My Summer holiday started in the best way possible - the Day With Mary team came to the parish of St. Austin & St. Gregory's, Margate.
The Day With Mary is a real spiritual powerhouse - it's a bit like going on a week's pilgrimage to Lourdes or Fatima... squeezed into the space of an afternoon. I really used to look forward to their annual visits to Blackfen; fortunately, this year, they were able to fit Margate into their busy programme...
We started with prayers and the crowning of the statue of Our Lady, followed by a procession around the local streets with the statue and the recitation of the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. Then we had Mass - a wonderful Missa Cantata, with the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate chanting the propers, and they sounded awesome.
Fr. Finigan gave a really good sermon, which will hopefully be made available on the DWM website soon. The thurifer and I both remarked afterwards that it really was a stonking good sermon, and ticked all the right boxes - which led to my proposal that we start giving out cards for "Sermon Bingo". First person to get a line has to shout "Church!"
Mass was followed by the Consecration of the Parish to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I found that particularly moving, especially when, in amongst the various groups of the parish, the Schola got a mention! Then, a break for lunch, and an opportunity to browse the extensive bookstall and the collection of rosaries, medals, scapulars, statues and prayer cards which the team had brought along. Due to the numbers attending, many people sat outside the church hall and a few more wandered around the presbytery garden. Fortunately the weather was absolutely glorious.
We returned to the church for Exposition, an outdoor procession of the Blessed Sacrament, a sermon given by a Fr. John Lawrence Polis, FI, the recitation of the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, and a meditation on each of the Stations of the Cross, Then it was time for tea.
Finally, we had the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary, another sermon by Fr. Finigan, Benediction, enrolment into the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and conferring of the Miraculous Medal, blessing of any religious objects and the final farewell to Our Lady's statue...
That last bit always makes me want to cry.
Seeing scores of people waving white hankies as a sign of their devotion brings a lump to my throat, every single time. I can't explain why it should be such an emotional moment. But I know I'm not the only one to feel that way.
I took a few photos during the day, and if you want to get a glimpse of what a Day With Mary is like, you can have a look at my Flickr album. If you hear that the team is visiting a parish near you, I would heartily recommend going - just for a part of the day if you can't find time for the whole thing. I guarantee you'll leave feeling invigorated, refreshed and encouraged in your practice of the Faith.