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Our Lady's Dowry

The paths worn across the land by the pilgrims' steps

Selig Suffolk – a Call to Fellow Pilgrims

The idea for this blog began on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 2016. I had decided to walk from my home to the village of Preston St. Mary. I usually try to walk the local lanes and footpaths every day, and often combine it with saying a rosary.

Since I moved from South London to Suffolk a few months ago, an idea had been slowly forming in my head. I would walk as much as possible, exploring the countryside around my home. Ironically, I discovered that this was actually easier in south London, as there seemed to be far more footpaths around there! Here there are a few footpaths, but you generally have to walk on roads. This is usually fine on the back roads as there are very few cars. Anyway, the idea that was forming wasn’t just to walk, it was to walk with a purpose.

Since my first visit to the shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham last year, I had become aware of the extensive network of Marian shrines and churches dedicated to Mary in East Anglia. The town nearest to where I live, Sudbury, itself had a Marian shrine dedicated to Our Lady of the Harvest, and in medieval times a procession with the statue of Mary and child would take place every year on the Feast of the Assumption through the town. People would wave sheaves of corn as they went.

The church of St. Gregory in Sudbury housed the statue, and it was built by Simon of Sudbury, who was beheaded in the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381. It is likely that the shrine would have been a stop on the pilgrim’s route to Walsingham, or to the shrine of King Edmund at Bury St. Edmunds.

I was fortunate enough to obtain a copy of the fascinating book Shrines of Our Lady in England by Anne Vail at Walsingham last year, and it sparked a desire in me to make my own pilgrimages to the shrines and churches dedicated to Our Lady.

One passage in particular has stuck with me the last few months as I have walked around my part of Suffolk. In her chapter on Ipswich Anne Vail talks about the Viking presence in this part of the world. She says:

“When the Danish invaders first reached the east coast of England in the ninth century, they recognised in the extraordinary atmosphere of the area some unearthly quality which caused them to refer to ‘selig Suffolk’ – holy Suffolk. In later centuries, the wealth of the Suffolk wool traders encouraged the building of numerous churches, many of which remain. There is a saying that, wherever the traveller finds himself in Suffolk, there is always a church in view.”

I recognised that quality too. The gently rolling hills and fields, the quality of the light, especially at the coast, and the skies as the sun sets – there is something undeniably peaceful and holy, almost a Marian quality to the area! Those who have a devotion to Our Lady will understand what I mean. You only have to light a candle at a shrine like Our Lady of Good Counsel at Clare Priory and be still for a while to feel it – the strength and serenity of Our Blessed Mother.

And yet, a sadness is undeniably part of this discovery too. To feel Mary’s presence is also to feel her loss, her absence. It’s not just that we have turned our back on our mother, it’s that for most of us we have actively scorned her, been embarassed by her and her Son. Even as I walk with my plastic rosary in hand, I feel self-conscious that someone will see me with it. Trying to live a faith in a place and time like this is always going to be setting yourself at odds with the culture, but that is fine. What I find sad is how viciously and completely the popular piety that built these shrines and churches should have been swept away and replaced with – well, with what? A flattened, disenchanted, empire of discontent.

The secular consumerism of the modern world is one thing. My friend Roger Buck shows how the Anglosphere pervades almost everywhere in his excellent book The Gentle Traditionalist. He lives in Ireland and is able to see remnants of the faith as lived and part of the culture there in a way that it’s just not possible to see in England. But it’s being attacked. Look at what Soros is doing. But as I say, that is one thing. Persecution by extremists is another.

In the few weeks leading up to my small pilgrimage on the Assumption, Christians had been attacked and killed for the faith in many countries. So had the wrong types of Muslims, and people of other faiths or no faith, it is important to add. But certain events such as the beheading of Father Jacques Hamel at the altar in Normandy made me shiver at the openness with which the demonic forces were willing to conduct their assaults on the Church.

As I walked and prayed, I reflected on this, and started to realise that my walks could become part of something larger, something Mary had requested at various places over the last 150 years – places like the Rue du Bac, Lourdes, Fatima, Akita and so on. And that is to pray the rosary and do penance.

