ used, it is not surprising that the imagery associated with the title can be found in a several religious artefacts of that period, including the Wilton Diptych; in this, King Richard is seen kneeling before the Virgin and Child, while an Angel bears a staff upon which is the flag of Saint George – patron of England – and a map of the country.

In 1893, the title received Papal recognition when Pope Leo XIII addressed English Catholics on pilgrimage to Rome; he said –

“the wonderful filial love which burnt within the heart of your forefathers towards the great Mother of God … to whose service they consecrated themselves with such abundant proofs of devotion, that the kingdom itself acquired the singular and highly honourable title of ‘Mary’s Dowry’.”

The Wilton Diptych: image © National Gallery

Mindful of this very long history of a particular devotion to the Mother of God, the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have determined that this year, England will be re-dedicated as the Dowry of Mary.

The dedication will take place on Sunday 29 March 2020, in every Cathedral in England and Wales, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, in all the parish Churches taking part and in the homes of many of the faithful.

A 3 day triduum of prayer will take place immediately prior to this, between 26 and 28 March, consisting of prayers of reparation and the Litany of the Saints and Martyrs of England, together with the prayer of the holy Rosary.

This will see the conclusion of two years of spiritual preparation – a nationwide Novena of prayer for England and a tour of the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham to every Cathedral in England.

At the personal level, the Catholics of England and Wales are being encouraged to begin their own period of spiritual preparation, starting on 21 February and ending on the feast of the Annunciation with a personal consecration to Jesus through Mary using the formula of Saint Louis Marie de Montfort. Written materials supporting this personal consecration have been made available by the organisers, Behold2020, who note –

“History shows us that when people pray this prayer of absolute surrender to God’s will for their lives, society is transformed. By taking up this personal dedication in 2020, you can be a part of the renewal of this nation, drawing ourselves closer to the will of our loving God, through Mary.”

More information is available on the Diocese of Westminster website.

 

 

A Heavenly Garden

A Heavenly Garden

“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death..”

The Blessed Virgin Mary has a great many titles, each one representing some honour or some facet of Her motherly intercession on our behalf. She is the Ark of the Covenent, the House of Gold, the Help of Christians, the Refuge of Sinners, the Queen of Peace, the Queen of the Holy Rosary and much more besides.

Every single one of these glorious titles is like a heavenly rose offered in Her honour. However, there is one single title which surpasses them all and which is the fragrant garden in which all of those heavenly roses, the other titles, blossom and give forth their heavenly fragrance; and it is this title – Mother of God.

Everything else rests upon the foundation of this single title.

Mary is truly the Mother of God, because Her Son, Jesus Christ, is both true God and true Man in one divine Person. And in this sense, the title says more about the Lord than His Mother; He is the reason for everything She is. The Catechism tells us –

“Mary’s role in the Church is inseparable from her union with Christ and flows directly from it. “This union of the mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ’s virginal conception up to his death”; it is made manifest above all at the hour of his Passion..” (Catechism, para.964)

In their ‘Dogmatic Constitution on the Church’, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council expressed it in these words –

“The Virgin Mary . . . is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and of the redeemer. . . . She is ‘clearly the mother of the members of Christ’ . . . since She has by Her charity joined in bringing about the birth of believers in the Church, who are members of its head.” (Lumen Gentium para.53)

And in a discourse given in November 1964, Pope St Paul VI very succintly said –

“Mary, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church.”

And so, if Mary truly is the Mother of God and also our Mother, that places repsonsibilities upon Her; She has a duty of care toward each and every one of us, doing all in Her maternal power to help us to reach Heaven. However, it also places responsibilities upon us, Her children; we are obliged to honour Her as the Mother of God and as our Mother. And like any good child, this means we should go to Her in all our needs, with all the confidence of little children, certain that Her motherly love for us will never cease. She is the most loving and the most powerful advocate we have before the Lord, and She pleads for us to Him constantly and unceasingly. Perhaps She had some sense of this when, in the Gospel of Saint Luke, in praying Her ‘Magnificat’, She said –

“All generations will call Me blessed.”

