Sunday, May 17, 2009


For over thirty years I have been a member of the Society of Mary, which was the result of two similar societies founded in 1880 and 1901 respectively, uniting in 1931. It has members all over the world and is no longer confined to Anglicans. In fact, the number of Roman Catholic members has been steadily increasing over the last seventeen years. The Society is dedicated to the glory of God and in honour of the Holy Incarnation under the invocation of Our Lady Help of Christians.

The objects of the Society of Mary are:

1. To love and honour Mary.

2. To spread devotion to her, in reparation for past neglect and misunderstanding, and in the cause of Christian Unity.

3. To take Mary as a model of purity, personal relationships and family life.

Members promise to keep a simple Rule of Life, and to meet together as opportunity permits.

The Society of Mary almost died out among Anglicans in Australia (during the era of the widespread demise of Anglican Catholicism which morphed itself into "liberal catholicism"). Back in the 1980s, thanks to the hard work of Father Tony Noble, then Vicar of St Mark's Fitzroy, the solitary members of the SOM were contacted and re-constituted into a Region of the Society, with Father Tony as Superior of the Australian Region. In 1996 that role passed to me, and it is a little ministry that I continue to carry out with great gladness, as it provides fellowship for Anglican Catholics in the Anglican Church of Australia as well as in the Traditional Anglican Communion. Over the years we have grown to six wards. Go HERE to our web site, or HERE to the website of the SOM in England.

Traditionally, this is "Mary's Month of May", and the May Festival in London is one of the main celebrations of the English SOM. The photographs accompanying this post are of this years May festival held in the wonderful parish of S. Silas Kentish Town. (Click on each to see them at their full size.) The mitred bishop is Bishop Robert Ladds, until recently Bishop of Whitby, the Superior General of the SOM.

In a previous post I gave you the story of A.N. Wilson's return to practising the Faith. Here is his characteristicly witty eyewitness account of the May Devotion, containing - as is appropriate - a tribute to S. Silas' parish and its priest Fr Graeme Rowlands who is also the Chaplain-General of the SOM.

The Diary: By AN Wilson

Published: May 9 2009

Sirens whined, traffic honked. Blocking the buses and the cars, was a long religious procession. The image of Our Lady, borne shoulder high on a bier, teetered forward. Little girls threw flowers. From the doorway of a Brazilian bar a heavily lip-glossed waitress, with cascades of raven hair and 5cm of mini-skirt, made the sign of the cross.

The nutters in the procession, who included myself, sang, “Ave, Ave, Ave Maria!” Behind the 250 people were an army of clergy in exotic rig, and the rear was taken up by two prelates arrayed in costumes that would have been a bit on the dressy side at the coronation of Pius IX – yards of lace, gauntlets, and jewels the sizes of over-ripe strawberries on their hands. One was the Suffragan Bishop of Whitby and the other the Dean of St Paul’s, who preached an excellent sermon at the Vespers of Our Lady that followed the procession and bun-fight. For we were not in São Paulo, or Lourdes, but in Kentish Town. And the clergy at this May Devotion were (just about) Church of England – what writer John Osborne in a superb joke called “Walsingham Matildas”.
These beautiful ceremonies are only the cherry on the pudding – the rest of the time the inspired and inspiring parish priest who is responsible for them is a key figure in the local primary school, tireless in his local knowledge and care for all of us, from the lonely alkies (and that’s just the writers) to the schoolchildren, the criminals and the housebound. Community may be an overused word but it isn’t an overused phenomenon.
What else in today’s Britain could bring together people of so many varied ethnic and social backgrounds?


Peter Dixon (Owner) said...

Well you certainly know how to outdress the Holy Father. But seriously, all that is over since the C of E apostocized in 1994

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