The pilgrimages to places of Marian worship could become small offerings, ways of sanctifying others, of sanctifying the land, the people, and they could begin to reactivate the awareness of this land as Our Lady’s Dowry again.

There are many medieval churches in this county, and walking around them I became aware that they were like giant spiritual energy centres or powerhouses, now largely powerless or at least dormant. But they can be awoken! Our Lady wishes to use the faith that was once so strong in this country to wake people up, and alert them to the dangers approaching. Through prayer and penance we can change the culture, change the direction that we are heading.

So this blog is going to be a record of the pilgrimages that I do, and I would like it to host guest posts from people who want to do something similar where they live. If you are a Catholic willing to do a small pilgrimage/s and document it here I would love to hear from you – leave a comment below. Ideally we would have a network of English Catholics all making small prayerful journeys to Marian places of worship or shrines as a powerful spiritual offensive against the evil forces which grow daily ever more blatant. Of course this would hopefully help us all to grow in holiness ourselves! Please let me know if you can help in some way.

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Why We Are Dying

Image: Virgin and Child, Notre Dame, Paris.

“The Virgin is not only the source of creative elan, but also of spiritual longevity. This is why the West, in turning away more and more from the Virgin, is growing old, ie. it is distancing itself from the rejuvenating source of longevity. Each revolution which has taken place in the West – that of the Reformation, the French revolution, the scientific revolution, the delirium of nationalism, the communist revolution – has advanced the process of aging in the West, because each has signified a further distancing from the principle of the Virgin. In other words, Our Lady is Our Lady, and is not to be replaced with impunity either by the ‘goddess reason’, or by the ‘goddess biological evolution’, or by the ‘goddess economy’.

The adulation of all these ‘goddesses’ bears witness to the unfaithfulness of so-called ‘Christian’ mankind; it very much resembles the sort of spiritual adultery which the Biblical prophets gave so much utterance to. It is, still more, a sin against one of the commandments of faithfulness to the principle of non-fallen Nature, the Virgin Mother, namely the commandment: Thou shalt not commit adultery.”

Valentin Tomberg

As someone on Twitter remarked, “Christians understand what fire means. It either burns in judgement or purges in healing and preparation for restoration, healing and resurrection. The difference between them is repentance.” https://t.co/sAA7rK27Hz

We have turned away from the Virgin, and we are dying. Will the fires call us to repentance or are they already fires of judgement?

Guerilla Warfare Tactics of the Counter-Revolutionary

We have just got back from a trip to Austria, and one of the things that struck us most was the sheer amount of roadside shrines, wall-paintings and iconography dedicated to Christ, Our Lady and the Saints.

Some of this iconography is a deep part of the lives of the local people; there are many images of St Christopher, patron saint of travellers, on the walls of guest houses for instance.

I made a mini-pilgrimage to one of the many Marian churches and sensed their deep devotion to Our Lady. It made me realise what we lost in England. My daughter too. When she got back she asked us why there were no pictures of Mary or the Saints on walls and by the roads. I tried to explain.

But I decided we would do something about that.

Together, we would create small devotional images and place them in public places as a quiet piece of subversion of the secular characterisation of the public square as a ‘neutral’ space.

Lucia (my daughter aged 5) helped me tonight as we went out and placed our first image in a public place by a road. The Counter-revolution begins with such small acts of subversion.

This is just the beginning. We want everyone to see images of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts. You can help to spread these in your town or village – contact me for posters. I am partly spurred on in this mission by reading this account on the blog ‘Keeping It Catholic’:

“St. Margaret Mary was told by the Lord that she was to “inform the King of France, ‘Eldest son of His Sacred Heart,’ that the Sacred Heart wished ‘to reign in his palace, to be painted on his standard, to be engraved on his arms,’ and that it [the Sacred Heart] will make him ‘triumphant over all the enemies of Holy Church,’ if the King obeyed Christ’s command on these matters. However, as history relates, “Either Louis XIV never received the letter or he refused to reply. But the command still stands.”