The Church reminds us that –

“By Her complete adherence to the Father’s will, to His Son’s redemptive work, and to every prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary is the Church’s model of faith and charity. Thus She is a ‘preeminent and . . . wholly unique member of the Church’; indeed, She is the ‘exemplary realization’ (typus) of the Church.. Her role in relation to the Church and to all humanity goes still further. ‘In a wholly singular way She cooperated by Her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the Savior’s work of restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason She is a mother to us in the order of grace’.. 

This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which She loyally gave at the Annunciation and which She sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven She did not lay aside this saving office but by Her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation . . . . Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.” (Catechism, parae.967-969)

On this great solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, let us confidently approach this sweetest and most immaculate of mothers, with the full confidence of children, and place our own causes at Her feet, asking Her to present all of our needs to the Lord, Her Son.

 

 

Address of the Holy Father

Address of the Holy Father

“Today we invoke the Mother of God, who gathers us together as a people of believers.

O Mother, give birth to hope within us and bring us unity. Woman of salvation, to You we entrust this year. Keep it in Your Heart.”

– Pope Francis

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

Vatican Basilica
Wednesday, 1st January 2020


 

“But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman” (Gal 4:4). Born of woman: Jesus came in this way. He did not appear in the world as an adult but, as the Gospel tells us, he was “conceived in the womb” (Lk 2;21). It was there that he made our humanity his own: day after day, month after month. In the womb of a woman, God and mankind are united, never to be separated again. Even now, in heaven, Jesus lives in the flesh that he took in his mother’s womb. In God, there is our human flesh!

On the first day of the year, we celebrate this nuptial union between God and mankind, inaugurated in the womb of a woman. In God, there will forever be our humanity and Mary will forever be the Mother of God. She is both woman and mother: this is what is essential. From her, a woman, salvation came forth and thus there is no salvation without a woman. In her, God was united to us, and if we want to unite ourselves to him, we must take the same path: through Mary, woman and mother. That is why we begin the year by celebrating Our Lady, the woman who wove the humanity of God. If we want to weave humanity into this our time, we need to start again from the woman.

Born of woman. The rebirth of humanity began from a woman. Women are sources of life. Yet they are continually insulted, beaten, raped, forced to prostitute themselves and to suppress the life they bear in the womb. Every form of violence inflicted upon a woman is a blasphemy against God, who was born of a woman. Humanity’s salvation came forth from the body of a woman: we can understand our degree of humanity by how we treat a woman’s body. How often are women’s bodies sacrificed on the profane altars of advertising, of profiteering, of pornography, exploited like a canvas to be used. Yet women’s bodies must be freed from consumerism; they must be respected and honoured. Theirs is the most noble flesh in the world, for it conceived and brought to light the love that has saved us! In our day, too, motherhood is demeaned, because the only growth that interests us is economic growth. There are mothers who risk difficult journeys desperately seeking to give a better future to the fruit of their womb, yet are deemed redundant by people with full stomachs but hearts empty of love.

Born of woman. The Bible tells us that woman come onto the scene at the height of creation, as a summation of the entire created world. For she holds within herself the very purpose of creation: the generation and safekeeping of life, communion with all things, care for all things. So it is with the Mother of God in today’s Gospel. The text tells us, “But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (v. 19). She kept all these things: joy at the birth of Jesus and sadness for the lack of hospitality shown in Bethlehem; the love of Joseph and the amazement of the shepherds; the promise and the uncertainty of the future. She took everything to heart, and in her heart, she put everything in its right place, even hardships and troubles. In her heart, she lovingly set all things in order and entrusted everything to God.

In the Gospel, Mary does this a second time: at the end of the hidden life of Jesus, we are told that “his mother kept all these things in her heart” (v. 51). This repetition makes us realize that “keeping in her heart” was not something nice that Our Lady did from time to time, but something habitual. Women typically take life to heart. Women show us that the meaning of life is not found in making things but in taking things to heart. Only those who see with the heart see things properly, because they know how to “look into” each person: to see a brother apart from his mistakes, a sister apart from her failings, hope amid difficulty. They see God in all persons and things.

