Friday, September 24, 2004

Our Lady of Ransom

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Ransom. This is the principal Marian feast day of the Mercedarian Friars. One of the principal works for which this Order was founded in the 13th century was the ransoming of Christian captives from the Mohammedans, who have apparently been at the kidnapping lark for a good many centuries now.

Our Lady of Ransom was once the only Marian feast proper to England. This feast, however, has now been replaced by that of Our Lady of Walsingham which clearly has a more "English" provenance. It's a shame they wouldn't make room for both. Perhaps the concept was insufficiently ecumenical with its concommitant prayers for the conversion of England.

Here is the feast's original collect:

Oh God, by means of the most glorious Mother of Your Son, You were pleased to give new children to Your Church for the deliverance of Christ's faithful from the power of the heathen; grant, we pray You, that we who love and honor her as the foundress of so great a work may, by her merits and prayers, be ourelves delivered from all sin and from the bondage of the evil one. Through Christ our Lord.

The "reformed" collect as it was just before the feast vanished from the English calendar:

Lord, we have long been the dowry of Mary and subjects of Peter, prince of the apostles. Let us hold to the Catholic faith and remain devoted to the blessed Virgin and obedient to Peter. Through Our Lord.

On the other hand it is an excellent decision to revive the old medieval feast of Our Lady of Walsingham. There is a Roman and an Anglican shrine, each having a website but sharing a common web portal which you can find here. The original shrine was confiscated by Henry VIII, its statues destroyed and property dispersed. The restoration we see now is largely a product of the 20th century. The Anglican shrine has a short history here and the Catholic shrine here.

This is an appropriate place to reprint a little piece of recusant poetry that is fairly well-known, called the "Lament for Walsingham" or just "Walsingham Farewell".

In the wracks of Walsingam
Whom should I chuse
But the Queene of Walsingam
To be guide to my muse?

Then, thou Prince of Walsingam
Graunt me to frame
Bitter plaintes to rewe thy wronge
Bitter wo for thy name.

Bitter was it, oh to see
The sely sheepe
Murdred by the raveninge wolves
While the sheepharde did sleep.

Bitter was it, oh, to viewe
The sacred vyne
Whiles the gardiners plaied all close
Rooted up by the swine.

Such were the worth of Walsingam
While she did stand
Such are the wrackes as now do shewe
Of that (so) holy lande.

Levell, levell with the ground
The Towres doe lye
Which with their golden, glit-t'ring tops
Pearsed oute to the skye.

Where weare gates noe gates are nowe,
The waies unknowen,
Where the presse of freares did passe
While her fame far was blowen.

Oules do scrike where the sweetest himnes
Lately wear songe,
Toades and serpents hold their dennes
Where the palmers did throng.

Weep, weep O Walsingam,
Whose dayes are nightes,
Blessings turned to blasphemies,
Holy deedes to dispites.

Sinne is where our Ladye sate,
Heaven turned is to helle;
Sathan sitte where our Lord did swaye,
Walsingam, oh, farewell!


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