On June 17, 1689, Our Lord also told the saint to tell the Catholic King Louis XIV that France must be solemnly consecrated to His Sacred Heart. This command, too, was ignored by the king and his heirs. As a result, France – first daughter of the Church – succumbed to the “enemies of the Church.”

Exactly one hundred years later, on June 17, 1789, the godless “Third Estate” declared itself a national assembly, lawlessly stripping the reigning Catholic monarch (Louis XVI) of his authority. Thus the Reign of Terror went into full motion; the king, his queen, and other innocents were martyred. Due to the ravenous “Mademoiselle Guillotine” and her devotees, the streets literally ran ankle-deep in blood, and apostasy reigned.

To think of what France – and with it, the Church – could have been spared, if only one of the reigning kings had obeyed the simple command of Our Lord!

Christ our King wished to establish the public consecration and devotion to His Sacred Heart in order to save France, “First Daughter of the Church,” and with it, Christendom. As we now know through the apparitions to Sr. Lucia of Fatima, the Sacred Heart also wills the collegial consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary – this time to save the entire world from the punishments it deserves for its many sins.”

Walsingham, Fatima and the Conversion of England

This summer I spent some time in Walsingham. I had been there before, but this year was the first time I was able to just absorb the atmosphere of the place and reflect on why it is known as ‘England’s Nazareth’.

Over the week, as I settled in to the rhythms of the place, praying the rosary, visiting both shrines (Anglican and Catholic), and going with my family to Mass, I felt a closeness to Our Lady that I had only really experienced in one or two other places. Lourdes had the same sense of peace and vitality, whilst being an obviously major centre of pilgrimage. Walsingham felt more everyday, but somehow still ‘Marian’. The title ‘England’s Nazareth’ comes from the nature of the original story there, the holy house built by the Lady Richeldis in 1061 in honour of the Annunciation in all its simplicity and humility. And this is really the key to the ‘everyday holiness’ of Walsingham.

The Shire, Tolkien’s hobbit homeland in Middle Earth, was both completely homely, ordinary and humble, and yet at the same time radiated an inner light from a higher world that meant the elves were quite at home there, and in fact can be found in some parts of the Shire even in Frodo’s lifetime. In the same way, Walsingham’s Marian beauty, this fragment of Our Lady’s Dowry, is holy in the same completely humble everyday way.

Joseph Pearce says the same thing here

The power of this lies in the fact that we are actually participating in a process in which God, through the intervention of His Blessed Mother, is working with our lowly human nature to conform us more closely to His will. We all experienced great graces in our week there. Powerful interior conversions happened there, bearing fruit in the reality of our family life. We are still broken and imperfect of course, but we have perhaps been granted pilgrims eyes, to see our destination more clearly.

Walsingham is a state of mind! You can take it with you! That’s also part of its power, as it is the same power as the Catholic faith itself. God is not asking for great acts of moral heroism from us. Christ says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30). God will work through us if we let Him. The Walsingham state of mind is one in which you say the rosary every day, or remember with thanks Christ’s sacrifice as you do the washing up. It’s the holiness of the small and the humble.

The Conversion of England

So what has Walsingham to do with Fatima? Well, both are associated with prophecies to do with the triumph of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart.

Pope Leo XIII said “When England returns to Walsingham, Our Lady will return to England”. We pray for the return of England to the Catholic Faith. I have spoken to religious at Walsingham who say that Walsingham will be the instrument for the conversion of England. But how can this happen? It seems unlikely to many. I heard a sermon from Father James Mawdsley in which he made a very interesting analogy. He said that the Church of England is like the body of Christianity in this country and the Catholic faith is like the soul (with a small piece of the body). One cannot do without the other. All those beautiful medieval churches that I have written about in other posts on this blog are like corpses waiting for resurrection.

Imagine if they were resurrected and reanimated with a thriving Catholic faith! Church of England attendance, if continuing at current levels, will be zero by 2060, but never fear, Our Lady will return to her Dowry and take back her churches, they won’t go empty!

