Our Lady's Dowry

The paths worn across the land by the pilgrims' steps



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: ​
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



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.

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 : 

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.


Our Love for Mary

“Our love for Mary is one with our love for beauty and goodness, of interior peace and measured wisdom, of flowers and mountains and green valleys and the deep ocean, of stars and the happiest moments of human life, the kindness of friends and the love of family and the bliss of lovers. Nothing of our earthly life will be lost, because Mary treasures all things in her immaculate heart.” – Stratford Caldecott.


Our Lady of Grace, Ipswich

The pilgrimage you don’t know you’re on until you get there is the best kind! Yesterday I made a journey for entirely mundane reasons, only to realise I had ended up in the exact place that I had been wanting to make the object of a pilgrimage for a long time.

Bear with me on this post – it does sound a bit like the sort of thing Alan Partridge might tell his PA Lynn!

Yesterday was a difficult day for my wife Lisa. Our daughter Lucia had been awake in the night and whilst I had slept in the spare room because I had work the next morning, Lisa was awake most of the night with Lucia. Consequently when I got home in the early afternoon, Lisa was very much in need of a break!

I took Lucia out for a drive to give her mum some space and in the hope that she would have a nap, which she did. I had a vague plan to go to a retail park and have a look around the John Lewis department store there. As I drove with the little one asleep in the back I realised I didn’t really know the way to this store; I knew I had to go on the ring road around Ipswich, but not much more than that. Anyway, I obviously missed the turning, as I ended up driving into the centre of Ipswich. Not having done this before, I drove aimlessly along in the mid-afternoon traffic, with a vague idea that I would park somewhere near the town centre, and wait for my daughter to wake up before doing a bit of shopping.

So far, so Alan Partridge. But actually, the mundanity of the journey is a key part of its importance for me. The Marian Option is about, or one of the key things about it is, that we don’t need to retreat from public spaces, from the everyday, or form communities away from mainstream society – in fact it is about an inner change of attitude which can transform your relationship to the everyday.

When the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego she clothed herself in the customs and garb of the culture. She appeared as a young Mestiza woman, not as an impersonal supernatural being, and she evangelised that culture at a rate not seen before or since. We need to be like the Virgin of Guadalupe, bringing Christ to our culture, preserving the best aspects and building on that basis, but not imposing something alien on it. Grace building on nature.


Philosophically, this may pose difficulties. If Rene Guenon and others are right, then we in the West are so far along the ‘Kali Yuga’ that there is very little in the culture that is not corrupt. The ‘Reign of Quantity’ is almost total. In other words, the modern world has as a fundamental principle the reduction of all phenomena to the quantitative, and everything is to be understood in this light. For example Guenon says:

“the profane sciences of which the modern world is so proud are really and truly only the degenerate ‘residues’ of the ancient traditional sciences, just as quantity itself, to which they strive to reduce everything, is, when considered from their special point of view, no more than the ‘residue’ of an existence emptied of everything that constituted its essence; thus these pretended sciences, by leaving aside or even intentionally eliminating all that is truly essential, clearly prove themselves incapable of furnishing the explanation of anything whatsoever. “

Faced with such a mindset which has pervaded the entire modern world, even into the sanctuaries of its temples, would it not be best to abjure all contact with modern culture and do what some say the ‘Benedict Option’ is all about – ride out the storm in enclosed communities, preserving what is True, Good and Beautiful and saving it for a future world?

This smacks slightly of Gnosticism to me. Understood correctly, Christ’s mission was about giving to the man in the street what before he could only get in the Temple – and that is bound to involve getting your hands dirty.

Anyway, I decided to park up in the first car park I found in the town centre, which was called The Spiral. It is an unusual one in that it winds down underground, with cars parked on either side of one spiralling tunnel. I parked and waited for Lucia to wake up. As I sat with nothing to occupy me, I began to pray a rosary, and with the beads passing through my hands, and my thoughts focused on the sorrowful mysteries, my mind began to enter a contemplative mode.

I realised that I had passed the classic mythological threshold of adventure and peril – the descent into the earth. Maybe Dante didn’t have in mind the entrance to the inferno in a car park in East Anglia, but you have to make do with what you have sometimes.

Of course, Dante had his guide Virgil to lead him through the danger, and I had my guide, the Blessed Mother to aid me as I began my daily effort at battling my vices with the graces obtained from that most powerful of prayers.

At the back of my mind I was also aware of something else that I had wanted to do for the last few months, ever since my imagination was fired by reading about the Marian shrines of East Anglia – and that is to visit the site in Ipswich of an important medieval shrine to Mary on Lady Lane. I wondered if it might be within walking distance.

