“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.

 

 

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