WALSINGHAM, England (ChurchMilitant.com) - England will be re-dedicated as the "Dowry of Mary" in the face of the Wuhan virus pandemic, renewing the first dedication made by King Richard II in 1381 at Westminster Abbey as he sought Our Lady's protection during a period of great political turmoil.
However, with all churches in Britain closing from Monday night, "the rededication will now be an individual event taking place in hundreds of thousands of homes up and down the country on Sunday, March 29," a press statement from the Catholic National Shrine and Basilica of Our Lady announced.
There will be no main service at Walsingham or rededication services at churches and cathedrals, including some Anglican churches, as earlier planned. "Instead, we are going to use social media to help individuals and families do the rededication at home at noon (GMT) with the hashtag #RededicationAtHome," press coordinator Jack Valero told Church Militant.
"In the Middle Ages, England was one of the most Marian countries in Europe. A young Richard II consecrated England to Mary as depicted in the Wilton Diptych (pictured herein). We are hoping that the re-dedication will rekindle love for Mary in England and encourage many people to seek her protection in their hour of need," Valero said, noting that "this is all the more important in this time of crisis where it has become clear that as human beings we cannot control everything."
English royalty have made frequent pilgrimages to Walsingham: Henry III in 1226, Edward I (11 times), Edward II in 1315, Edward III in 1361, Richard II in 1383, Edward IV in 1469, Henry VI in 1487 (and many other times) and Henry VIII in 1511, in thanksgiving for the birth of his son, Prince Henry.
Henry VIII frequently visited the shrine in his earlier years as Fidei Defensor, making many trips to pray for a male heir with his wife, Catherine of Aragon.
Following the Protestant Revolt, on the orders of Henry VIII, military divisions were sent into Walsingham in 1538, razing the shrine. The canons and monks tried to defend it but those who resisted were hanged, drawn and quartered on a field now known as Martyr's Field. Its sacred image was carried to Chelsea and burned.
Speaking to Church Militant, commentator Deacon Nick Donnelly said he was gravely concerned by the "Protestant demotion" of Mary — but this time coming from within the Catholic Church.
The rededication of England to Mary will foster the resurgence of Marian piety and "reverse decades of neglect of devotions to Our Lady following Vatican II, when there was a concerted effort to suppress popular devotions," Donnelly said.
"It was a big mistake to relegate the Council's consideration of the Mother of God to a section tacked onto the end of Lumen Gentium, rejecting Cdl. [Alfredo] Ottaviani's proposal of a separate document dedicated to Mary," he remarked.
The deacon, a prominent voice in the Catholic Church in England, added:
It has taken us 60 years to begin to recover from this Protestant demotion of Our Lady. My hope is that following this re-dedication of England as Our Lady's Dowry, we will regain our prominence in promoting devotion to Our Lady, which we've had since Anglo-Saxon times, when we introduced the dedication of Saturdays to the Queen of Heaven.
Canon law expert Fr. Stephen Trott echoed Deacon Donnelly's words: "The stampede following the Council to tear down the altars, to reduce the liturgy to monosyllables, to pour away many centuries of spirituality and devotion, has left the Western Church both impoverished and in distress."
"The deep and heartfelt love of the Church for Mary, Theotokos, Bearer of the Lord, has been sadly neglected for some 60 years, even in shrines such as Walsingham, which have been subjected to the iconoclasm of the postconciliar era. It is a cause for joy that at last the tide is turning, and that a new generation is set to recover 'the beauty of holiness,' so long neglected but now treasured and to be restored," Trott commented.
Father Paul Haffner, member of the Pontifical International Marian Academy, explains that the title "Dowry of Mary" was "one of England's greatest glories." A dowry is the money, goods or estate that a woman brings to her husband in marriage.
The priest-historian points out that the earlier recorded use of the title was by King Richard II as he placed England under Our Lady's protection, in thanksgiving for having regained it: "Dos tua Virgo pia Haec est, quaere leges O Maria, This is your Dowry, O Holy Virgin, therefore rule over it, O Mary."
It was used by Abp. of Canterbury Thomas Arundel in 1399: "We English, being the servants of her [Mary's] special inheritance and her own Dowry as we are commonly called, ought to surpass others in the fervor of our praises and devotions.
By the 14th century, England was commonly called "Our Lady's Dowry" throughout Europe, notes Haffner. "It was chiefly because of the importance of Walsingham that England received her titles, 'the Holy Land' and 'Our Lady's Dowry.'"
Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury has expressed his hope that the rededication will save England from "the rapid de-Christianization of British society" and will lead to "the bright hope of a new evangelization."
"I have asked the faithful to make use of the daily Angelus to entrust our families and our nation once more to Our Lady who invites us to share her fiat — her 'yes' to God's plan — in the face of the many challenges and opportunities of this moment in our history," he said.
Following the destruction of the shrine during the Protestant Revolt, the first Catholic Mass was offered on Aug. 15, 1934. A few days later Cdl. Francis Bourne led a pilgrimage of 10,000 people to the Slipper Chapel at Walsingham and declared it to be the Catholic National Shrine of Our Lady.