29 June 2020


On May 14, 1893, the coadjutor bishop of Plymouth, Bishop Graham, "solemnly inaugurated the festival of  ... 'Our Lady of Light, Spouse of the Holy Ghost', recently granted by Rome; the feast to be kept on the Sunday within the Octave of the Ascension"*. In that year, May 14 was the Sunday after Ascension.

Here is what the heading to this post means. Intron is Breton for Lady (current orthography omits the first of the Ns). Varia is for Maria. Sklerder (modern orthography: sklaerder [masc] or sklaerded [fem]) means Light; clarity. In the Cornish Language, the word (inferred in 1938 by Nance from Breton and Welsh, but the root is in Tregear), is clerder; in Welsh, claerder [masc]. (Does this come from the Latin clarus/claritas via middle English and old French; or is it a really old Latin importation like ecclesia or molina, which slipped directly into the "Celtic" dialects in the Roman period and then evolved? Some philologist out there must know ...)

Are you sitting comfortably, or have I discombobulated you already? Either way, I'll begin.

Once upon a time there was an old Cornish baronet called the Reverend Sir Henry Trelawny ... whose story I have recounted on this blog over these last few days.

His daughters had converted their Cornish domestic chapel into a Catholic chapel; but, after his death in 1834, his heir, I gather, returned it to Anglican worship, The daughters, fortified by their Father's 'last wishes', built a Chapel on the estate for our Lady of Light (opened in 1843, October 6). There the devotion flourished. But as that Catholic generation died out, the position of the shrine became precarious until one Richard de Bary rented the property (from 1876 to 1894). The new Chapel was restored and a beautiful statue, in the style later to be popularised by the cultus of our Lady of Fatima, was placed within it. This brings us up to Bishop Graham (vide supra; de Bary had died in 1891).

Difficulties ensued; Mrs de Bary had to take the statue away, and Cardinal Vaughan suggested that Clacton on Sea in Essex (then within his diocese of Westminster) would be a good place for the Shrine and the devotion. And so, if you visit the Catholic church in that faintly brash seaside resort, you will find this 'Breton' shrine with its fine statue still in existence (sadly, the church's Sanctuary was wreckovated in the late 1990s; see my May 10 post  headed "The A G Swannell Library"). A good statue of S Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort is near the Lady Chapel. Nothing could be more fitting. So:


 ... which is Breton for Our Lady of Light, Pray for us. Practise saying it!! Do so for the rest of the day!!!

In Cornwall, the name Sklerder survives: it is what Sir Henry and his daughters renamed their ancestral estate. Further West in Cornwall, the Mother Foundress of the Anglican 'Franciscan Servants of Jesus and Mary' had a vision of our Lady of Light in the Anglo-Catholic village of St Hilary; she recorded that in the 1920s, 'friends' of Mother still invoked our Lady under this title. A statue of our Lady of Light followed that Anglican community to Posbury St Francis in Devon ... last autumn, the convent site was sold off, and what has become of the (Anglican) statue, I do not know.

Another thing I do not know: What exactly did Rome grant in 1893 for liturgical use on the Sunday Before Pentecost? A perfunctory computer search through the indexes of Acta Sanctae Sedis didn't give me any joy.

When Clacton's District Council acquired a Grant of Arms in 1938, the Motto was Lux Salubritas Felicitas (the arms also incorporate the Scallop shell of pilgrimage) ... how very apt ...

*Some, but not most, information is taken from Fr C Wilson's Our Lady of Light, 1953. The Internet will give you interesting information about this particular devotion to our Lady in other parts of the world.


Simon Cotton said...

There is a very active devotion to Our Lady of Light at Notre-Dame de Lumières, at Goult-Lumières, between Avignon and Apt in Provence. See https://www.ndlumiere.diocese-avignon.fr/

Fr PJM said...

Since she is the Mother of Him who said "I am the truth" and "I am the light of the world" would it be wrong to say to Our Lady: Emitte lucem tuam et veritatem tuam?

E sapelion said...

The internet certainly gives interesting information, alas some is wildly inaccurate. I looked to see when Sir Henry's wife died (1822 according to "The Peerage"), and found his death shown there as 3 May 1856 aged 99! A confusion I think with his second son, but the elder son is shown as succeeding in 1856, so the false information is leading to false corrections.

Grant Milburn said...

I've been passing some of my time under house arrest by learning some Scottish Gaelic online because of my Highland ancestry, and this inspired me to look up the Hail Mary in Gaelic: Fàilte dhut, a Mhoire... (Mh=V, Gaelic spelling likes to show you the origin of "lenited" consonants.)

Fr Edward said...

I feel a Sodality coming on.
Designing the summer and winter habits will keep me busy for the rest of lockdown.

Andrew Malton said...

Here are three clippings, two from the Tablet, from 1893. They don't answer the question "what exactly", since this is only the newspaper. But it shows what somebody thought at the time. Also a few other interesting details and names. And evident errors...


john g said...

Indeed. There are many places in Wales named Llanfair, meaning "Church of (S.) Mary."
Fair (with F pronounced as a V) is the soft mutated form of Mair=Mary.