....I promise you that this post has nothing to do with Lionesses!
I'll begin with a prayer by Thomas Merton, who has featured in two previous blog-posts. Merton turned to Mary countless times in order to seek her intercession.
In asking Mary to pray for his needs, Merton implored the intercession of Mary under different titles. When Merton was stricken with appendicitis, he “made a lot of prayers to Our Lady of Lourdes”. He was apparently aware of Our Lady of Lourdes’ patronage over the sick. In the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Merton “asked with great intensity of desire for the publication of the book, if it should be for God’s glory”. The publication endeavor never transpired but he still considered it an answered prayer as he saw the hand of God at work. In his autobiography, before discussing his return to America, Merton penned the following prayer in which he reflected on the role of Mary’s intercession in his life:
"Lady, when on that night I left the Island that was once your England,
your love went with me, although I could not know it,
and could not make myself aware of it.
And it was your love, your intercession for me, before God,
that was preparing the seas before my ship,
laying open the way for me to another country. . . .
Glorious Mother of God, shall I ever again distrust you, or your God,
before Whose throne you are irresistible in your intercession?"
"Lady, when on that night I left the Island that was once your England....."
England has been known as Mary’s Dowry since Anglo-Saxon times.
Richard II implored the help of Our Lady in 1381 during the turbulence of the Peasants’ Revolt. Richard’s association with the cult is reinforced by the beautiful Wilton Diptych (1395), in which Richard and the Virgin and Child are closely associated with symbols of England. King Richard II placed England under Our Lady's protection, in thanksgiving for having regained it: "Dos tua Virgo pia Haec est, quaere leges O Maria, This is your Dowry, O Holy Virgin, therefore rule over it, O Mary." The battle cry at Agincourt on Oct. 25, 1415, reputedly raised by King Henry V, was “Our Lady for her dowry; St. George and St. Edward to our aid.” A tract printed by the craftsman Richard Pynson in the 15th century, and now known as the Pynson Ballad, demonstrates the common devotion to Mary’s Dowry:
"O Englonde, great cause thou haste glad for to be, Compared to the londe of promys syon; Thou atteynest my grace to stande in that degre
Through this gloryous Ladyes supportacyon, To be called in every realme and region
The holy lande, Oure Ladyes dowre; Thus arte thou named of olde antyquyte."
Many a monarch has had recourse to Our Lady, particularly Our Lady of Walsingham, asking for her intercession to Our Lord on their behalf. Significantly Henry VIII had great recourse to the intercession of Our Lady. The eighteen-year old Henry VIII went on pilgrimage to Walsingham, desperate for Queen Katherine to give him a son after she miscarried. Soon she was pregnant again and gave birth to Prince Henry on New Year’s Day 1511. So full of gratitude was he that he set off at once to thank Our Lady; and so cold was it that he paid for expensive windows to be put in the unfinished building that covered the Holy House. But when he got back to Windsor the child was very ill,
died, and no more sons were born.
Years passed; he had petitioned the pope to annul his marriage but was rejected. Henry’s break with Rome didn't prevent Henry from continuing his devotion to Mary, even though her Walsingham shrine was destroyed under his direction.In his will he wrote: “We doe instantlie desire and require the blessed Virgine Marie his mother, with all the holy companie of Heaven, continually to pray for us while we live in this world, and in the passing out of the same.”
English Marian devotion went underground until the Catholic Emancipation Act of the early 19th century allowed Roman Catholics to openly practice their faith.
in 1893, Pope Leo XIII spoke a to a group of English RC Bishops of “the wonderful filial love which burnt within the heart of your forefathers towards the great Mother of God … to whose service they consecrated themselves with such abundant proofs of devotion, that the kingdom itself acquired the singular and highly honourable title of ‘Mary’s Dowry.'”
I think I'm correct in saying that it was as a result of this papal recognition that the following prayer was then added to the Mass in England:
O blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our most gentle Queen and Mother,
look down in mercy upon England thy “Dowry”
and upon us all who greatly hope and trust in thee.
By thee it was that Jesus our Saviour and our hope was given unto the world;
and He has given thee to us that we might hope still more.
Plead for us thy children, whom thou didst receive and accept
at the foot of the Cross, O sorrowful Mother.
Intercede for our separated brethren, that with us in the one true fold
they may be united to the supreme Shepherd, the Vicar of thy Son.
Pray for us all, dear Mother, that by faith fruitful in good works
we may all deserve to see and praise God, together with thee,
in our heavenly home.
I remember it from my "Catholic" days as a younger child attending the Latin Mass, as the one prayer I could understand! In the years after the Second Vatican Council (1960s) there was a growing reluctance to speak about England as Mary’s Dowry. For many it no longer made sense to speak in this way of the country in what was now a multi-faith and multi-ethnic nation. The pursuit of Christian unity also led many to believe that there should be a growing emphasis upon the common ground existing between different Christian communities. Our Lady was viewed as a stumbling block and obstacle to unity.
During the pandemic, the idea of seeking the protection of the Blessed Virgin came to the fore once again and the nation sought Her prayers for the nation gripped by the Coronavirus. Cardinal Nichols of Westminster had taken a newly-painted Icon of Our Lady of Walsingham – entitled ‘the Dowry Painting’ – to Rome, where it was blessed by Pope Francis, and the nation was rededicated to Mary at a special mass at Walsingham on 29th March 2020, as the Pandemic gripped the nation.
The Rector of the Catholic shrine, Mgr. John Armitage, said “Today we undertake this dedication in the eye of the storm. In the face of the peril that we find ourselves in today, in addition to the physical resilience we need to protect ourselves, a stronger spiritual resilience will be needed to survive the ordeal ahead and to rebuild our society in the coming days. The fruitfulness of England in the days to come will be dependent on the faithfulness of her people.” He added that England was at present also “humbled by the dedication of the thousands of men and women, who, in the face of such danger each day, serve the sick and those in need and enable our locked-down communities to survive.”
Mary - we ask your prayers for England,
increasingly turning away from God.
Mary of The Magnificat, pray for politicians
and for all who make decisions for our good.
Mary of Healing, pray for the afflicted among us,
Mary of Compassion, pray for the needy,
Mary, Lover of us all, pray for those who have no self-worth.
Mary, our Mother, pray for us.