Over the last few weeks, myself and the team promoting the Rededication of England as Mary’s Dowry on March 29th have been watching the progression of the COVID-19 virus (or Coronavirus) very closely, taking into account how it will affect our preparations. With the World Health Organisation yesterday declaring it a pandemic, there can no longer be any doubt that we are in the midst of something historic, a virus which has already caused great suffering and will cause more.
So how will this affect the Rededication, now only weeks away? Will it be ‘called off’? Well, the simple answer to that is no. The Rededication was in fact never about an event but about a personal dedication, each of us taking up the call to be a part of the living tradition of England as ‘Mary’s Dowry’ and taking up our own fiat. Unlike the dedication of 1381 in which King Richard II gifted England to Mary by proclaiming over his Kingdom, ‘This is your Dowry, O Pious Virgin Mary!’, this Rededication was always intended to be deeply personal for each of us.
Monsignor John Armitage, the Rector of the Catholic National Shrine and Basilica of Our Lady of Walsingham, informed us that the inspiration for the personal nature of The Rededication actually came from Pope Francis and the Extraordinary Year of Mercy in 2016. Answering the question as to why The Rededication is not simply an event, in part of our video series he recalled:
‘ … what’s important is that everyone is allowed to take part in this …the idea of it being this personal dedication where everyone could take part came from the Holy Father during the Year of Mercy. He wrote a wonderful letter to prisoners and he said, although you cannot go to your cathedral and walk through the holy door, every time you go out of your cell, through your cell door, to go to Mass or confession, that is your holy door. Now I had the great privilege of reading that letter on Christmas day to a group of prisoners where I was saying Mass and I could see the impact – that they felt part of it. The great thing about the Rededication is that everyone can take part.’
In this way, The Rededication will be able to continue in the same spirit in which it was always intended. It is possible that over the coming weeks large gatherings will be banned and many will feel the need to self-isolate, this may affect the planned gatherings at cathedrals, churches, and institutions throughout the country. Today we are announcing that individuals can go to the official website (www.behold2020.com) and unite themselves to The Rededication, hosting not only as a parish or a cathedral but also as a home with the option of individually signing up to host. It will be possible to add yourself to the map and to download the prayers, uniting us all together wherever we are. We feel this is important and we want to ensure that whatever happens, it will still be possible for everyone to take part in this historic moment in the life of the English Church.
It goes without saying that this is a profoundly unexpected context for the Rededication to take place in, no longer is it a unifying moment in the heat of the divisiveness of Brexit, but a spiritual turning to Mary the Mother of God, and our Mother, at a time of crisis. In Rome, Pope Francis has today sought the protection of Mary, uniting the Church in prayer towards her, praying: ‘O Mary, you shine continuously along our journey as a sign of salvation and hope. We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick, who at the Cross were near to the pain of Jesus, keeping your faith firm.’
The build-up of The Rededication has already been a significantly unifying time. The Dowry Tour brought the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham to every Catholic cathedral in England, 100,000 copies of Fr Michael Gaitley’s ’33 Days to Morning Glory’ consecration were distributed throughout our parishes and hundreds of our parishes and communities have signed up to host The Rededication. Please pray that all of this preparation and The Rededication itself bears great spiritual fruit, and please pray for any suffering from the COVID-19 virus. In such a time as this, the Memorare Prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary speaks to us of the courage we can have as children of God who approach our Mother, Mary, for her protection and guidance.
‘Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession, was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto you, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To you do I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.’
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