‘Mary Stayed Close to Jesus’

The annual Mass and meeting of the Society of Mary/American Region welcomed Bishop Lindsay Urwin as guest speaker and marked a transition in the society’s leadership. The society met May 3 and 4 at St. Stephen’s Church in Providence, Rhode Island, attracting visitors from across the East Coast and as far away as Wisconsin.

The Rt. Rev. Lindsay Urwin, OGS, administrator of the Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in England, spoke on “One Faith, Two Shrines: The Challenges and Joy of Life in Walsingham.” Bishop Urwin described the existence of two separate shrines at Walsingham — one for Anglicans and one for Roman Catholics — as a sign of the scandal of divisions within Christianity.

“Mary stayed close to Jesus and we must surely seek to do the same,” the bishop said. “We know the places to find him: above all, at the Eucharist and in the Confessional. It was the wisdom of our Anglo-Catholic founders to rediscover his presence there. It was their gift to us. And in staying close we will inevitably be drawn closer together. The Church is so fractured. It can only mean we are not staying close enough.”

He added: “A right emphasis on Mary safeguards right believing about Jesus. How much is the coyness around calling her the Mother of God really to do with an inadequate theology of the divinity of Christ? [Cardinal John Henry] Newman came to a life-changing conclusion that far from being a distraction from Christ as he had perhaps at one time thought, devotion to Mary ensured right believing about him.”

A panel discussion followed with responses from the Rev. Henry Bodah, the Roman Catholic chaplain at Brown University, and the Rev. Canon Arnold W. Klukas, professor of liturgics and ascetical theology at Nashotah House. The evening concluded in the chapel with Vespers of Our Lady sung by St. Stephen’s Schola Cantorum.

Bishop Urwin preached during a Solemn High Mass the next morning and joined an outdoor procession. A flower-bedecked statue of Our Lady was preceded by young girls scattering rose petals. A brass band accompanied participants singing “Ye who own the faith of Jesus” and the Lourdes hymn.

The route of the procession through the Brown University campus attracted many spectators, some of whom followed it back to the church.

A luncheon honored the Rev. Richard Cornish Martin for his 46-year tenure as superior of the society. The Rev. John D. Alexander, rector of St. Stephen’s, is the new superior.

The Society of Mary is one of several Catholic devotional societies within the Anglican tradition, honoring the Virgin Mother of God’s incarnate Son, Jesus. This witness to and emphasis on the Incarnation is expressed in devotional and liturgical practices designed to enhance the discipleship and spiritual lives of members, and the worship and mission of the Church.

Phoebe Pettingell

All photos by Karen Vorbeck Williams

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