As we begin this new year, let us ask ourselves: Do I know how to see with the heart? Do I know how to look at people with the heart? Do I take to heart the people with whom I live? Or do I tear them down by gossip? And above all, do I put the Lord at the centre of my heart, or other values, other interests, like advancement, riches, power? Only if we take life to heart will we know how to take care and overcome the indifference all around. So let us ask for the grace to live this year with the desire to take others to heart and to care for them. And if we want a better world, a world that will be a peaceful home and not a war field, may we take to heart the dignity of each woman. From a woman was born the Prince of peace. Women are givers and mediators of peace and should be fully included in decision-making processes. Because when women can share their gifts, the world finds itself more united, more peaceful. Hence, every step forward for women is a step forward for humanity as a whole.

Born of woman. Jesus, newly born, was mirrored in the eyes of the woman, in the face of his mother. From her, he received his first caresses; with her, he exchanged the first smiles. With her began the revolution of tenderness. The Church, looking at the Baby Jesus, is called to continue that revolution. For she too, like Mary, is both woman and mother. The Church is woman and mother, and in Our Lady, she finds her distinctive traits. She sees Mary immaculate, and feels called to say no to sin and to worldliness. She sees Mary fruitful, and feels called to proclaim the Gospel and to give birth to it in people’s lives. She sees Mary a mother, and she feels called to receive every man and woman as a son or daughter.

In drawing close to Mary, the Church discovers herself, she finds her centre and her unity. The enemy of our human nature, the devil, seeks instead to divide, to highlight differences, ideologies, partisan thinking and parties. But we do not understand the Church if we regard her by starting with structures, programmes and trends, ideologies and functions. We may grasp something, but not the heart of the Church. Because the Church has a mother’s heart. And we, as her sons and daughters, invoke today the Mother of God, who gathers us together as a people of believers. O Mother, give birth to hope within us and bring us unity. Woman of salvation, to you we entrust this year. Keep it in your heart. We acclaim you, the Holy Mother of God. All together now, for three times, let us stand and acclaim the Lady, the Holy Mother of God. [with the assembly] Holy Mother of God, Holy Mother of God, Holy Mother of God!

 


© Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Our Friends in Purgatory

Our Friends in Purgatory

All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.”

– Catechism of the Catholic Church, para.1030

The Church teaches us that at the moment of death, we immediately undergo our particular Judgement. After this, there are two options – Heaven or Hell. For those souls going to Heaven, there will be either immediate entry or else a period or purification prior to entry. The Catechism tells us –

“The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire.. This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead..” (Catechism. para.1031-1032)

Purgatory, then, is not a punishment; rather, it is an act of great mercy by the Lord, Who cleanses these souls before they enter Heaven. And the Church specially dedicates the month of November each year to the memory of the Holy Souls in Purgatory, reminding us of our duty toward them in charity, that we might offer prayers and sacrifices on their behalf, so assisting them to Heaven.

The Holy Souls cannot help themselves – but we can help them, especially by having Masses offered for them, and by applying to them any Induglences we can gain. Whilst they are not able to help themselves, they are able to help us – and those souls we assist to Heaven will not forget us.

At the first appearance of Our Blessed Lady at Fatima, Lucia asked about two young girls who had died shortly beforehand. The first was about sixteen years old when she died, and Our Lady told Lucia this girl was already in Heaven. The second died when she was about twenty; Our Lady said this girl would “be in Purgatory until the end of the world”, according to Lucia. At first glance, this might seem harsh, but there are a couple of things we should remember, just to put this comment into context. First of all, this soul is already saved – she will enter Heaven at some point, for her salvation is assured. And that is a great blessing. Secondly, the Holy Souls are outwith time – time does not apply there in the way it does here, so it is difficult for us to comment with any certainty on the period of purgation which a particular soul will undergo.

What is most important, perhaps, is for us simply to realise that the Holy Souls need our assistance – that we can help them to reach Heaven sooner, by the ways already mentioned.

It is also important to remember that we should never ever presume that a particular soul is already in Heaven – if we do, the danger is that we will not pray for them. If they are in Purgatory, our prayers will assist them; if they are already in Heaven, our prayers will help other souls.

