“I was amazed given the weather conditions that people had come from as far as Crewe, Liverpool, Lincoln, Sussex and Kent but such is the power of their answer to Our Lady’s calling” commented Co-ordinator and Guardian Andrew Hinde the morning after the 2017 Feast Day Mass for Our Lady of Guadalupe at the Shrine in Bedford on 12th December.
The Guardians had been worried earlier in the day that, because of the recent snow and hazardous driving conditions, not many people would make the journey to the Shrine in Bedford, but they were proved wrong. The Shrine was packed with guests, including Supreme Grand Knight Bertie Grogan, his Deputy Joe Rodriguez, a number of Provincial Grand Knights and supporters from all over the country. Mr Vinod Tailor, the current High Sheriff of Bedford, was also an honoured guest.
In the sanctuary, the Miraculous Relic Image was surrounded by beautiful arrangements of roses. Roses and the Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe featured on new chasubles worn by Canon Seamus and Father Jeremy Davies, Spiritual and Faith Director to the Guardians and the Shrine. These chasubles were a recent generous and much appreciated gift from an anonymous donor. As well as the Bedford priests and deacon, it was a pleasure to welcome Father Michael Doherty from Stevenage to concelebrate and Father Gerard Byrne from Corby who acted as Master of Ceremonies (MC). A large team of servers was led by seminarian Daniel Rooke.
There was a grand entrance procession which was able to go outside for a short distance and enter through the main door to a reading by Joe Rodriguez and the Hymn to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Everyone took their seats and the Mass began. Although the Principal Celebrant was listed as Father Jeremy Davies, he had asked for Canon Seamus Keenan, Rector of the Shrine, to take over the main parts of the Mass, as he had a problem with his voice and wanted to save it for his homily.
The homily was immensely powerful and spoke very directly about abortion. He used the passage of St Peter from Acts to illustrate his point that St Peter’s listeners were cut to the heart when they learnt the part they had played in Jesus’ Crucifixion. The remedy for this was to repent and be baptised, and Father Jeremy was saying this is still the remedy for the guilt of abortion, for when we repent, forgiveness and healing is possible.
Many of the sung parts of the Mass were from the Latin ‘Missa Angelis’ and the singing in Latin lent an appropriate gravitas to the occasion. There was a fine soloist and a small male choir in the organ loft performing this.
An integral part of every Feast Day Mass is the Renewal of the Home Shrine Families’ Promises (which were also led in Italian and Polish by the priests of these communities) and also the Renewal of the Guardians’ Promises to serve our Lady of Guadalupe in the coming year.
Holy Communion was, as it always is, a joyful moment to receive Our Lady’s Son, Jesus.
A reprise of the Guadalupe hymn, the procession out, and the Mass was concluded – but not before those present were invited to come together to socialise and eat at nearby St Frances Cabrini church hall; there was plenty of food!
A happy hour or so was spent as old friends recognised each other and new friendships were forged. Bertie Grogan spoke of the continuing very successful partnership between the Guardians and the Knights in organising the 2017 Pilgrimage Tour and Andrew Hinde gave a brief outline of where the Miraculous Relic Image will be going in 2018: a mixture of familiar venues, such as the Appleby Fair and the Pro-life Pilgrimage to Walsingham, but also many new venues including Slough, Plymouth, Croydon and many more.