The shrine of Our Lady of Grace was a very popular medieval shrine, second only in popularity to Walsingham. The first recorded mention of it is from 1152. Ipswich was the only Marian shrine in England dedicated to Our Lady of Grace. The story of this particular shrine is also unusual for it may be that the statue of the Virgin and Child still survives in Italy, unlike most of the other English medieval shrine statues.

When I finished my rosary I had a look at the map. The Spiral appeared to be almost directly underneath Lady Lane! When Lucia woke I put her in the buggy and ascended, crossing another car park above ground and, there it was; Lady Lane.

The lane runs between discount stores, and is entirely devoid of any Marian shrine now, unfortunately. However, the statue and plaque are there to indicate where the shrine once was. I bent down to show Lucia the statue; she pointed and said ‘Mary and Jesus!’. I said a quick Hail Mary and thanked Our Lady for her mediation of God’s grace. Amidst the difficulties and strains of life I am often guilty of rushing past the sacred spaces of my life, or of just paying them lip-service. Forgetting all the ways God’s grace blesses me, or believing that I can somehow merit it. This surprise pilgrimage was a reminder that all the good things in my life have come unbidden – the best I can do is make myself worthy to receive them.

So it is possible to still feel something of a Marian presence, in this alleyway, under a statue ignored as most people rush by to shop. That shouldn’t really be the case I suppose, certainly it takes a stretch of the imagination to think of the medieval street and the shrine which held royal weddings, and was visited by , to name a few, Henry VIII, Wolsey and Thomas More. But knowing the story behind the statue and the plaque helps a lot to counter the brutalist surroundings. They occupy some small piece of space not under ownership by private interests for commercial reasons, like their surroundings, but are signs, reminders of the sacred that makes possible secular space.

It seems to me the Marian Option is asking us not to withdraw from places like shopping centres and high streets, but to quietly, subversively manifest our faith in small ways. Catholics are capable of being counter-cultural witnesses in public spaces entirely given over to consumerism, in times of global homogenisation of cultures, and destruction of local identities. We can validly challenge a culture of death, individualism and neo-liberalism. How?

This website has some hints:

It is hard for us to understand today the part that Mary played in the medieval economy of grace. Contrary to popular belief, there is considerable (and growing) evidence that the people of rural medieval England had an articulate and sophisticated understanding of the nature and purposes of intercessionary prayer. Although there may have been abuses, when people, in some sense, offered ‘worship’ to images of the Madonna, this was not a general practice, or even a common one. Mary was seen as a focus of prayer; contemporary images of medieval people frequently show them carrying their rosary beads.
To have some understanding of the role of Our Lady in the hearts and minds of medieval Suffolkers, we need to look at the church in southern Europe today.

The spectacular processions, the colourful images, the celebrations and devotions would all have been a part of medieval Suffolk life. Fundamentally, the people of medieval Suffolk, in all their daily trials and tribulations, in the midst of their suffering and expectation of an early death, saw Mary as being on their side.

Churches could certainly quite easily reinstate the Marian processions with all their colour and festivity. In my parish church in Sudbury until quite recently the Harvest procession in August had been reinstated, with the statue of the Madonna and Child being carried around the town in August.

Another way might be ‘Rosary Gardens’ – the Rosary Garden Project show “how to promote prayer and inspire communities to transform outdoor open areas into sacred spaces for social engagement, religious education and prayer. Each stone in a Rosary Garden represents a bead (or prayer) and is designed for walking meditation, contemplative prayer and as a teaching tool for children.”. How great would it be if some more spaces like this could be created in town centres?


Finally, I should mention the original statue, which some believe to be the one pictured above. The story is here:

“In the Italian city of Nettuno, most famous perhaps for its harbour of Anzio, there is a shrine to Our Lady of Grace. There is a story that the image there was brought to Nettuno from England during the Jubilee year of 1550. There is some evidence in the town archives to support this. And the town archives also mention Ipswich.
It wouldn’t be that improbable. Western mainland Europe is full of statues and sculptures produced in England during the 12th and 13th centuries. Many of them must have been exported at the time; Nottingham alabaster work, for instance, was greatly prized throughout Europe. But much probably went abroad at the time of the Reformation.

It must be remembered that the Reformation in England placed quite a low priority on the new teachings of Luther and Calvin; they were the job of the theologians. But the state, which enforced the Reformation in England, was more concerned with wresting political power from the church, and enriching itself on the wealth of the churches, shrines and monasteries.