Conquering the World with Mary

Woman has, in the utmost sense of the word, been the bearer of salvation. This does not apply to the sphere of religion alone; but because it is true in this sphere, it is valid in general. The idea that nations and countries, if they are to prosper, need good mothers, expresses, in addition to its obvious, biological truth, the deeper reality that the world of the spirit also desires, not only the guidance of man, but likewise the motherly care of woman.

At this point the lines intersect. If on the one hand the creature refuses to co-operate with the Redemption, it has on the other hand usurped Redemption. The faith in self-redemption as man’s belief in his own creative powers is the specifically masculine madness of our secularised age and is at the same time the explanation of all its failures. Nowhere is the creature a redeemer, but it should be a co-operator in the work of redemption. Creative power can only be received, and the man also must conceive the creative spirit in the sign of Mary, in humility and surrender, or he will not receive it at all.

In its stead he will admit again and again only the spirit, to use Goethe’s words, “that he comprehends” and which in the final analysis, can comprehend nothing; for the world may indeed be moved by the strength of the man, but blessed, in the true sense of the word, it will only be with the sign of the woman. 
Baroness Gertrud von Le Fort

Without a proper attitude to creative power, as something received, which we need to conform ourselves to, we become barren or producers of monsters. On the one hand as von Le Fort says, we refuse to co-operate with the Redemption, on the other we usurp Redemption. The refusal, the negative ‘feminine’ attitude is ultimately a rejection of the sacred, of all hierarchy or transcendence. It is the self-willed materialism of modern secular liberalism.

The other negative attitude, the ‘masculine’ one, is the usurpation of divinity. The ‘taking heaven by storm’; the elevation of the individual and the ego above all else, is the epitome of the modern atomistic and capitalist technocracy which seeks to enthrone instrumental reason as the highest god. 

Both of these attitudes can express themselves at almost opposite ends of the political spectrum (think Randian crony-capitalism on one end against secular Marxist liberal-leftism at the other), and yet both are the result of the same blind forces manifested in history. Mythically, they are the fruits of the ‘No’ to God of the first Man and Woman. Historically, they are the fruits of countless individual choices, but which have manifested in the West most obviously as the various revolutions which followed in the wake of the Reformation. 

We are not interested here in revolution, which is nothing more than the promise of the serpent in history. Revolution carries away the individual in a tide. It excites and stimulates, electrifies, and ultimately loosens all bonds. The Counter-Revolution does no such carrying-away. It persuades with the still small voice of truth, and the humble efforts of love.  The Counter-Revolutionary has no other weapons at his disposal than that of prayer, tradition, and humilty. He must resist the current, but he must do this only as corollary to the main impulse of conforming himself to the truth in love.

It has often struck me that the phrase Our Lady used in the apparitions at Fatima “Russia will spread its errors throughout the world” has, if seen in the powerful errors which underlie the philosophy of Marxism and that of liberalism, a deeply disturbing resonance 100 years later. As James Schall says here: 

Modern liberalism seeks, at every essential element of what-it-means-to-be-a-human-being, to substitute desire for reason to explain what a person is. A more extensive version of the same point is as follows: “[Liberalism] is a myth successfully propagated by social and political authorities to conceal their imposition of a distinct set of goods that undermine the traditional Western ethos. Liberalism is not a coherent philosophy but a collection of causes advanced under the rubric of personal liberty (Hegel’s subjective freedom) by powerful social and political interests.” The oft-repeated witticism, “scratch a liberal and you will find a totalitarian,” is rooted in the intellectual failure of liberalism to be able to justify its own premises of a desire-based explanation of human action. In the end, it always must resort to an authority itself based on arbitrary desire, not reason.

This substitution is exactly that spoken of above. It is the refusal or the usurpation of Redemption, the substitution of the promise of the serpent for the promise of the virgin. We resist it, with the help of the Immaculate Heart of Our Lady, and the Sacred Heart of Jesus, just as those who marched in the Pilgrimage of Grace against the destruction wrought by Henry VIII marched under the banner of the Five Wounds of Jesus.

