In 1997 I was introduced to a remarkable young woman called Antonia Moffat. I was then at the Capuchin Friary at Peckham, while studying for the year in London. Antonia, when I met her was very no nonsense. What she wanted to do was to help consecrate Britain and Ireland to Our Lady all on the same day. The venues were the Marian shrines at Knock in Ireland, Walsingham in England, Carfin in Scotland, and because Wales must have been deemed so difficult to cross, because of its mountainous terrain ( I would have thought it was less mountainous than Scotland, but perhaps there is less low land in Wales) that there would be two venues, Our Lady of the Taper at Cardigan and the Capuchin Friary at Pantasaph in North Wales, which did not have a Marian shrine, but since 1999 does have the National Shrine of Padre Pio in Britain. I was to be in charge of the Pantasaph pilgrimage, and it was a wonderfully successful day, and some people even saw the sun dancing, which was not really the point as one of the leading ladies of the pilgrimage remarked. She had been too busy organizing things to look at the Sun.
I then next found out, to my delight, that my home town of Aldeburgh in Suffolk was that Summer of 1998, to be one of the first churches to be visited by the travelling statue of Our Lady of Reconciliation, which had been commissioned by Antonia, and was in fact Our Lady of Walsingham. However the bishops of England and Wales frightened that the guardians of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham might take offence at the statue being named Our Lady of Walsingham, decided that the statue be called something else. As I was visiting my mother at the time, who was in a lovely care home, not far from the Catholic Church, I ended up, because the parish priest was away that day, welcoming the statue, which was considered important enough for Anglia Television to film it.
The Statue has been continually on the move ever since. In fact Antonia decided to go and live in Walsingham, and dedicate her life to Our Lady. Antonia, never one to sit back on her laurels, or even think that she had any, has been battling that dreaded English disease of spiritual inertia for the last 16 years, and then just before she left Walsingham for pastures new, she had the wonderful idea of helping the Middle Eastern bishops with a consecration to Our Lady for their war torn and battered countries. The result of Antonia’s vision was that on 16th June of this year the entire episcopate of Lebanon, along with all the patriarchs of the Middle East consecrated the entire region to the Immaculate Heart of Mary at the great national shrine to Our Lady at Harissa.
At the same time a magnificent procession of a travelling icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa was wending its way from Vladivostok on the Pacific Ocean, where it had started off from on June 14th 2012 to Portugal on the shores of the Atlantic. It was meant to have arrived in Portugal for Christmas, but was somewhat delayed in what had once been the heartlands of Albigensianism in France. It arrived in Portugal in the spring of this year. The Ocean to Ocean pilgrimage was a joint effort by Polish Catholics and Russian Orthodox Christians to promote the Civilization of Love. Miracles and conversions followed in the wake of the travelling icon, which has only recently touched down in the U.S.
So Our Lady under her titles of Czestochowa, Harissa, and Walsingham has been calling not only the Russians, the Poles, the British, and the Christians of the Middle to build the civilisation of love, but also to all of Europe and North America as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if she ends up at Guadalupe in Mexico and then makes a tour of some of the great Marian shrines in South America.
Now it is the seemingly little things such as pebbles that cause avalanches, and some rather bigger things as well, such as Benedict’s magnificent abdication of the Papacy, followed by the extraordinary election of the first non European Pope for over a thousand years, the first from Argentina, the first from Latin America, the first from the Americas, and the first Jesuit Pope. Now what did this new Pope do? He, Pope Francis, the first of that name, on the day following his election, went unannounced to Santa Maria Maggiore and placed a posy of flowers before the ancient icon of Our Lady which is housed there. He then consecrates his Papacy to Our Lady of Fatima.
Our Lady, being the wonderful mother that she is, through the marvellous graces that are given to her by the Holy Spirit, whose spouse she is, may well have decided that the British Parliament, hardly a bastion of Christian orthodoxy, needed to make amends for its mad behaviour in passing the gay marriage act, and do something worthwhile, for a change, such as stop the British Government in its tracks and stop its warmongering rhetoric, and sanctimonious self righteousness, and do something good. Thus quite unexpectedly Parliament voted against attacking Syria, and David Cameron gracefully, but crestfallen all the same, accepted Parliament’s decision. And so the Americans were caught off guard, Congress was emboldened, and France took heart. All the time Vladimir Putin had been wisely cautioning against American and British strikes against Syria. Putin of course is the leader of the fabled Holy Russia, who God willing will soon make herself worthy of that illustrious name, and of her wonderful 20th century Christian martyrs.
Our Lady is working wonders, and her children’s prayers are being heard. Let us pray for the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and the true conversion of the Americans and the British, the sophisticated French politicians, the Moslems, the Jews, the Israelis and the warring parties of the Middle East, and for all those who do not, as yet, know Christ. We do this, as Antonia has done, by dogged persistence with very little thanks from most bishops, and we do it by carrying icons of Our Lady across the World, and we do it above all by that simple and beautiful gesture of Pope Francis when he laid not only his posy before Our Lady, but his heart. His heart which beats with so much love for the poor and distressed invites us to do the same. Little things with great love as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta informs us work wonders, and wonders are what we need today.