Comment Opinion & Features

England was cruelly wrenched from the Church – but the story isn’t over

The Wilton Diptych (c 1395-1399)

Over the past two years, the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham has been visiting every Catholic cathedral in England with a mission to pray for the re-evangelisation and conversion of the country.

The Dowry Tour culminates in Catholics in England being invited to renew their personal consecration to Our Lord and Our Lady. They do this through parish communal acts of preparation for consecration to Jesus through Mary, along with pledges to commit themselves to regular Confession, the praying of the Angelus and rosary, and the invocation of the saints and martyrs of England.

This re-dedication will take place in Westminster Cathedral, Walsingham, all the other cathedrals, and as many parishes and homes as possible.

From February 21, all Catholics will be invited to begin a personal 33-day consecration to Jesus through Mary following the method of St Louis de Montfort. This will conclude on March 25, the feast of the Annunciation.

The idea that England is the Dowry, or special portion, of Our Lady comes at least in part from the act of King Richard II (reigned 1377-1399) in offering the country to her, as depicted in the Wilton Diptych.

It could be said, though, that the idea of England as the Dowry of Mary extends beyond the physical nature of the country, and applies to believers within it. The descendants of those who were alive then can also share in its blessings.

Those descendants didn’t just stay in England. Many of them emigrated to places such as the United States, Canada and Australia. Therefore, the descendants of those emigrants can share in this dedication too.

Be that as it may, this re-dedication will be more than just another religious ceremony, since it is surely the case that God and Our Lady will take such an official act very seriously. If enough people join in it could have a big spiritual impact, especially as there are indications from several saints that England could have a significant role to play in the Church in the future, and that the idea of the country being the Dowry of Mary is something that still has to bear fruit.

England was cruelly wrenched from its ancient Catholic faith by the actions of Henry VIII and his followers at the time of the Reformation, and has not yet fulfilled its Catholic destiny. The results of this defection of England were huge in terms of their impact on the world, since it meant that what would eventually become the United States developed as a Protestant rather than a Catholic country – which is what would have happened if the faith in England hadn’t been effectively destroyed.

Regarding the role of Catholicism in England’s future, we have some indications of this from two 19th-century saints. The first is St John Vianney, the Curé d’Ars, who was visited by Archbishop Ullathorne of Birmingham in May 1854. The saint told the archbishop, in a firm and confident voice, “as though he were making an act of faith”, that he believed that the Church in England would recover its ancient splendour.

The second saint is Dominic Savio, the protégé of St John Bosco. In 1856 he asked Don Bosco to pass on a message to the reigning pope, Pius IX, telling him that, “he should not lessen his special care for England. God is preparing a great triumph for the Church in that country.”

Dominic explained to Don Bosco that he had a vision in which he saw a misty plain, and heard a voice say: “This is England.” Then he saw a figure wearing pontifical robes coming towards him, holding a huge, flaming torch in his hand, and again heard the voice: “This torch is the Catholic faith which is to illumine England.”

These two incidents point towards a great resurgence of the faith in England at some time in the future, and it is surely not fanciful to link this with the fact that the country is the Dowry of Mary, and thus the importance of the forthcoming re-dedication programme becomes very clear.

Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian apparitions, and maintains a related website, theotokos.org.uk. He has also written two time-travel/adventure books for young people. The third in the series is due to be published later this year (glaston-chronicles.co.uk). For more information about the Dowry of Mary re-dedication, visit dowrytour.org.uk