Blessed Are They That Mourn: Stratford Caldecott and Tradition

Much food for thought here. Strat sowed many seeds, and Second Spring are still cultivating them – I hope to write more soon on some of his legacy

Sancrucensis

Hilaire Belloc calls the dons that taught him at Oxford «The horizon of my memories— / Like large and comfortable trees.» I can apply that expression to the friends of my parents whom I knew as a small child. Since we moved often when I was growing up, there are many who form the horizon of my childhood memories whom I have seen only rarely since. There is something wonderful about meeting those people now (or even just reading their writings), and being able to know them in quite a different way than I did as a child.

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Bringer of Joy

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Marian Option recently, and particularly Michael Martin’s own take on it, the Sophia Option. He really deepened the whole thing for me and opened it up on different levels. Firstly with his inspiring video on what he calls the ‘agapeic’ approach to hermeneutics, in which we drop our torture instruments and allow poetry, art, nature not just to reveal their own shining truth to us, but make sure our response is an openness to the gift – how willing are we to really receive the world as God intends it, as gift? 

At the weekend I walked to various ‘numinous’ places in my locale – streams, churches, hedgerows on unused lanes between fields, and tried to receive these places as gift. I did my best to be humble – of the humus, the leaf-mould- I got down by the earth and sketched or listened, and I placed small cards with Marian images (Miraculous Medal of Mary prayer cards) at these locations. I recalled Mary’s words that she told the shepherd children at Fatima – ‘Kiss the earth in penance for sinners’. I – feeling silly- kissed the earth. Why did I do these slightly embarrassing and ultimately pointless things? I don’t really know. Something in me can still remember the sense of awe and mystery I felt as a child walking in similar places, perhaps, like a child I wanted to please my Heavenly Father.

For the full effect visit my short video of one of the cards in place: ​https://youtu.be/q_u3wIDTq9E
 
Why did I leave the cards at these places?  To me the cards are like a rural ‘tag’. A tag in a city is found in an area which someone has claimed as their ‘ends’ and sprayed or put on in marker pen. Tags are meant to stake out territory. My tags are meant to function in the opposite way. I want them to say ‘this area isn’t mine, I don’t own it, and I want to be open to it as gift’. If someone were to take the card away and ponder its meaning in the location that would be great and perfectly in keeping with the spirit of what I have done. I want the act of leaving the card and the act of others seeing it in that place to be an act of ‘guerilla Sophiology’ – an assault on our washed-out and automatic ways of perceiving the world, which might make us see things we have grown used to with fresh eyes. Catherine Pickstock has lots to say on this in her book ‘Chesterton and Tolkien as Theologians’. 

Secondly, something struck me in Michael’s blog post when he said we need to be like Mary Magdalene, rushing out with joy and telling others the Good News – we need to be in the Resurrection business. I was praying the second joyful mystery – the Visitation. In this we contemplate Our Lady as ‘bringer of joy’ not only to John who leapt in the womb of Elizabeth, but to Elizabeth and ultimately to us as she both hides and reveals the mystery that is within her, the Logos.

As I prayed the decade I realised that the statue I was praying to at that moment was of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who appeared as a pregnant mestiza girl first to Juan (note the echo of John) Diego and then to the Mexican people, who converted in their millions, full of the Joy that Mary brought. If the Sophia Option or the Marian Option mean anything, they mean this kind of attitude, that of Juan Diego, joyfully attending to the mystery that Our Lady brings, his tilma full of her heavenly flowers.

Our Lady of Fatima versus the Freemasons

It appears from the articles here and here that tomorrow Saturday 18th February two ceremonies will be happening simultaneously in two of the chief Christian places of worship in this land. In Canterbury Cathedral a celebration of 300 years of Freemasonry will be happening, and in Westminster Cathedral, the Catholic Church in England will be led by Archbishop Vincent Nichols in the consecration of a statue of Our Lady of Fatima to celebrate 100 years since the apparitions of Our Lady in Portugal.

