A blessed copy of the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa of which St Luke the Evangelist is traditionally believed to be the artist, is coming to the UK as part of its pilgrimage at the start of next week. As James Preece said, what is happening here is incredible. For Catholics, pro-life work is never purely about either the political or the practical but must always incorporate the prayer.
We are not worshipping a piece of wood, but committing a spiritual act of entrustment, asking Our Lady, The Mother of God, to defend and protect the human civilisation of life and love. This particular icon is important because it is believed to pre-date back to Constantinople, before the schism of the Eastern Orthodox and Western Church and therefore like the Mother of God, belongs to both traditions, it unifies East and West. The Orthodox name for the icon is invincible victory and the hymn Victorious Queen is often sung in her honour. She is the patron of those who desire a restoration of national and family values. The director of the pilgrimage credits her with the fall of Communism in Poland.
The pilgrimage is supported by the Patriarch of Moscow who hopes that it will contribute to the protection of life and the strengthening of family values in a world where children and families are so often seen as obstacles to happiness and fulfilment. The pilgrimage originated in Vladisvostok Russia and will end in Fatima having travelled over 18,000 miles. There are plans afoot to continue the pilgrimage to the USA next year, another country desperately in need of renewal.
Though wary about attributing life’s misfortunes to the evil one, I have increasingly come to believe that those of us engaged in pro-life work, of whatever nature, do leave ourselves open to spiritual attacks. It is telling that during a year in which I gave birth to my fourth child in incredibly challenging circumstances, a year in which my husband discerned a continuing vocation and began seminary, a year in which I began to obtain a much wider media platform, both in print, online and on the television and radio, particularly in support of pro life and family values, we came under attack as never before. In particular in the periods surrounding every single media appearance or any big pregnancy milestone, various attempts were made to cripple not only me and my work, but also my family. The stated aim was to ensure that I was silenced and at times I thought that I may be close to nervous collapse, so intense and relentless was the pressure. I don’t know whether or not this was because, as suggested, I was ‘rattling the cages of hell’, but I’ll never forget a conversation with an experienced Catholic pro-life campaigner who was convinced that those who fight for the lives of the unborn, will be attacked and always, in her experience, through the family.
This was certainly my experience, many commented how they were surprised that I didn’t break down, but tellingly what healed me, not only mentally and physically but more importantly spiritually, was a pilgrimage to Lourdes when I was 36 weeks pregnant. I entrusted everything to Our Lady and it was though a veil lifted. Not only that but significantly my blood pressure reduced to the extent that I was advised to come off the medication and my blood tests inexplicably showed no trace of previous proteins or liver problems. Upon returning to England, I noted that the usual suspects had been creating their usual noise, significantly the abuse had begun to escalate whilst I was on route to Lourdes, it felt like a deliberate attempt to unsettle and disturb my peace of mind, and yet for the first time in months, I really didn’t care, I could see the agitators as pitiful creatures in need of urgent prayer and their words were like water off a duck’s back.
I digress, but my experience perfectly illustrates how important it is for us all, especially those who may be subject to spiritual attack, to continually entrust ourselves and our work to the Lord, via the intercession of His Mother. I see similar difficulties in the progress of the pilgrimage, which despite suffering several setbacks, is still continuing on its journey. Please support the pilgrimage, not only in prayer, but by attending and perhaps if possible by donating financially or organising a parish collection. At a time when the UK is facing the imposed redefinition of marriage, when children are being routinely fitted with contraceptive implants and groomed for early sexual activity and when the killing of the unborn and elderly are being promoted as a social good, we need to entrust the protection of life and family values to Our Lady more than ever. I am half expecting to see more obstacles and setbacks along the way – this pilgrimage will be the harbinger of much change and renewal, as has happened in Russia. The arrival in England, shortly after the start of the Year of Faith, could not be more providential.
Here is the page with the schedule of events in the UK. Instead of celebrating the death of an infamous Catholic on November 5th, why not participate in an infinitely more family friendly event at Westminster Cathedral and later light your sparklers to commemorate the Light of the World, brought into the world thanks to the openness to life of the Immaculate Conception, who continues to work her miracles today.