Marian devotion is central to the Church, and to Catholic life and culture. Mary’s central role in God’s plan from “the beginning” places her at the core – literally at the heart– of the Church and the life journey of every Christian.
Every era has seen additions to the great Marian shrines of the world, and also renewal of old ones. Today, Lourdes attracts millions of pilgrims annually – to our Medieval ancestors it was unknown. In England, Catholics of the Victorian era knew of Walsingham only as a shrine destroyed under Henry VIII – today it is a major part of Catholic life, renewed afresh in this 21st century having been revived in the early years of the 20th.
In Czestochowa, the Marian shrine that is Poland’s spiritual heart, is an oversized statue of a priest who at irst glance seems to have no arms. One has to walk around it to realise that his hands are tied tightly behind his back. At the foot are the simple words ‘Bl. Jerzy Popieluszko, 1947-1984’. For Poles, this needs no more explanation. The tens of thousands of pilgrims who come to this place know exactly who he was and why he died.
With anything new there are inevitability lots of questions.
It does get a little tiresome having to answer some of them again and again. Among long-time Catholics, there is still a sense of mild confusion about the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Their questions reflect both a genuine desire to appear concerned and interested, and a frank curiosity: “Are you happy now you’re a Catholic?” “D’you miss anything from the C of E?”, and – this last apparently without anD deliberate intention to offend – “Will the Ordinariate last?”
For the ancient Hebrew, so often under siege from foreign powers and alicted by apostasy from within, the promise of the Messiah was a hope and joy that sustained him throughout his difficult history. The Messiah or “Anointed One” would be his saviour, who would rescue him from the tyranny of his enemies and from his own catastrophic infidelity to the Law of God. The Messiah would be a true Israelite, a noble son of David, the beloved of God.