Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
While he was hanging on the Cross, Jesus placed his Mother, Mary into the care of the beloved disciple, John: Woman: this is your Son. But first Jesus placed his disciple into the care of his Mother: This is your Mother.
In these few words, Jesus, in Mary, has given his Church the gift of a spiritual mother. She is the Mother of the Church – Jesus has placed his Church under Mary’s special protection.
At the foot of the Cross, Mary herself is a symbol of the Church. In spite of what looks like disaster and the end of everything, Mary continues to look to the future, to the final victory of her Son over all evil forces, never giving up hope, always trusting in her Son.
The Church professes and proclaims that same hope – that in spite of all the struggles and the sufferings we go through, in spite of our failures and sins, which at times look to overwhelm us, we too place our trust in her Son with great confidence.
On the fifth Sunday of Lent this year, March 29, we are all invited to make a personal Act of Dedication of our country to Our Blessed Lady. As we do so, we shall repeat the Dedication made in 1381 by King Richard II of England, who at a time of great turmoil, promised this land and its people as the dowry of Mary. He turned to Mary for her guidance and protection. He had taken to heart the words of Jesus on the Cross to Our Lady and St John. Later, he gave thanks for his deliverance by making a gift of his country to Mary.
When we are faced with trials and great difficulties and stand at the foot of our own cross, know that Mary always stands alongside us, just as she did with her own Son. With words and gestures, she leads us gently to her Son – in whom we may place our trust and hope with great confidence.
This is what Mary teaches us at Walsingham. Walsingham is a shrine which is so important for our country and for our Diocese. There, Our Lady invited Richeldis to build a replica of the Holy House, the place of the Annunciation.
It was this Holy House that Walsingham became and still is known as England’s Nazareth. Our Lady invites us to share her joy in the Annunciation….for all who would come here will find help in their need.
And our joy is Jesus – The Word who was made flesh and who lived among us. In Jesus Christ, God himself has walked among his people. As we contemplate the great mystery of the Incarnation we enter into the very life of God, for in finding God we find our true selves. Joy comes as a consequence of the acceptance of a gift, the gift that is God himself, the gift that will never leave us.
We cannot always be happy in life – but the joy promised us by our faith, when we take it into our hearts, will never leave us. In the good times and the bad times that joy will be our lasting hope and strength. And joy is the message of Walsingham.
The Re-Dedication of ourselves, of our Church and of our country provides us with an opportunity to follow both Richeldis of Walsingham and Richard II. Richeldis, a woman of great heart, asked our Lady if she could honour her in some way. Richard sought the guidance and protection from God’s Mother, knowing that all who sought her would find help in their need. So, as we seek to honour God’s holy Mother, let us like them, and countless others in our land, make our own personal dedication to Our Lady.
And the gift we make to Our Blessed Lady will be our faith, as we seek her guidance and protection.
She will then point us to her Son. She will tell us, as always, Do whatever he tells you. She will show us how to respond to Jesus with a faith filled “Yes” – as she did at the Incarnation. As Richeldis was led in spirit by Our Lady to Nazareth, this Re-Dedication provides us with an opportunity to be led in spirit to Walsingham. There we can learn from its message to become heralds of the joy of the Incarnation in a world which is so often in need of a deep and lasting joy.
I invite you all, therefore, to take part in the Re-Dedication of our country to Mary on March 29, seeking out her guidance and protection. I will lead the Re-Dedication for the Diocese in the cathedral at the end of the Solemn Mass. Cardinal Fitzgerald will lead the Re-Dedication in Walsingham on the original site of the Holy House in the Priory grounds.
Every parish in the Diocese and in the country, will lead the act of Re-Dedication at the end of the main Mass of the day. But everyone may make an individual act of Re-Dedication, wherever you are on March 29. Your parish will provide you with the prayers for this solemn Act.
I also invite every Parish to take part in the three days of preparation for this National Day of Re-Dedication – March 26, 27, 28. Please observe these as days of prayer. I hope on each of these days there will be a period of extended prayer before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Here, in her Son’s Presence, we can ask Mary “to embrace this country of ours, to instil in us a truthfulness and a love of justice, so that we may experience, as she herself did, the joy of the Lord’s Presence” (Cardinal Nichols).
With every good wish and prayer
The Right Revd Alan S Hopes
Bishop of East Anglia