The sermon of Cardinal Griffin in Walsingham 1948 on the occasion of the solemn Act of Consecration of England and Wales to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Cardinal Bernard Griffin’s Sermon given on the occasion of the Consecration of England and Wales to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Walsingham, 16th July, 1948, as we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Cross Carrying Pilgrimage of prayer and penance for peace.
“But there is no way of casting out such spirits as this except by prayer and fasting.” (Mat 17v20)
We want to win back the world to Christ and we want to do it God’s way and not our own. Our divine Lord came to the world through a human mother and it is through the same Mother that the world will return to him.
It is a great joy to me to meet you here in your thousands at this timehonoured
shrine of Our Lady for what is, in truth, a very solemn
Today, at the request of the Archbishops and Bishops of England and
Wales, I am to dedicate this country to the Immaculate heart of Mary.
This is, in itself a glorious event, but if the vast majority of you have
travelled here to show your love and devotion to Our Lady, there are
some amongst you for whom today is but the culmination of a
pilgrimage which has been spread over the past fortnight.
For the last fourteen days, through the towns and villages of this land,
along highways and through country roads, you have been approaching
this shrine, bearing with you a cross as an emblem of Christ’s triumph
over the world and the materialistic conditions in which we live.
Some of you have come from Canterbury, from the scene of many
pilgrimages in the past. Others have come from Westminster Cathedral,
travelling from the great metropolis to this little Norfolk village. Others
again have come on foot well over two hundred miles from Wales and
the west. More still from the Peaks and the industrial centres of the
north. All have been converging on this spot for this solemn act shortly
to be performed. From all sides we have learned of the enthusiasm with
which these little bands have been greeted. We have read of those
wonderful scenes where you have set up your crosses, recited the
rosary and where the word of God has been preached. Fourteen days
travelling on foot, is in truth a pilgrimage. But not merely that, it is an act
of penance and prayer.
I know that it is with this in mind that you have given up your short and
well-earned holidays to perform this act of devotion. I congratulate you
and thank you for what you have done. Your pilgrimage has been a
source of inspirations to thousands, Catholics and non Catholic, many
of whom would have wished to make the journey with you and all of
whom have been very much with you in spirit. Not from this country
alone have you come, for a party of French students have come from
Boulogne, bringing with them a statue of their own patron, Our Lady of
Boulogne. For our Lady stands above the nations of the world. She is
the Mother of Christ, given to the world as our Mother by her divine Son
as He hung upon the Cross.
And so today we are happy to welcome so many thousands of
Catholic mothers who have come here in the same spirit of prayer and
penance. You have travelled many miles and some of you have been
travelling all night. May our divine Lord and His holy Mother bring a
blessing on your families and the families of the nation for whom you
have performed this act of devotion.
Whilst we are paying our respects to Our Lady of Walsingham and
dedicating ourselves and the country to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
we must also think of Fatima. On the 13th May, twenty one years ago,
at the very time of the communist revolution in Russia, Our Lady chose
to appear at Fatima to three little children. On this, and on succeeding
occasions when she appeared, she insisted upon the recitation of the
Rosary. She insisted on prayer and penance as the answer to the evils
in the world today. Pilgrimages were to be made to Fatima and, indeed,
thousands travel there each year.
But pilgrimages, for all their outward show of devotion to the Mother of
God, are but symbols of that ever-living love with which our daily lives
must be filled. We have to carry the same spirit of prayer and penance
into our ordinary daily lives, into the affairs of each day, no matter what
their outward importance. Prayer, then, and penance is the answer to
the materialism with which we are surrounded today. This was Our
Lord’s solution to the problems of His day. Do you remember when the
apostles, having failed to cast our an evil spirit in a boy, asked Our Lord
what was the cause of their failure? He urged them to faith, and then
explained that there is no way of casting out such spirits as this except
by prayer and fasting.
What is this evil spirit? It is the spirit which would set itself up in the
place of God. It would endeavour to demand man’s total submission,
claiming his body and soul as a master demands body and soul of his
slave. It is the spirit of all that is evil – lying, hatred, deceit. It will deny
both the almighty power of God and His and His loving care of all He
has created. It would try to make this world alone the end of man and
so would cast aside all those noble, inspiring ideals which come to
everyone during their lifetime. This same spirit of materialism, of the
denial of man’s high destiny and of his soul and spirit, will reduce man
to the position he occupied during those pagan days when Christ came
to rescue the world.
Do you recall another visit of Our Lady to a child? It was at Lourdes
when Mary appeared to Bernadette. What were Mary’s words to that
little child? Prayer and Penance. Prayer the loving communication
between God and the creature which should be the mainspring and
force of every action of every day, and penance, the loving acceptance
of the trials and sufferings which are the inevitable lot of man upon
This was, I have said, the message of Fatima, and it is the only solution
to the problems which face us today. It is the only way by which man
can be raised from the slough of despair and despondency and sense
of frustration and which would, if left alone, envelop the human race.
You have tried to appreciate this great truth.
We want to win back the world to Christ and we want to do it God’s
way and not our own. Our divine Lord came to the world through a
human mother and it is through the same Mother that the world will
return to him.