My own particular take on this, as you will probably guess from reading this blog, is that we are contending in this age with an ever-growing spiritual threat of evil, as this advice from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians reminds us: 

Put you on the armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the deceits of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places. Therefore take unto you the armour of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and to stand in all things perfect. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of justice, And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace: In all things taking the shield of faith, wherewith you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one. And take unto you the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God).

By all prayer and supplication praying at all times in the spirit; and in the same watching with all instance and supplication for all the saints: And for me, that speech may be given me, that I may open my mouth with confidence, to make known the mystery of the gospel. 
As Christians we should never underestimate the power or cunning of these spirits of wickedness in high places. They have been planning this for long ages. What we can do, as St. Paul says, is to pray, and gird ourselves with the armour of God. And one of our chief weapons in this battle is the Rosary as Our Lady of Fatima reminds us. I want to say a bit more about what we can do, and I mean in a very practical sense what we can do tomorrow to counter this Masonic ceremony and lend our prayers to Our Lady. To do this I will need to briefly explain what I believe the Masonic ceremony and Freemasonry in general is attempting to do. 

The essence of Freemasonry, as I have implied, is disobedience. It is a very subtle disobedience, but nonetheless, it is at its heart. Freemasonry sets up a deist God at its heart in place of the Trinity, and attempts to become God. This is not theosis or deification of Catholic or Orthodox Christianity, which is a process totally dependent on God’s grace, but the active building of a being with eternal life, possessed of all knowledge – in other words the fulfilment of the promise of the serpent. 

Pope Leo XIII makes this clear here: 

The race of man, after its miserable fall from God, the Creator and the Giver of heavenly gifts, “through the envy of the devil,” separated into two diverse and opposite parts, of which the one steadfastly contends for truth and virtue, the other of those things which are contrary to virtue and to truth. The one is the kingdom of God on earth, namely, the true Church of Jesus Christ; and those who desire from their heart to be united with it, so as to gain salvation, must of necessity serve God and His only-begotten Son with their whole mind and with an entire will. The other is the kingdom of Satan, in whose possession and control are all whosoever follow the fatal example of their leader and of our first parents, those who refuse to obey the divine and eternal law, and who have many aims of their own in contempt of God, and many aims also against God…. At every period of time each has been in conflict with the other, with a variety and multiplicity of weapons and of warfare, although not always with equal ardour and assault. At this period, however, the partisans of evil seems to be combining together, and to be struggling with united vehemence, led on or assisted by that strongly organized and widespread association called the Freemasons.

Jesus said in Matthew’s Gospel: ‘Be ye therefore wise as serpents and gentle as doves’. Some of have followed only the path of the serpent, and have forgotten the way of the dove, of the purity of Our Lady.

To finish I want to suggest some simple things we can do tomorrow as the ceremonies go on:

1. Go to the ceremony at Westminster Cathedral and participate in that. Pray and ask for the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

2. If you cannot attend that, go to your nearest Catholic church, preferably to the Lady Chapel, and say a rosary, or a decade of the rosary there, asking particularly for the triumph of her Immaculate Heart.

3. If that is not possible, use any small statue or image you have of Mary at home and set aside 10 minutes or so to say a rosary again as above.

You should attempt to do this at 2pm, the same time as the crowning of the statue of Our Lady. I will be going to the local shrine of Our Lady and praying there. Please share this with other Catholics – our prayers together will be powerful.

Anglicanism vs the Immaculate Heart

Fatima and Our Lady’s Dowry

Laodicea

dignare-me-laudare

The ‘Archbishop of Canterbury’ has let out Canterbury Cathedral to the Masons to perform their blasphemies at the same moment as the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster will be Consecrating England to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

https://www.ewtn.co.uk/news/latest/canterbury-cathedral-to-hold-masonic-service-on-someday-as-national-consecration-to-immaculate-heart

