A personal tribute to Our Lady by Fr John Peyton, Parish Priest at St Dunstan, Kings Heath and St Jude, Maypole

May in 2024 - The Year of Prayer in Preparation for the Jubilee Year, 2025

Pope Francis has called 2024 to be a Year of Prayer, in preparation for the Jubilee Year 2025.

He wishes it to be a year “when we rediscover the value of prayer, private and public.”

The month of May is dedicated every year to Our Blessed Lady. It is a time for May altars, processions and devotions.

It is during the month of May each year when our Archdiocese organises its annual pilgrimage to Lourdes, the Pyrenean village where Our Lady appeared to St Bernadette in 1858.

In those apparitions beside the River Gave, Our Mother prayed the Rosary with Bernadette, letting the beads slip through her fingers as the young girl prayed the Hail Marys, and joining her when she reached the Glory Be.

Lourdes is most famous as a place of healing, many people having been cured through bathing in the miraculous waters that have been flowing ever since St Bernadette scratched away the soil at Our Lady’s bidding.

Many more receive inner spiritual healing. Central to the message of Lourdes is our mother’s call for us to turn away from sin ourselves and to pray and do penance for the conversion of sinners.

Whenever I have been on pilgrimage with our Archdiocese in Lourdes, it has been truly inspiring to see our young people, drawn from our Catholic secondary schools, caring for the sick. Many make great sacrifices to take part, and they are a great support and example to all.

Lourdes is a wonderfully vivid manifestation of the family of God, being drawn to Christ Our Saviour through the powerful intercession of Our Blessed Mother. She, as she called herself in Lourdes, is the Immaculate Conception. Preserved from the stain of original sin, she intercedes for us so that we can overcome evil in our lives.

May in this Year of Prayer, 2024, might be a very appropriate time to renew our commitment to praying the Rosary. This prayer, which has been prayed down through the centuries, continues to display its power.

Our Lady advised St Dominic to pray the Rosary to overcome the Albigensian heresy. One of the errors of this belief, which caused turmoil in the Church in the 12th./13th. centuries, was that Jesus was an angel whose sufferings were only apparent, not real. The Albigensian followers were converted to the true faith by praying the mysteries of the Rosary. These take us from the Annunciation, the moment when God became Man, through the real Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ, to the glorious assumption and coronation of Our Lady in Heaven.

As we repeat the Hail Marys one after the other, we allow the mystery of the Incarnation, the Word becoming Flesh, to sink deep into our hearts.

Praying the Rosary involves us choosing to spend time in the company of Jesus and Mary. If we spend time in anybody’s company, they will have an influence on us.

Our Lady will intercede for us as we respond to her regular request to pray the Rosary. She will be a true mother to us, and lead us away from error - as she did with the Albigensian adherents in medieval times.

There was another Fr Peyton, Fr Patrick Peyton. He was not a relative of mine as far as I can ascertain - although where he came from in Co Mayo is only 10 miles or so from where my father came from.

A priest of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, he became renowned in the 20th Century for Family Prayer crusades. He promoted especially the family Rosary with the help of Catholic Hollywood film stars such as Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Lucille Ball. He was a pioneer of using media to spread the Gospel message.

He was declared Venerable by Pope Francis in 2017 - a key stage on the road towards canonisation.

His famous slogan was: “The family that prays together, stays together.” I believe that when a family prays together it will help them to stay together in the family of the faith.

May this month of May in this Year of Prayer, 2024, be a time when we all renew our life of prayer, inspired especially by Our Lady who prayed with Bernadette at Lourdes.

Photograph taken on the Lourdes Pilgrimage 2023

Discover the Diocesan Lourdes Pilgrimage