May has been a month of special devotion to the Virgin Mary since the 13th century but this one in 2011 is of special significance for England, sometimes known as Mary’s Dowry; and before we get too far into the month, we wanted to draw attention to the reason why.
Walsingham is England’s national shrine and this year is its 950th anniversary. Its history and devotions to our Lady of Walsingham can be found in the booklet, Message of Walsingham by Fr R.W Connelly S.M.
He explains that five years before the Norman conquest of England, when St Edward the Confessor was King, a Saxon noblewoman, Richeldis de Faverches, had a vision of Mary and set up a holy house of Mary, similar to one she saw in a vision of the Virgin’s house in Nazareth. Since then, across difficult centuries and the ravages of the Reformation, it has been a vital part of English Catholic life.
It suffered what Fr Connelly calls, “Over 350 years of desolation,” following King Henry VIII’s break with Rome. Catholics were at last allowed to return to the shrine in 1897. But this year’s celebrations are not just about the past. There have been a series of events from music to talks and liturgical celebrations, a list of which you can find here in PDF.
Fr Alan Williams SM, Director of the shrine, expressed the importance of this special year when he wrote:
“The National Roman Catholic Shrine and the Anglican Shrine [which can trace its history back to the 1920s], together with other Christian communities of Walsingham, have planned an attractive and varied programme of events and celebrations. Everything began here with the faith and vision of Richeldis almost 1,000 years ago. All that has happened since then would have amazed her but I know she would have been delighted to join us in our anniversary celebrations.”
And they would be delighted if you did too!
Message of Walsingham by Fr R.W Connelly is available from CTS priced £1.95
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