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WALSINGHAM, England (ChurchMilitant.com) - On the Solemnity of the Annunciation, UK Catholics were greeted with a major announcement.
On Monday, the Catholic National Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham announced that in June, the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham will begin a two-year tour of England's cathedrals as part of a campaign to reclaim the country for the Blessed Mother.
From 2018-2020, "the statue of Our Lady from the Slipper Chapel at the Catholic National Shrine in Walsingham will be taken to each Cathedral in England for a three-day triduum of prayer, as part of the preparation for the rededication of England as the Dowry of Mary in 2020."
The "Dowry Tour" is "a call to a spiritual renewal" to support the re-evangelization of England.
According to the announcement, "Under the guardianship and protection of St Joseph," the pilgrimage "will support ongoing spiritual formation through the promotion of a nationwide Novena of prayer for England in preparation for the rededication."
Kicking off June 21–23 at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King in Liverpool, the tour includes stops in Brentwood, Salford, Southwark, Birmingham, Nottingham, Lancaster and London, among others.
The initiative has the full backing of the nation's bishops. Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, calls this "a moment of great promise ... for the Church in this country and for our mission."
Though England played a leading role in the Protestant revolt, it was once renowned for its Catholic piety — especially its dedication to the Virgin Mary:
The word "dowry" (from the Latin dos, meaning "donation") is sometimes understood as the donation accompanying a bride. In medieval English law, however, the meaning is reversed—a husband would set aside a portion of his estate designated for the maintenance of his wife, should she become a widow. The historical understanding of England as "Mary's Dowry" is understood in this sense—that, England has been "set apart" for Mary.
The title is thought to have originated during the reign of St. Edward the Confessor (1042–1066); by the middle of the fourteenth century, its use was widespread.
According to Monday's press release, "Around the year 1350, a mendicant preacher stated in a sermon that 'it is commonly said that the land of England is the Virgin's dowry,' reflecting ... the deep devotion of the English people to the Mother of God that existed in medieval England."
In 1381, King Richard II (1377–1399) "set aside" England to Our Lady as her Dowry, for her care and protection in the Chapel of Our Lady of Pew in Westminster Abbey.
"The contemplation of the great mystery of the Incarnation has drawn all Christian nations to venerate her from whom came the first beginnings of our redemption," wrote Archbishop Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1399. "But we English, being the servants of her special inheritance and her own dowry, as we are commonly called, ought to surpass others in the fervour of our praises and devotions."
In 1893 Pope Leo XIII urged English Catholic pilgrims in Rome to remember "the wonderful filial love which burnt within the hearts 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 title of 'Mary's Dowry.'"
"The gift to be given in 2020, will reflect that same love of the Mother of God ... the gift of the personal faith of the people of England and those who have made their home here," the initiative's organizers declare. "The people who seek again, in our time, the prayers and protection of the Mother of God for our country to assist the Church in the new evangelisation which calls for a new ardour in our faith."
In its press release Monday, the National Shrine reminded Catholics of what some believe is a prophecy of the country's spiritual revival.
In 1897, as he signed the rescript for the Restoration of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, Pope Leo XIII declared: "When England returns to Walsingham, Our Lady will return to England."