One final point to remember is that, God willing, we will one day undergo our own purgation – for we should never presume to be so pure in soul that we will enter Heaven immediately. And when that day comes for us, how we will thank God for those souls praying for us.

It is a good practice to ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to assist the Holy Souls in Purgatory; She is greatly concerned for them, as these words from the Diary of Saint Faustina attest –

“I saw Our Lady visiting the souls in Purgatory. The souls call Her ‘the Star of the Sea’. She brings them refreshment.” (Diary, para.20)

May Our Blessed Lady, the Star of the Sea, pray for and assist the Holy Souls.

Our Friends The Saints

Our Friends The Saints

“The memory of the Saints leads us to raise our eyes to Heaven: not to forget the realities of the earth, but to face them with more courage and hope.”

– Pope Francis, Feast of All Saints – 1st November 2019

It is probable that most Catholics have at least one ‘favourite’ Saint. For whatever reason, a particular Saint appeals to us – possibly because of something they did, how they lived, what they are remembered for, or some other similar reason.

Personally, I have a small collection of favourites who have been there with me for a long time now – each one is dear to me for a particular reason, but the reasons are different for each of them.

First of all, there is Saint Bernadette Soubirous, who saw Our Lady at Lourdes. She was the first Saint I ever knew anything about, as I had an aunt who visited Lourdes on several occasions. There was a little picture of Bernadette in our home ever since my childhood and so it was inevitable she and I would become friends. Much later on, I had the pleasure of visiting Bernadette at her convent in Nevers, France, where I had the privilege to stay for several days with the Sisters on a couple of occasions. This allowed me the opportunity to spend time alone with Bernadette’s relics in the Chapel, and this is a memory I cherish. Bernadette appeals to me because of her simplicity and her devotion to the message of the Gospel, echoed in her experiences at the Grotto and later in her religious life at Nevers. She has also been a very good and trusted friend as the years have passed.

After Bernadette, come three children – brother and sister, Saint Jacinta Marto and Saint Francisco Marto, and their cousin, Lucia dos Santos, who would go on to become a Carmelite nun, before her death in 2005. These three children saw Our Lady at Fatima. I came to learn of them – and of the appearances of Our Lady of Fatima – thanks to a bookstall at school many years ago, when I was about fifteen. I had never heard of Fatima until that point. I bought a copy of Lucia’s memoirs and was absolutely fascinated; not only by her account of the appearances, but by the lives of deep holiness which the children lived out, day after day. These children were greatly devoted to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, whom they had the privilege to see. Their lives are proof that not only is the call to holiness truly universal, but it is also universally attainable – if only we will work at it day after day.

Next, there is Saint Faustina Kowalska, through whom we were given the Divine Mercy devotion. Out of the blue, Faustina made it her business to make her presence felt quite forcefully in my life, and she has remained in it ever since. She appeals to me because of her tenacity and her faithfulness to the mission entrusted to her, despite every obstacle that came in her path – and every one of which she overcame.

A Pope makes it onto my list – Saint John Paul II. He is the only Saint I have had the privilege to actually see whilst he was alive. He was deeply devoted to the Mother of God, and he was a Pope who placed a great emphasis on Fatima and it’s message, mentioning it often. He is also the Pope who brought the Divine Mercy devotion out of the shadows, placing it firmly in the light of the Church; he would later canonise St Faustina and give the Church the Feast of Divine Mercy. He was a truly good and holy man and I remember how sad I was that Saurday night when we lost him, as he had been with us for so very long. I did not doubt that he was a living Saint.

John Paul took his motto – ‘Totus Tuus’ (‘All Yours’) – from the writings of Saint Louis Marie de Montfort, who wrote the ‘Treatise On The True Devotion’, and ‘The Secret Of The Rosary’. Saint Louis is on my list also, needless to say. He is the great Marian scholar-Saint, living out the very thing he gives to us in his writings. I read his Treatise when I was about sixteen and it changed my life entirely, and continues to do so. Interestingly, Saint John Paul said much the same about the effect of this book on his own life – which is why he chose that particular motto.

