LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Noting that the Church is “ever ancient and ever new,” the rector of Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham said the March 29 rededication of England as the “Dowry of Mary” will help the country face “the personal and national challenges of our day.”

Pope Francis was scheduled to bless the painting of Our Lady of Walsingham being used in the ceremony on Feb. 12, during his general audience.

The first dedication was done by King Richard II in 1381, as England faced the turmoil of the Peasants’ Revolt, an uprising that took place in response to high taxes that was suppressed at the cost of over 1,500 lives.

“The reeducation which takes place on March 29, 2020, is a personal dedication of the people of England following in the footsteps of King Richard II, who in the face of great political turmoil in 1381 went to the shrine of Our Lady of Puy in Westminster Abbey to seek her guidance and protection,” said Msgr. John Armitage, the rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, which is England’s national Marian shrine.

“In thanksgiving he returned and gave the country as a gift – a dowry – to Our Lady for her continued protection and guidance. So, we the Catholics of England today follow in that tradition, faced with the personal and national challenges of our day we turn to her once again and offer our faith as she leads us to her Son,” he told Crux.

In medieval times, the English understanding of the word “dowry” was something “set aside” by a man for his wife in the event of his death.

The rededication was proposed at the November 2017 meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

The process includes a national tour of the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham to every cathedral in England, while concurrently encouraging pilgrimages to the shrine, located in Norfolk, in the East of England.

The March 29 rededication is taking place on the Sunday after the Solemnity of the Annunciation.

“It is taking place in 2020 quite simply to address the fact that the understanding of the ancient title of England as the Dowry of Mary, indicating the great love of Our Lady by the people of England, has declined, and needs to be highlighted for this generation, and also to promote the Message of Our Lady at Walsingham to ‘Share my Joy at the Annunciation’ for Walsingham is a Marian Shrine of the Incarnation,” Armitage said.

It may have started in Medieval times, but it is like all aspects of the story of our faith, “ever ancient and ever new,” rooted in the past with something true and of great significance for the people of each generation,” he added.

The rector said the Dowry painting blessed by Francis will return to Walsingham and on the day of the re-dedication will be commissioned by Cardinal Michael Fitzgerald to start a permanent tour of the parishes of England as a remembrance of the dedication day.

He said this tour will help English Catholics “to remember our remarkable spiritual heritage that will bring honor to the past and hope for the people of today as they seek to take to heart the words of Our Lady at Cana: ‘Do whatever he tells you.’”

Devotion to Our Lady of Walsingham stems from the 1061 apparitions of Mary reported by the English noblewoman, Richeldis de Faverches. She said Mary told her to build a replica of the House of the Annunciation in Walsingham, and over time it became a popular pilgrimage site.

Although the original shrine was destroyed in the Reformation, the original “Slipper chapel” – which was the last stop on the pilgrimage tour – survived and was restored to Catholic use in the 19th century, becoming the “new” national Marian shrine. There is also an Anglican shrine to Our Lady of Walsingham, built in 1938.

“The message of Walsingham is very simple: It is an invitation to share the joy in the first disciple, one who was a witness to all of the major events in her Son’s life,” Armitage told Crux.

“Joy is different from happiness, which is passing and sometimes shallow. Joy is to happiness what the deep sea is to a puddle. Joy is a consequence of a gift given,” he explained.

“We can’t always be happy, but we can always have joy in our hearts, for the gift of Jesus will never leave us. Walsingham is a testimony to this message and speaks powerfully to the people of today.”

Follow Charles Collins on Twitter: @CharlesinRome

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