O Immaculate Virgin Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Mother of Grace,
and Queen of the kingdom of thy Son,
humbly kneeling before thee,
we offer thee this country in which we live.
It once was thine.
Before it was robbed of the holy Faith
all its children were thy children,
and thou wast honoured throughout its length and breadth
as its Protectress and its Queen.
Again do we consecrate it to thee;
again do we dedicate it as thine own Dowry.
We offer our own hearts,
that their love and service
may ever grow and increase.
We offer all our brethren
those multitudes who know thee so little
or know thee not…

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Anglo-Catholic musings at St. Mary’s, Kettlebaston

For the image above and many others please go to this link : https://flic.kr/p/4paJNf 

Today another impromptu pilgrimage came about. I am lucky here, as I have mentioned previously, to be nestled deep in the heart of rural Suffolk with a wealth of fantastic medieval churches within walking distance. Some of the gems include St. Mary’s, Brent Eleigh; St. Mary’s, Preston St. Mary; St. Mary’s, Kettlebaston – yes lots of Marys! – all within 3 miles walk from my door.

It is really exciting when I have a rare morning or day free to stride out with a sketch book along the lanes in search of these churches. Beyond any historical interest they have, for me is a deeper motive – to pay homage to Mary by visiting places where she would once have been honoured. One simple way is to visit churches dedicated to her.

Why visit places of devotion to Mary? As I have put in a previous post, it is part of my own love of Mary as the mother of Christ, which has grown as my Catholic faith has deepened. But more specifically, it is also part of a conscious decision to try and live my faith in a more active way, my way of interpreting something that’s been called the Marian Option. This is quite exciting for me, as the Marian Option as I see it is partly a calling for artists.

For instance, in her post on the Marian Option, Carrie Gress says :

“The Marian Option, unlike the Benedict Option, doesn’t generally require anything drastic, like significant changes in one’s community, occupation, or location (although she may inspire you to do these later). What it does require is simply the full and active recognition that she is our mother and, therefore, a tremendous advocate of grace, protection, conversions, and victories through the rosary. Devotion to her, however, has the added benefit, like the Benedict Option, of renewing culture. Art, architecture, sculpture, music, poetry, liturgy, and learning have all been greatly inspired by her over the centuries.”

Whilst architecture and music are beyond my creative powers, I have some kind of interest and dabble to some extent in those other cultural activities! And as a dabbler in art, I am interested in breaking down the barriers between art, crafts and work through a re-sacralisation  of all activity. Why do I want to do this?

We are living in a deracinated age, and thus an age of dryness and sterility, brought on by a polarisation of reason and appetite. The artist’s task in these times, I believe, is to create works which can bridge this gap in ways that science, philosophy or ethics cannot. It is an urgent task. People talk of a ‘polarisation’ happening in the political sphere as well, where people just want to shut down the other.

When you can, with a little knowledge, enter into a place that contains within it art that has managed to a varying degree to still show evidence of Marian devotion, then you are seeing, I believe, a signpost pointing the way to bridging that gap. Mary is the great guarantor of a fecund and life-affirming culture.

It is thrilling, for instance, to uncover any reference to the Feast of the Assumption, which occurs at the height of harvest and was such a widespread and popular devotion of medieval England, but which was particularly frowned upon by the Protestant reformers for its supposedly unscriptural nature and its tinge of ‘mariolatry’. So to discover, as at the font in St. Matthew’s, Ipswich, an image of the Assumption of Mary can be a genuinely shocking experience, almost as if one were looking at a sheela-na-gig in reverse.

I have already mentioned in a previous post the Shrine of Our Lady of Sudbury and Her association with this feast. I have also mentioned how important I believe it is where possible to try and reinstate processions on this feast day, and I have tried to do these pilgrimages consciously dedicated to this re-sacralisation. Others make their own way on similar paths. Look at what Michael Martin says here, or Roger Buck here for instance.

The common thread here is a search for a way of combatting the gnosticism and world-denying nature of our current technocratic secular age. A rediscovery of Maria-Sophia, and a mystagogic element to the faith.

For us English Catholics I believe we should be working and praying for England to be once again known and accepted as Our Lady’s Dowry. Our Lady is archstrategist, and directs us to confront head on the errors of modernity, of the culture of death.

 

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