We are truly privileged to have so many and such evocative shrines to Our Lady in our country. The Reformation wrought havoc on Marian devotion, so that ancient statues such as Our Lady of Ipswich could end up at an Italian coastal resort (John Whitehead, Catholic Herald, June). May I add two more? One is now in Brussels, the other in north-west Spain.
The very beautiful statue of Our Lady of Help “on the bridge of Dee” in Aberdeen is in the Church of Finistere in the Belgian capital, in its own chapel and well worth visiting. Traditionally her diocesan feast is on July 9.
Mondoñedo Cathedral, just off the road to Santiago as you approach Galicia, houses the statue known locally as “La Inglesa”. Evidence suggests that this statue, reputed to have stood in St Paul’s Cathedral in London, was brought to that part of Spain by a recusant trader called Dutton (from the Wirral) at the end of Queen Mary’s reign. Knights of Our Lady in Spain and Britain are hoping to create a replica of La Inglesa for veneration here, possibly even in St Paul’s itself.
Steve de la Bédoyère
It was a joy to read about our Ipswich Shrine of Our Lady of Grace in John Whitehead’s article. I was at the first meeting of the Guild on the Feast of Ss John Fisher and Thomas More in 1977 (not, by the way, 1987) and became its first secretary. Both Anglicans and Catholics were founder members, soon to be joined by Methodists.
Reciprocal visits, some with civic representation, have strengthened links with Nettuno, the Italian resort where the medieval statue is believed to be. Since 1978, we have, on a Sunday afternoon near to September 8, had a pilgrimage walk along the route established by Cardinal Wolsey, himself an Ipswich man.
We are a lay-led, ecumenical group and are delighted that restoration of the shrine (masterminded by Dr Maire Heley, who died earlier this year) has enabled many more to honour Our Lady. As Fr John Thackray, priest-in-charge at St Mary at the Elms, explains: “It is a joy and privilege for this parish church to house the modern shrine. The church doors stand open every day … pilgrims are always made welcome.”
It is heartening to know that, as in medieval times, the Shrine of Our Lady is valued and visited.
Jean M Johnson
It was good to see devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus remembered and promoted in the Catholic Herald in June. We are told that Jesus showed His heart, aflame with love for us, and wounded by the lack of our return of love, by indifference and even contempt.
Our devotion to the Sacred Heart need not and ought not to be limited to the month of June. The tradition of honouring an image of the Sacred Heart in our home reminds us to honour Jesus with our whole lives, not just our lips. The Litany of the Sacred Heart helps with this.
Doncaster, South Yorkshire
It is inevitable that the economic collapse precipitated by the global pandemic has greatly increased the number of vulnerable people who are at risk of modern slavery. The disruption to business and the justice system and the preoccupation of law enforcers is creating an opportunity for criminal gangs.
Pope Francis described modern slavery as “an open wound on the body of contemporary society” when he endorsed the Santa Marta Group, an international alliance of Catholic bishops and police chiefs to eradicate trafficking and slavery.
Organisations have written to the Secretary General of the UN to ask that sex trafficking prostitution and sexual exploited persons be included in its Covid-19 document calling for funds. “The goal of the fund should be to assist and uplift human beings who are bought and sold in the global multi – billion-dollar sex trade; not further their profiteers and exploiters who deem sexual exploitation a form of labour.”
In the UK the Modern Slavery Act 2015 appointed an anti-slavery commissioner. It called for a register which business employers should consult when considering their international supply chain. Over 10,000 businesses have complied but the act does not cover prostitution or “tied visas” which would limit domestic servants’ right to change employment. Though this was raised in Parliament, it was not accepted. Thus the Act is mainly about matters before the courts.
Police have alerted the public to slavery which may be in plain sight. They urge us to look out for suspicious things such as: are workers afraid to speak to strangers? Are they badly dressed and rarely change clothes? Are they living in squalor or sleeping on the premises? Are they brought to work early and collected late? During the pandemic they may lack any masks, gloves or protective clothing. The authorities will then investigate.
In the present Black Lives Matter demonstrations, one only occasionally sees any mention of modern slavery. Why is this, when slavery is arguably more relevant than ever?
Dr AP Cole
Midsummer is always a special time in England – the long days, the glorious sunsets, the warm evenings and the sunshine. We also have the legacy of Catholic England to sustain us. The rededication of England as the Dowry of Mary reminds us of the gifts and favours which Our Lady has bestowed on our country and which we can again call upon to help us at this difficult time.
There are also a growing number of places where we can reconnect with the spirit and heritage of Catholic England. The national shrine at Walsingham; the charming little town of Arundel with its beautiful cathedral, spectacular castle and fascinating history; Aylesford Priory with its rosary walk and peace garden. Even in the heart of London the spirit of Catholic England can be found in Westminster Cathedral, and especially in the recently restored Chapel of St George with its memorial to the English Martyrs.
Other readers will have their own favourites. However, what they all have in common is that they can strengthen our faith, give us hope and lift our spirits.
Charles Coulombe’s article on Glastonbury (May) made a significant omission: the religious congregation who were on mission in Glastonbury for 80 years.
The Sisters of Charity of St Louis arrived in Glastonbury in 1904; the 1926 church was built on convent land adjacent to the school run by the Sisters, and the existing church is on land donated by the Sisters to the diocese of Clifton.
As well as their ministry of education which continued until the school closed in 1984, the Sisters served in many different capacities within the parish, as sacristans, catechists, Eucharistic ministers, organists, readers etc. The relationship between the parish and the community was always close and supportive.
The Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of St Louis CIO Richmond, Surrey
During my last pregnancy, with twins, I once complained to my GP that the clinical staff I was seeing at the maternity hospital were so negative – always talking about what might go wrong. He sympathised and remarked that this is what they are trained to do. I was reminded of this when reading the article by Dr Beale et al, “How to reopen a church safely” (June).
I understand that, as doctors, they have been at the sharp end, and have seen the suffering that Covid can cause, but I question the need to impose this doom-laden hospital perspective onto the rest of us in our daily lives, especially to the point of treating our churches as though they were hospital wards.
First, now that the epidemic is clearly in decline, it is illogical to introduce stricter precautions than were in place just before the lockdown when the epidemic was increasing. I think we would have heard if there had been evidence that the virus was being spread rapidly amongst Mass-going Catholics at that time.
Further, the doctors don’t seem to take account of the fact that a number of people, probably more than is known, have recovered from the disease, and are therefore immune and cannot be carriers. Others, we are told, are simply resistant to it.
Yes, there are those who, for various reasons, are particularly vulnerable, and so “spaced out” Masses should be available for them to attend. Those who have become paranoid on account of the media-led scaremongering could go along too. Some priests may also need to be more careful.
For the rest of us, please let us be treated as adults, able to make our own judgments about the level of risk we are prepared to take for ourselves and our families, and trust us to take reasonable hygienic precautions to protect ourselves and others; I suggest that constantly disinfecting pews is obsessive.
A human life fully lived cannot be “safe”. The highest law of the Church is the salvation of souls, not the avoidance of disease. We cannot know now how many souls have been lost through the current denial of the Sacraments, but presumably this will be revealed at the Last Judgment.
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