‘Ye merrie month of May’ holds out hope to those who have subsisted through the long Winter months and not least to those whose lives have been in some way blighted by the current pandemic. For those of us who are so inclined it is also a month of Mary in which we look forward to ‘the May devotion’ in whatever form that might take. In the present situation the prayers of our Lady are most welcome as we adapt our lives to the current restrictions and look forward to the resumption of our usual activities.
Even so, I have been approaching the month with some sadness. On the 4th May our marriage registers will become defunct and will (within a few days) be returned along with the associated paperwork and documents to the Registrar’s office. You may be delighted to know that H.M. Government is going electronic. Is nothing sacred? Of course this may all seem a bit trivial and my sadness rather petty. After all what isn’t done electronically these days? Our lives are increasingly dominated by the computer for better or for worse, but when the marriage registration succumbs to the microchip and the click of the mouse something profound will be lost.
It is not so much that the signing of the registers is a time-honoured tradition. It is certainly that and the church will have its own register which the couple will be invited sign to record the event. It is that the signing of the registers was actually the registration of the marriage. At that table in the parish church there was a conjoining of Church and State, the sacred with the secular. Those who were aware of this cherished the moment as an integral part of what it meant to be English and part of the established church. Those who did not still recognised the dignity of the occasion. The registration will now take place in the office of the registrar using details furnished by the officiating minister. Only the registrar will be there, none will witness the event as happened in days gone by. Something profound will be lost.
And now the good news! There will be space on the new form for each party (there will still only be two) to add up to four parents each along with their best friend and favourite pet.
So back to the month of May. I will get over the loss of the registers and concentrate on other matters. As I have already mentioned May is one of the Marian months (along with October). This presents an opportunity to reflect on the role Mary played in the gospel stories and how the Church has embraced and honoured her over the centuries. The English have long had a devotion to our Lady. The feast of the Immaculate Conception became especially popular in the Anglo-Saxon England from the early eleventh century. The Normans resisted it on the basis that it had its roots in the Eastern Church and was not observed in Rome, but the devotion persisted. Eventually England became known as Mary’s dowry because of the extent of devotion to her. Many centuries later the faithful still ask for Mary’s prayers for the conversion of England and for the well-being of the nation. Our Lady joins her prayers with those of the faithful in parish churches and shrines like that at Walsingham where the hope of renewal is alive.
Whether it is time for a bit of a grumble (quod vide) or a more genuine concern for the nation do not let the month of May go by without prayer for the spiritual health this kingdom, for an increase in faith amongst its people and for protection from evil whether that be the carelessness of government or the malice of those who would eradicate Christianity from Mary’s dowry. Pray for the revival which only God in his mercy can grant.
Pray, O holy Mother of God for the conversion of England, restoration of the sick, consolation for the afflicted, repentance of sinners, peace to the departed. O blessed Mary, Mother of God, our Lady of Walsingham, intercede for us. Amen.
P.S. I made up the bit about the best friend and the pet, but we all know it’s only a matter of time…
The complete newsletter for May can be downloaded below.