Today is observed in some countries as the memorial of Our Lady of Ransom. Under that tile Mary is especially venerated in Aragon and Catalonia in Spain and in parts of Latin America. However, it is a very old feast in England.
I came across a very interesting item by English writer and blogger Joanna Bogle. Her article appeared on 3 April this year but I came across it only last night while doing some research on Our Lady of Ransom. The last few paragraphs really caught my attention:
I find myself wondering. Should we not -- while recognising the delicacy of what we are discussing -- see in Our Lady of Ransom something tender, merciful, and important for today? We need her to ransom the West from its secular mindset; ransom us all from fear; ransom Christians under pressure from Islam (those suffering in Sudan today, for example).
We need to invoke her aid in giving back to Christians, especially in Europe, a sense of the truth that is at the core of Christianity -- God who became man, who took human flesh and became one of us, dying for us on the Cross -- and a recognition that we need to live this faith fully and be prepared to pass it on. And whether this is fashionable or not, we ought to understand that Christ died for everyone, including people born into Islam, and that Our Lady of Ransom might have something to say to us about that, too.
Millions of Muslims now live in Britain, and entire sections of our towns and cities are now culturally Islamic. Churches are closing and mosques are taking their places. Visit Bradford, or Preston, or Leeds, and see the minarets and walk among the veiled women in the shopping centers. Are we to assume that they are never to know the truth about Christ and what He won for them on the Cross? Evangelism is difficult, but prayer is not, and Our Lady of Ransom may achieve what seems impossible. We should invoke her aid, in our homes and in our parishes.
Perhaps we should not assume that all will be antagonistic. Mary is honored in Islam, and is a point of contact. Islamic women, raising families in modern Britain, have their own worries about the pressures on their young, and about their own hopes and fears for the future. A string of rosary beads, an image of Mary, a hymn invoking her aid in prayer, may not be as offensive as we think.
Perhaps it is time, gently but with courage, to pray with renewed fervor the prayer I remember in the rather different England of my youth: Our Lady of Ransom, pray for us.
Fr Nicholas Schofield, archivist of the Archdiocese of Westminster, laments on his blog, Roman Miscellany, that the feast has been replaced in the liturgical calendar in England by the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham:
Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Ransom. It has a special relevance to England and Wales and used to be in our national calendar, until she was replaced by Our Lady of Walsingham in 2000. A pity that we couldn't celebrate both titles since the idea behind Our Lady of Ransom was praying for the 'ransom' of England as 'Our Lady's Dowry.' The Guild of Our Lady of Ransom continues to promote the work of England's conversion, which is today as necessary as ever.
Jackie Parkes writes about Our Lady of Walsingham in her blog today.
Two days ago the website of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines carried a story http://www.cbcpnews.com/?q=node/4805 with the headline MUSLIM ‘DATU’ EXPRESSES PERSONAL DEVOTION TO MARY. ‘Datu’ means ‘chief’ or something close to that and is probably the same as ‘Ratu’, the Fijian title for a man of chiefly rank.
The article reminded me of a broadcast I heard on BBC World Service in December 1993 when I was parish priest of Lianga, Surigao del Sur, a relatively remote town on the east coast of Mindanao. The speaker was a young English woman and a Muslim. She was speaking especially to Christians because Christmas was coming up. I remember two things in particular that the speaker said. She told us that Muslims believe in the Immaculate Conception of Mary and in the Immaculate Conception of Jesus. She also told a story about Muhammad when he and his followers were destroying images. But when they came across an image of Jesus and Mary he forbade them from destroying it.
Many Muslims, especially women, go to Lourdes (p.16). Tina Beattie wrote in The Tablet on 13 September of discovering that the British woman she was on duty with at the baths didn’t belong to a parish:
Afterwards, as we were putting on our outdoor clothes, I spoke to the woman I'd been on duty with. I asked her what parish she came from in the UK. She smiled. "I don't have a parish. I'm a Muslim," she said. She had visited Lourdes when her son was ill, and she had been going back ever since. She explained that Mary is honoured by Muslims, and she had no difficulty taking part in the ritual of the baths.
Here is the article by Datu Zamzamin Ampatuan.
Muslim ‘datu’ expresses personal devotion to Mary
DAVAO CITY, September 22, 2008—A well known Muslim “datu” in Mindanao has expressed his personal Muslim devotion to Mary Immaculate even as he suggested to make the Blessed Mother as national patron for Muslim-Christian unity.
Datu Zamzamin Ampatuan wrote in an article which was furnished to CBCPNews his great reverence to Mary, the Blessed Mother of Jesus.
Ampatuan recounted that his special devotion to Mary dawned upon him when he was traveling in Palawan from Brooke’s Point to Puerto Princesa. His driver, obviously tired and exhausted, seem to have failed to notice a mother with a baby crossing the street while they were entering the city center.
The pick-up vehicle of Ampatuan definitely headed to hit the two but he shouted out aloud the Muslim prayer for intervention, invoking “God Bless Muhammad and his progeny.” It was less than an inch that the woman and the baby were saved from being hit.
Ampatuan continued that when his driver asked him what was it that he shouted, he subconsciously answered, “It is the same as you say Hail Mary.”
From then on, Ampatuan said, “I realized that I am building a deeper sense of the Virgin Mary. I now feel a closer attachment to her. As time pass by, I get to feel that she is my subconscious patron.”
“My devotion to Mary compliments my attachment to the Prophet Muhammad and his progeny. I believe in the power of intercession. ….The divinely purified person such as Mary has the power to intercede,” added Ampatuan.
Ampatuan also said that he also believes that if the Virgin Mary is being invoked to intercede can be a source of great blessings like charisma, abundance in life, calmness of disposition, and safety from accident.
“My personal devotion to the Virgin Mary is closely attached to my love of the Prophet Muhammad and his household and progeny. I consider Virgin Mary and the persons I revere in Islam as one single continuum of God’s blessings—they are mercy to humankind,” he said.
Ampatuan even said that he is also following the Hail Mary prayer but with a slight change to suit his Islamic faith.
“To be very sure I am not misunderstood by my fellow Muslims, I wish to emphasize that my personal devotion to the Virgin Mary does not imply necessity for her picture or sculpture even as I do respect Catholics using these icons as expression of deep affection to this great and wonderful woman,” he said.
Ampatuan is currently the undersecretary of Department of Agrarian Reform’s Central Office here and of the Office of Muslim Affairs. (Mark S. Ventura).
This morning at Mass of Our Lady of Ransom, including the readings, from the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It’s No 43 and is from the Missal of the Mercedarian order .
Here is the Opening Prayer (Collect) :
God, the Father of mercies,
you sent your Son into the world
as Redeemer of the human race;
grant that we who honor his mother as Our Lady of Ransom may faithfully protect
and seek to spread to all peoples
the true liberty of your children,
which Christ the Lord merited by his sacrifice.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
The National Proper for England has a most unusual alternative opening prayer for the Mass of our Lady of Ransom:
Times and seasons change,
centuries and ages pass;
you seem above them, Lord,
untouched and unmoved.
your Son entered in,
born of a woman,
crushed and crucified,
to ransom us.
Will you be deaf to our cries?
Can you ignore the appeals
of the creatures your Son embraced?
Can you refuse the prayer
of Mary, his Mother?
Let us know the freedom of your kingdom
where you live with your Son
and with the Holy Spirit,
one infinite Freedom,
for ever and ever.