BLESSED VIRGIN MARY STATUE
GOES ON DISPLAY IN CATHEDRAL
A Holy House was created inside St John’s Cathedral in Portsmouth to display the renowned Statue of Our Lady of Walsingham shortly before Easter as it criss-crossed England on the Dowry Tour. The Blessed Virgin Mary’s statue left the Slipper Chapel of the Catholic National Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham in Norfolk last June and by March next year it will have visited all the Catholic Cathedrals of England. Until the Reformation England was known for centuries as the Dowry of Mary, a dedication formalised by Richard ll in 1381. The Dowry Tour is a mission of prayer for re-evangelisation and conversion culminating in the 2020 Re-dedication of England as the Dowry of Mary.
The four days of Masses, Eucharistic healing and Angelus from April 4-7 in St John’s Cathedral were experienced by countless people as an inspiring prelude to the Easter Season. A shrine containing the statue and a travelling exhibition were opened on Thursday evening at 5pm followed by Holy Mass with the Crowning of Our Lady and his Divine Son by Father P. J. Smith Dean of the Cathedral.
The programme over the following days included a Rosary for the Conversion of England and a talk on the Dowry of Mary by Monsignor John Armitage, the Rector of Our Lady’s Shrine (Friday); Adoration with Divine Mercy and an all-night vigil (Saturday); and Angelus and Holy Mass with an act of consecration (Sunday).
Our Lady’s residence in Portsmouth was longer than at any other Cathedral – fittingly given that the Dowry Tour connects so readily with many aspects of the Diocese. The Diocese contains the ancient see of Winchester, capital of Alfred the Great who secured the Christian identity of England after defeating the Great Heathen Army.
The Oxford area has strong connections with notable Catholics Cardinal Newman, Jesuit priest Edmund Campion and Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. Blessed John Henry Newman is patron with Our Lady of Walsingham of the Ordinariate (for Anglicans who wish to be in communion with the Holy See) which includes St Agatha’s in Portsmouth and has a presence in St Mary’s in Ryde, the Isle of Wight, the first church in England to be dedicated in honour of the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The Isle of Wight holds the only secondary school in England named after the Shrine, the Priory School of Our Lady of Walsingham in Whippingham. “There are so many connections in the Diocese with the shaping events of English history,” said Edmund Matyjaszek, school Principal and author of The Rosary: England’s Prayer (published by St Paul’s Publishing Westminster with a Foreword by Bishop Philip Egan).
Monsignor John Armitage places the Relic of St Alban, Britain’s first recorded martyr which was in Cologne Cathedral for 800 years.
“The visit of the Statue of Our Lady of Walsingham is of supreme historical and spiritual importance,” he continued. “We were and remain a country set apart for the mother of God alone.” The exhibition displayed in the Cathedral told how the description of England as Mary’s Dowry is thought to date back to Edward the Confessor.
The devout Lady Richeldis in 1061 was led in spirit by the Virgin Mary to the house of annunciation and at her request set up “England’s Nazareth” in Walsingham. “More and more people are beginning to realise the spiritual importance of Our Lady of Walsingham for our times,” said Antonia Moffat, Outreach Co-ordinator of the Dowry Tour.
“During the Triduum (the three days of Easter recalling the passion, death, burial and resurrection of Christ) of intense prayer at the Cathedrals a two-fold invitation is going out, asking people to focus on their own relationship with God and the Blessed Virgin Mary and through the new prayer, the Angelus Promise, to meditate on the annunciation.”