The joy of a Day With Mary

Yesterday the team from A Day With Mary came to Blackfen. As parish priest, I feel that we are privileged to be able to host one of these days. The mother of one of our young families has posted her own appreciation on A Day With Mary at Blackfen with the photos that I have posted here, and some others.

The day begins with the crowning of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima - or Our Lady of the Rosary as she referred to herself, making me proud to host this event in a parish with that dedication. In the picture to the right, you can see me precariously atop a stepladder placing the crown which was carried by one of our young girls in the parish. There follows an outdoor procession of Our Lady around the streets which are conveniently such that we can say five mysteries of the Rosary along with the Litany of Loreto in the time it takes to go round the block.

Mass follows: the DWM team are happy to have either form of the Roman Rite, according to the direction of the parish priest, so we had the usus antiquior with the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate singing the propers for the Mass of Santa Francesca Romana. That takes us up to lunch. As a priest, I was honoured with the gift of some food which, I think, is mainly Filipino in style - some lovely noodles and chicken with vegetables. In the Hall, there is a large bookstall and another stall with devotional objects. I joked with the bookstall holders that I was looking for a book by Hans Kung. Not available, I'm afraid.

In the afternoon, the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, and there is an outdoor procession of the Blessed Sacrament (our sacristy team has now constructed a proper canopy) there are two sermons, two more sets of five mysteries of the Rosary, and meditations on the Passion before a tea break.

The day then concludes with solemn Benediction, enrolment in the brown scapular and the miraculous medal and the blessing of devotional objects. The finale is the farewell procession with an English translation of the hymn used at Fatima "O Fatima Farewell" with people waving handkerchiefs or tissues. This is a moving devotion in which the hankies sometimes need to be used to wipe the tears away.

If you have the chance to attend A Day With Mary, I do recommend going. Blessed John Henry Newman, in his novel Loss and Gain describes how Charles Reding found the true faith in a humble Passionist Convent. The Day With Mary always reminds me of this passage which is one of my favourites from Newman:
Though Reding had continued standing, no one would have noticed him; but he saw the time was come for him to kneel, and accordingly he moved into a corner seat on the bench nearest him. He had hardly done so, when a procession with lights passed from the sacristy to the altar; something went on which he did not understand, and then suddenly began what, by the Miserere and Ora pro nobis, he perceived to be a litany; a hymn followed. Reding thought he never had been present at worship before, so absorbed was the attention, so intense was the devotion of the congregation. What particularly struck him was, that whereas in the Church of England the clergyman or the organ was everything and the people nothing, except so far as the clerk is their representative, here it was just reversed. The priest hardly spoke, or at least audibly; but the whole congregation was as though one vast instrument or Panharmonicon, moving all together, and what was most remarkable, as if self-moved. They did not seem to require any one to prompt or direct them, though in the Litany the choir took the alternate parts. The words were Latin, but every one seemed to understand them thoroughly, and to be offering up his prayers to the Blessed Trinity, and the Incarnate Saviour, and the great Mother of God, and the glorified Saints, with hearts full in proportion to the energy of the sounds they uttered. There was a little boy near him, and a poor woman, singing at the pitch of their voices. There was no mistaking it; Reding said to himself, "This is a popular religion". He looked round at the building; it was, as we have said, very plain, and bore the marks of being unfinished; but the Living Temple which was manifested in it needed no curious carving or rich marble to complete it, "for the glory of God had enlightened it, and the Lamb was the lamp thereof". "How wonderful," said Charles to himself, "that people call this worship formal and external; it seems to possess all classes, young and old, polished and vulgar, men and women indiscriminately; it is the working of one Spirit in all, making many one."

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