Although it celebrates a gospel account, the feast did not become universal until the fourteenth century, when Pope Urban VI established it on July 2 as a continuation of the former octave of the birthday of St. John the Baptist, which certainly had things the wrong way round! The date of the feast is now more logical, separated from St. John's birthday by almost a month, thus symbolising the three months that Mary is said to have stayed with Elizabeth (Luke 1:56). And had the Visitation not replaced the Queenship of Mary (which has been moved to August 22 under the adjusted title of 'Our Lady Mother and Queen'), we would have no Marian feast in May. This would have been odd since May is traditionally regarded as one of Mary's special months (the other being October)
Around 1868 an Italian Father of Charity, Doctor Gentili, introduced the celebration of May devotions among the English. This was probably the result of Pope Pius IX having introduced the granting of a plenary indulgence to those who practised devotion to Mary during May, with the usual proviso that they went to Confession and Communion. This is certain to have appealed to English Catholics, whose country had been known as 'the Dowry of Mary' since at least 1399.. In that year Archbishop Arundel of Canterbury published a mandate that included the words, 'But we, as the humble servants of Mary's , and liegemen of her especial dower - as we are approved by common parlance - ought to excel all others in the fervour of praise and devotion to her.'
Pray for us, natives of England thy Dowry
Fr. Mark Elvins (in his 'Catholic Trivia', Harper Collins Religious 1992) is persuasive that the term goes back further, and that the young Richard II , in thanksgiving for the ending of the Peasants' revolt, had solemnly consecrated his kingdom to Mary after his successful meeting with Watt Tyler and his rebels, on the Saturday after Corpus Christi in the year 1381.
(copyright Jane Mossendew the Crown of the Year 2005)
Tomorrow at 7.50p.m. UK time kto tv will broadcast direct from the Lourdes Grotto in the Vatican gardens when the Pope makes his annual visit to formally close the Marian month of May. Meanwhile in England:
The Slipper Chapel, near Walsingham
(I chose the Iris to celebrate the Visitation and will post teat extract tomorrow.)
Posted by Jane - Thoughts from a catholic Oasis