Fatima and the Consecration of England to the Immaculate Heart
“When England returns to Walsingham, Our Lady will return to England.” —Pope Leo XIII
On Feb. 18, 2017, the three children of Fatima appeared on a London street. Passing by large crowds they processed before a statute of Our Lady of Fatima. The procession entered Westminster Cathedral, English Catholicism’s Mother Church. The arrival of the statue and its subsequent crowning would mark the re-consecration of England and Wales to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
In the centenary year of the apparitions at Fatima, England and Wales were being re-consecrated to the Immaculate Heart. The three children dressed as the Fatima seers led the statue to the front of the cathedral where the Primate of England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, awaited its arrival. Then followed the words of re-consecration:
To you and your Immaculate Heart, in this centenary year of the apparitions at Fatima, we re-consecrate ourselves in union not only with the Church, the Mystical Body of your Son, but also with the entire world.
For this occasion, Westminster Cathedral was filled to capacity. In fact, crowds stood or knelt outside with many unable to gain access to the interior so large was the multitude that had gathered. This was all the more remarkable given how little publicity there had been about the event. Time and again that day I met people who had turned up ‘by accident’ at the Cathedral but just in time to witness this historic occasion.
Looking around at those gathered, I wondered how many were aware of the circumstances of the first consecration of England and Wales that had taken place on July 16, 1948. That date is the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a feast day with a particularly English aspect. In the mid-thirteenth century Our Lady appeared to an English Carmelite prior, St Simon Stock, and it was from then that we trace the now widespread devotion to the Brown Scapular. Today there is a shrine at the Carmelite monastery in Aylesford in Kent, near where St Simon Stock is believed to have lived. It is dedicated to the apparition and to the devotion it had given rise. The date, therefore, of that first consecration of England and Wales to the Immaculate Heart was wholly apt; however, interestingly the place chosen for it was not Aylesford.
Instead, Cardinal Bernard Griffin, the then Archbishop of Westminster, had chosen the national Marian shrine at Walsingham. It was there that the consecration was to take place. From the Middle Ages, the Holy House at Walsingham had been a major pilgrimage site. Pilgrims, both paupers and princes, had made their way to the Norfolk shrine. One of the last of that era to do so was King Henry VIII. He was also the monarch to suppress the shrine in 1538. The statue dedicated to Our Lady of Walsingham that Henry Tudor had once venerated, he later destroyed. Thereafter, a new era commenced for the church in England, one as desolate as the ruins that were to lie for centuries at Walsingham.
A restoration did occur though. Three hundred years after those sad events the shrine began to be restored, slowly, but restored nonetheless. And by the middle of the next century, and nearly thirty years after the events in Fatima, another era was opened. On July 16, 1948, from the four corners of the land, pilgrims to the new shrine at Walsingham carried 14 crosses. It was a walk of pilgrimage but also one of reparation and penance. This Way of the Cross pilgrimage to Walsingham was specifically to be an act of reparation for the horrors of the recently ended Second World War: a war linked to the prophecies at Fatima. They were also a fitting reminder of and act of reparation for all the abuses and persecutions suffered in this land by the Church during the past centuries since the break with Rome. On that feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in 1948 Cardinal Griffith met the pilgrims at their destination. He proceeded then to consecrate England and Wales to the Immaculate Heart.
Now, nearly 80 years later in 2017, a second consecration was taking place in London. There are two histories present at all times. One is the universal record: of dates and places, of people and events, of wars and revolutions. There is another, a more concealed, but no less universal history. It is the history of salvation. In the pages of that Book are recorded the ceaseless war between light and darkness, a battle that has raged from the beginning and will end only with a triumphant Return. The events at Fatima are part of that secret history.
The events taking place on Feb. 18, 2017 at Westminster Cathedral gained little, if any, attention in the media. And yet, what was taking place was momentous in the spiritual life of a nation. Its consequences, however, shall not be found recorded in national history, more likely they will be written in the hidden account of individual lives. That there will be consequences is certain. Just as the destruction of Walsingham set England’s history on a course with which we still live, so the consecration of 1948 and the re-consecration of 2017 to Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart will also shape afresh this nation’s history.
At the close of his address, Cardinal Nichols spoke the following words to the Mother of Compassion:
May the sight of the widespread material and moral destruction, the sorrows and anguish of countless fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, and innocent children, and the souls in danger of being lost eternally, move you to compassion.
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Just a few weeks before the ceremony of re-consecration at Westminster Cathedral, a new statue had been enthroned there. It was of Our Lady of Walsingham. On that occasion, it was ‘by accident’ that I had attended. While present, however, and watching what was taking place, the words of Pope John Paul II came to mind, words spoken after placing the assassin’s bullet in Our Lady’s Crown at Fatima: ‘In the designs of Providence, there are no mere coincidences.’
The arrival of that statue in the Mother Church of English Catholicism comes at a time when the shrine at Walsingham is undergoing a revival. It is attracting people, many with young families, who are going to live there. As they do so, they are also taking part in the new evangelization centred on and emanating from the shrine. Pilgrimages have sprung up in the recent years from different corners of England and beyond, and all heading for the Norfolk shrine. At the same time as the shrine is being restored and these ancient pilgrimages are being revived, more modern forms of evangelization are also being installed.
The re-consecration at Westminster Cathedral was filmed for broadcast by Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). Then, upon its completion, the EWTN film unit travelled to Walsingham, for it is in that village that EWTN has opened a purpose-built television and radio studio. EWTN’s British productions will now be centred there, broadcasting to England, and to the world.
At the end of 19th Century, Pope Leo XIII prophesied the following: “When England returns to Walsingham, Our Lady will return to England.”
In this land, once known throughout Christendom as Mary’s Dowry, a new chapter is surely being written. It is no mere accident that, today, through city streets and country lanes, England is once more returning to Walsingham, and, in so doing, drawing ever closer the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart.