Friday, 13 August 2010

From Menevia With Love

In the first of our series of guest blogs from friends of Southwark's Papal Visit Team, we welcome this article from Matt Roche-Saunders, a student at Exeter University, though originally from the Menevia Diocese, who was a founder member of Southwark's Quo Vadis vocations discernment group. Thanks Matt!

Shrine Rector sheds light on Statue’s journey

As the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Britain draws near, groups of pilgrims around the country are busily planning how to see him at one of the main events. I spoke to Fr Jason Jones, parish priest at the Welsh National Shrine to Our Lady in Cardigan, and he told me that he is preparing to make a very privileged journey, one which will be of special interest to Welsh Catholics.
Upon hearing the news that our Holy Father will not be visiting Wales in 2010, Fr Jason suggested that Wales should instead go to him, and so the Statue of Our Lady of the Taper will make the journey from Cardigan to Westminster to be with the Pope. The Statue depicts Our Lady seated, in one hand holding the Christ child, and in the other a taper candle. On a deeper level, Fr Jason points out that both hands are holding the light of the world. Pope Benedict will bless and light a taper candle, and place it into the hand of the statue, following which he will lead the congregation in the Shrine prayer.

One of the main reasons Pope Benedict is visiting the UK this year is to preside at the Beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, who died in 1890. During his lifetime, Newman wrote the hymn ‘Lead kindly light’ – what a perfect opportunity for Welsh Catholics to follow the Statue of Our Lady, holding the light of Christ aloft.

This year marks an historical period for the Welsh National Shrine – the town of Cardigan celebrates its 900th anniversary, the Shrine Church marks 40 years as a National Shrine, and next year will be its 25th anniversary as the National Shrine of Wales. For the statue to make such a momentous pilgrimage to Westminster means that we have the opportunity to make it a very special year for Our Lady of the Taper.

A Papal visit always presents an opportunity for renewal, and for people to ask the basic questions of life. Fr Jason recognises this, linking the light of the statue to the rekindling of the light of faith at the time of the visit, and he prays that the visit will bring about an increased devotion to Our Lady, the light which leads us to her Son, Jesus Christ.

The journeying of the Statue of Our Lady of the Taper to the home of English and Welsh Catholics, Westminster Cathedral, will have added significance, according to Fr Jason - in 1956, the Shrine was re-established, and a carved statue was blessed at the Cathedral by Cardinal Griffin.

When Pope John Paul II designated Cardigan as the National Shrine for Welsh Catholics in 1986, he blessed a candle in Rome, which was then placed in the hand of Our Lady at the inaugural Mass of the Church as National Shrine in May of the same year. That candle now rests in a carved box of Welsh oak, and the candle blessed by Pope Benedict XVI will be similarly kept in a locally carved box of wood and pewter, portraying just some of 50 Welsh flowers named after Mary, such as Dagrhau Mair (Mary’s tears), more commonly known as fuscia.

Matt R-S

With Fr Jason and with our dear Matt, let us pray that the Statue’s journey and the Papal Visit as a whole will enkindle in us all the kindly light of Christ.

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