A great favourite for many, many people is next on my list – Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. This ‘little’ Saint achieved a huge amount of good for souls – not because of what she did, but because of how she did it; that is, with great love. Obedience and love achieve great things in the order of grace as well as in the order of nature, and Thérèse is proof of this. A sign of her universal popularity is the ubiquity of statues in her likeness, found in almost every Catholic Church. And that popularity persists, if the vast numbers of people who thronged to honour her Relics here in Scotland recently, is anything to go by.

Nearing the end of this brief list is another personal favourite, although he is much less well-known (in this part of the world, at least) compared to all the others – Saint John Macias. John was a Dominican lay brother in Peru, where he died in 1645. Greatly devoted to the Lord and to the Mother of God, this love was reflected in his gentleness and in his intense love for the poor. He spared no efforts in making sure those near his monastery were fed every single day and he treated them with deep, deep kindness and reverence, as though each one was the Lord. Not surprisingly, the miracle that led to his canonisation was not unlike a certain other miracle, mentioned in the Gospel, concerning the miraculous feeding of a great many people. I admire John’s simple and deep faith and his intense life of prayer, this being the foundation of all else that he did.

Last but not least there is a man on my list who is not yet a canonised Saint – but I hope this will change one day. However, his Cause for canonisation is presently before Rome and he has been declared ‘Venerable’. His name is Matt Talbot. Although often associated with alchololism and recovery from it, this is not what attracts me to Matt; rather, it is his hidden life of deep and intense prayer, which developed and deepened after his recovery. Matt, like the others on my list, proves that all people have the capacity for true sanctity, if only we would comply with the grace of God and exercise the will to work towards becoming holy. Matt did precisely this; and in researching his life story, I am in no doubt that he posessed true and very deep sanctity. I pray for his eventual canonisation.

So this is a brief run-down of some of my favourite Saints, along with my reasons for listing them.

But what about you who read my list – who are your personal favourites, and why?

 

New Marian Feast

New Marian Feast

The Holy Father, Pope Francis, has today instituted a new Marian feast day – the optional Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto, to be celebrated on 10th December each year.

The text of the official promulgation of the new feast is given below and the official Notification is available on the Vatican website.

Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

Prot. N. 404/19

DECREE

on the celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto
to be inscribed in the General Roman Calendar

Since the Middle Ages veneration for the Holy House of Loreto has been the origin of that particular shrine which still today is visited by many faithful pilgrims in order to nourish their faith in the Word of God made flesh for us.

This shrine recalls the mystery of the Incarnation, leading all those who visit it to consider “the fullness of time”, when God sent his Son, born of a woman, as well as to meditate both on the words of the Angel announcing the Good News and on the words of the Virgin in response to the divine call.  Overshadowed by the Spirit, the humble handmaid of the Lord so became the dwelling-place of divinity, the purist image of the holy Church.

Closely bound to the Apostolic See this shrine, praised by Popes and known throughout the world, has, over the years and no less than Nazareth in the Holy Land, been able to illustrate powerfully the evangelical virtues of the Holy Family.

In the Holy House, before the image of the Mother of the Redeemer and of the Church, Saints and Blesseds have responded to their vocation, the sick have invoked consolation in suffering, the people of God have begun to praise and plead with Mary using the Litany of Loreto, which is known throughout the world.  In a particular way all those who travel via aircraft have found in her their heavenly patron.

In light of this, Pope Francis has decreed, by his own authority, that the optional memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto should be inscribed in the Roman Calendar on 10 December, the day on which the feast falls in Loreto, and celebrated every year.  This celebration will help all people, especially families, youth and religious to imitate the virtues of that perfect disciple of the Gospel, the Virgin Mother, who, in conceiving the Head of the Church also accepted us as her own.

Therefore the new memorial must appear in all Calendars and Liturgical Books for the celebration of Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours; the relative texts are attached to this decree and their translations, approved by the Episcopal Conferences, will be published after confirmation by this Dicastery.

Anything to the contrary nothwithstanding.

From the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 7 October 2019, the memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Rosary.

Robert Cardinal Sarah
Prefect

          + Arthur Roche
Archbishop Secretary