A personal tribute to Our Lady by Fr John Peyton, Parish Priest at St Thomas More, Sheldon, Birmingham

May in the Year of the Coronavirus Pandemic: Our country is in Our Lady’s hands

It was decided at a meeting of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales in November 2017 to re-dedicate England as the Dowry of Mary on March 29 2020 - the Sunday after the Solemnity of the Annunciation. Mgr John Armitage, the Rector of Walsingham - England’s National Shrine to Our Lady - commented that this needed to be done because the love that the people of England have had for Our Lady down through the centuries needs to be highlighted for the people of this generation.

I do believe that the Holy Spirit guided the bishops to choose this year for this re-dedication - it could not have possibly been better timed. At the time of our greatest need, the people of this land have been placed in the hands of Our Blessed Mother. We could not be in a better place.

Why ‘Dowry of Mary’?

This title was given to England by King Richard II in 1381, during the Peasants’ Revolt - a time of great political upheaval. Aged only 14, he gave this country as a gift to Our Lady, he entrusted it to her - he placed this land under Mary’s protection and guidance.

England has been given again to Our Lady. We have been entrusted to her. We can be confident that she will protect us, and also that she will intercede for us - so that our faith will grow and develop in these challenging times.

Why dedicate to Mary?

St Louis-Marie de Montfort - a French priest who died in 1716 - wrote the spiritual classic ‘True Devotion to Mary’. This explains how to consecrate our lives to Jesus through Mary - as a means of living out our Baptism. St Louis teaches that going to Jesus through Mary is the sure way of reaching Jesus. It was through Mary that Jesus came to us.

In this devotion, we give ourselves as a gift to Jesus, and we do so through Mary - just as our country has recently been placed in Our Lady’s hands. We can be confident that our lives will thereby be used by God to the greatest possible advantage.

I am always inspired by the young lad in the Gospels who came forward to Jesus in the midst of more than 5,000 people. Little did he ever think that his packed lunch would still be discussed 2,000 years later all over the world! That boy entrusted what he had to God - then God worked a miracle. Jesus could have fed the multitude from the thin air. However he chose to use an offering from a child - however inadequate it would have seemed.

In the True Devotion to Jesus through Mary, we come forward with our loaves and fishes - our prayers, our sacrifices, our lives. We give them over to Jesus and we do so through Mary. She is not just a channel for our offerings, she will augment them.

The scraps left over from that miraculous meal were gathered into 12 baskets. Nothing that we entrust to God will ever be wasted - but it will be used to help people on their journey to God. They might indeed be people whom we haven’t met and never will meet.

How can we make May 2020 special?

We can help the significance of the re-dedication of England to Our Lady in this extraordinary year sink into our hearts by renewing our commitment to the daily Rosary, especially in this her special month of May. This is the prayer that she always asks for. I believe the time spent in praying 5 decades of the Rosary every day is time well spent. We are spending time in the company of Our Lady. She will have an influence as our Mother on the life of our souls. Mary - the disciple par excellence - will train us to be true disciples of Jesus. What Our Saviour asked for as He ascended back to Heaven was for His disciples to make new disciples. I believe the Rosary is a disciple-making mechanism for Christ.

Have hope in our hearts

I don’t think that there has ever been anything that has affected the whole world at the one time in the way that coronavirus has. I believe that the re-dedication of England to Our Lady as her dowry - this year of all years - should fill us with hope. God can and does draw good even out of the worst situations. Safe in Mary’s hands, God will work through us to draw many to Him in this time of our greatest need.