Today, September 15, Feast of our Blessed Lady of Sorrows, is a good day to start a Novena leading up to the Feast of our Lady of Walsingham, on Tuesday 24 September.
Nine days of prayer, that the intercession of the Mother of God might bring succour to the Ecclesia adflicta of her divine Son. Has the Church, in your lifetime, ever needed this more than it does today?
And I would like to put in a word for the use, during this Novena, of the old Litany of our Lady of Loretto, rather than of something ... anything ... more 'up-to-date' which may be suggested.
I have two reasons for making this point.
(1) The theology of the Shrine at Walsingham is the same as that of Loretto: namely, that the House in which the Holy Family lived and worked is a potent image of the Incarnation! God truly became, and is, Man.
(2) This Litany is one which was used since the earliest days of the Restoration of devotion to our Lady at Walsingham. It is contained in the first Pilgrims' Manual, that of 1928. By using it, we link ourselves with Fr Hope Patten, Fr Fynes Clinton, and all the heroes, lay and clerical, male and female, to whom we owe the modern form of this devotion within our Anglican Patrimony.
I am not willingly negative; indeed, I would not deny the propriety of a rich diversity of approaches to Marian devotion. I don't regard it as my job to criticise others and to disparage their own initiatives and to snarl at anybody who does things differently from the exact way I would do them myself. Nor would I sneer at all 'modern' devotions. But I do feel cautious about (ex.gr.) dropping "Tower of Ivory", and instead invoking "Woman of Faith"; instead of "Pray for us", saying "Keep us in mind".
I mention this not for the rather cheap motive of inviting you to groan at the inept 'modernity' of such things, but because what we are losing here is in fact something extremely important: the typological character of the old Litany. The titles of our Lady in that Litany include many of the typological titles which Christian devotion, since at least the time of the Council of Ephesus, has discovered in the Old Testament as pointers to the Mother of the Incarnate Word.
Typology is discerning in the Old Testament the Figure of Christ and his Mother and the events of their lives, so that the Old Testament passage is the Type and the New Testament Figure or event is the Antitype. Typology is the central way in which the Great Tradition of both East and West has appropriated the Old Testament. It goes back to the New Testament texts themselves: Christ as the New Adam ... and see I Corinthians 10:1-11 ... and look at I Peter 3:20-21 ... etc.etc..
Typology is part of the fundamental Grammar of the Faith; something even deeper than dogma.
Yesterday ... the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross ... the liturgical texts reminded us that the Lifting up of the Son of Man on the Cross is the Antitype of which the Lifting up of the serpent in the desert was the Type (Numbers 21:4-9; S John 3:13-17; S John 12:32).
I know that most laity have not been taught about Typology; this is because the Clergy weren't taught it either; and that is because there were so much more important things for them to be taught in seminary (the Synoptic Problem... the inauthenticity of most of S Paul's letters ...)*. But having the Lorettan Litany displaced by a modernist 'relevant' formula devoid of Typology brings home the radical impoverishment of current Catholic culture; the loss within it of both Tradition and of Holy Scripture.
The Catholic Church needs an Edward Bouverie Pusey, and a John Mason Neale, redivivi. Come to think of it, perhaps that is precisely what God has raised up the Ordinariates for.
*None of my strictures apply to the admirable Fr John Hemer, of Allen Hall, who understands perfectly about Typology!