It achieved both of these goals extremely successfully; the first is shown by the fact that there was no religious war in this country, and the second by the fact that the Tudor royal family amassed riches beyond its wildest dreams, much of it to be squandered by Elizabeth I and James I on high living and piratical expeditions to the ‘New World’.

There was no evangelical agenda on behalf of the English state as there would be 100 years later under Oliver Cromwell. It is hard to imagine William Dowsing selling images abroad, but there is a great amount of circumstantial evidence that the cronies of Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer in the 1530s and 1540s did exactly this. It was a pragmatic approach; they wanted rid of images, and they wanted to accrue the wealth of the church.

That said, the Nettuno legend records that the statue was rescued from the flames by secretly Catholic sailors, who spirited it safely abroad. I think the sales story outlined above is more likely, though.

The Nettuno image was identified as English as early as 1938 by an historian of 13th century iconography, Martin Gillett. He felt that considerable changes had been made to it; Mary’s head had been replaced, and the posture of the infant Christ changed. The throne (no longer in existence) was a 19th century replacement. But the folds in the material, the features of the Christ child, the position of the infant on the right knee rather than the left, and the carving style, all strongly suggest an English origin.”

There, slightly more interesting than one of Alan Partridge’s monologues I hope.

Barefoot to Walsingham

In a society which is barely conscious of the ills which assail it, which conceals its miseries and injustices beneath a prosperous, glittering, and trouble-free exterior, the Immaculate Virgin, whom sin has never touched, manifests herself to an innocent child. With a mother’s compassion she looks upon this world redeemed by her Son’s blood, where sin accomplishes so much ruin daily, and three times makes her urgent appeal: “Penance, penance, penance!” She even appeals for outward expressions: “Go kiss the earth in penance for sinners.” And to this gesture must be added a prayer: “Pray to God for sinners.”

As in the days of John the Baptist, as at the start of Jesus’ ministry, this command, strong and rigorous, shows men the way which leads back to God: “Repent!” Who would dare to say that this appeal for the conversion of hearts is untimely today?
Pius XII
Le pèlerinage de Lourdes
July 2, 1957

I had the good fortune to accompany a year-group from my school on a pilgrimage to Walsingham a few weeks ago. We parked the coaches at the beginning of the holy mile, and many of us, myself included, walked the mile to the shrine barefoot. On the way we prayed, and brought the intentions of others with us.

Uncomfortable though it was, the barefoot walk was invigorating, and it made me wonder just how spiritually deadened we have become with all the comforts available to us. As we speak, Russia seems to be preparing itself for war, and 99 years ago on this day the great Miracle of the Sun occurred at Fatima. Can we stay awake and pray that we do not fall into temptation? Can we offer up small sacrifices to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus?

For the sake of His sorrowful Passion

Have mercy on us and

On the whole world



Thoughts on Michaelmas

For Force is life, and longevity is an important aspect of it. 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.”

100 years ago the Archangel Michael, who identified himself as Angel Guardian, Angel of Portugal, appeared to the children Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia to prepare them for the visits of Our Lady. Those miraculous apparitions were hints of God’s mercy, as he attempted to bring a corrupt mankind awake from its slumber .

All around, at this time of year, we can see signs of the coming winter. The days shorten, cold winds blow, and there is a wildness in the air, even though apples, acorns, rosehips are abundant, the hedgerows full of fruit. As I walked today, the scent of late-summer roses came from gardens even as the clouds brought rain. All around is the sense that nature stands on the edge between light and dark. And Michael is there, calling us to judgement, reminding us that we cannot go on forever in the sun, for night will come soon.

Why do we try so hard to ignore the warnings? God’s mercy chasing us down the ages like Francis Thompson’s Hound of Heaven? We will not go on much longer chasing our own tail, attempting to close the circle. Each revolution brings us closer to the darkness. We pray to St. Michael this night, defend us from the wickedness and snares of the evil one, in Christ’s name, Amen.

Feast of the Annunciation 2016 – St. Mary the Virgin Church, Preston St. Mary

The first of my ‘Selig Suffolk’ walks – small Marian pilgrimages dedicated to Our Lady’s intentions as revealed at Fatima and elsewhere – was a short 4-5 mile journey across the fields to the village of Preston St. Mary.


The morning was cloudy, but around lunchtime the sun came out, and I set out from the village of Monks Eleigh on the road uphill past the church of St. Peter. The road used to be called ‘Watery Lane’, as the water flows down it to the river Brett at the bottom of the hill in the village.

Each stage of my journey was marked by one of the Glorious Mysteries, which I decided to say as they end with the Assumption and Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, fitting for this feast day.

The First Mystery: The Resurrection.

On the road to Monks Eleigh Tye, I walk past fields of wheat, vast golden swathes bobbing in the breeze, while small clouds scatter across the blue sky. The grain of wheat that fell to the earth and died, bore much fruit…All around is the visible reminder of Christ as the one who died and rose again, as the wheat which becomes the bread of heaven.

The feast of the Assumption was locally celebrated as Our Lady of Harvest, and pilgrims would wave sheaves of corn as the statue of the Blessed Mother and Child was carried through the streets.

I turn off the road at the hamlet, and set off on a bridleway which takes me past a farmhouse and horses.

The Second Mystery: The Ascension.


As you walk in East Anglia, the sky always has a large impact. The blue of it is fittingly Marian today. The dome of the sky has universally been seen as the abode of the divine, and rather than just a nice background for the clouds, its mythical origins are fundamental to our notions of divinity – simply looking up is a way of seeking transcendent help, of reaching beyond the horizon to which we are pinned. The Ascension is as important as the Incarnation – there is an entrance and an exit – the cycles of time and history have their ultimate meaning in a state beyond our own, and it is this openness to the transcendent which I want to cultivate as I go on my pilgrimages. If I can do my journey mindful not just to the route that I have planned, but realise that the stuff I can’t plan and my reaction to that is the most important part of it, I will be happy.

The Third Mystery: The Descent of the Holy Spirit


By the time I get to the place called oddly, Nova Scotia Road, I am about halfway through my journey. The map says cross a field and go through what looks like a field boundary. But as I cross the field on an obvious path, I realise that I cannot see any opening in the hedge which surrounds the field. I carry on along the side of the field for a while before turning back and retracing my steps. I will just have to go right round until I reach the road, and go into the village that way.

As I say the third Glorious Mystery, I ponder the ways the Holy Spirit sometimes works. It can be the case that if you are too invested in doing things a certain way you can miss the great gifts which are freely available by being more flexible, or trying to be aware of your reactions to unforeseen obstacles. It is worth remembering that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were first poured into the world as the sacraments which flowed from the side of Christ as blood and water from the cross. The stumbling-block, or scandal, of the Cross is our sure guarantee of redemption. Can we offer up suffering and sacrifices as small acts of reparation for our sins and those of the world?

The Fourth Mystery: The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary


On the road into the village of Preston St. Mary I see a stile in the hedgerow, with a sign next to it saying ‘Beware of the Pig’. What is a pilgrimage without a perilous adventure? I decide to see where the path leads, and hop over into a wooded enclosure with running water. The path leads over a bridge, and up into the fields from which I have just come – this is the way that I would have travelled if I had been able to get through that hedge earlier. Still, I see no pig, and rather disappointed, I rejoin the road for the final walk to the church.

The feast of the Assumption is a reminder that the seeds of our glorified future existence – our theosis, in the words of the Eastern Church – are very firmly sown here and now in what we do or refrain from doing as we travel on our path. None of us are on pathways which are all of our own choosing, and many of us have to travel with all sorts of difficult companions, and frequently come across frightening and dangerous creatures. There is no use trying to avoid these situations. We cannot ignore the pig on the path. He requires our engagement – will we try and befriend him, or distract him with food, or attack him? One thing is sure, our inner pig is laying in wait for that moment of weakness, be it greed or lust or whatever, and if we are not careful, he will waylay us, perhaps terminally, and we will forget our destination. Never settle for the pigsty when paradise is just around the corner.

The Fifth Mystery: The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary


The church of St. Mary the Virgin is a beautiful medieval gem. I find what I think would have been the Lady Chapel, and under a stained glass window of our Blessed Mother I pray the final Glorious Mystery. The words of St. Louis-Marie de Montfort come to me:

“It was through Mary that the salvation of the world was begun, and it is through Mary that it must be consummated. Mary hardly appeared at all in the first coming of Jesus Christ, in order that men, as yet but little instructed and enlightened on the Person of her Son, should not remove themselves from Him in attaching themselves too strongly and too grossly to her…But in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, Mary has to be made known and revealed by the Holy Ghost in order that through her Jesus Christ may be known, loved and served. The reasons which moved the Holy Ghost to hide His spouse during her life, and to reveal her but very little since the preaching of the Gospel, subsist no longer.”

The mysteries of the Rosary begin with the Annunciation, when Mary’s humble acceptance of her task made possible our redemption, and they end with her Queenship, as foretold in Revelation 12, which shall be the final consummation of our salvation. It is fitting that in the medieval images of Our Lady found in the shrines of East Anglia, in particular the shrine of Walsingham, the Queenship of Mary is universal, as she sits enthroned and crowned with her Son.


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