Hello Dear Readers, and welcome to the month of May.
Soon we will have more freedom to hug our family and close friends.
To socialise indoors and participate in more celebrations.
Slowly, cautiously, we are picking back up the threads of our life.
I hope though, that you will take with you your new love of the countryside, the walks, that you have taken and enjoyed as more venues open their doors. Nature and all things natural are what really brings us good mental health and well-being.
This year the Lake District National Park celebrates its 70th year of opening to the public. Over 400,000 people visit the lakes every year to enjoy the vistas.
I particularly looked forward to the beginning of spring, as It marked the Catholic Ramblers, annual spring break, in Keswick. Walks would be planned out according to grade and fitness. I particularly enjoyed walking Cat Bells, meaning home of the wild cat. It sits above Keswick overlooking lake Derwent Water. Boots donned, waterproofs packed safely in our backpacks and off we set. Fresh air, good company, and wonderful views. What more could one ask. And as a busy, therapist, in our NHS, I took this opportunity to repair, and replenish my energies; only a few of the benefits of spending time in nature.
At this time of year, the yellow daffodils penned by William Wordsworth in his iconic poem are in full bloom.
When I was a girl, May was the month when our local church held a spring festival, the church grounds were converted into a wonderland of brightly coloured tents and stalls. Colourful bunting, coconut shies, swing boats, hoopla, and win a goldfish, by throwing a ping pong ball into empty fishbowls. Prior to this was the May procession, where the maidens of the parish, sat on a floral decked lorry, dressed in their best bridesmaid outfits. And centre stage was the proposed May Queen. The lorry would wend its way up and down the local streets and avenues before returning to the church grounds.
This tradition was the personification of the May Day, bank holiday, and heralded the arrival of spring and summer when all things are fresh and new. The May Queen wears a white gown to symbolise purity and usually has a garland of flowers in her hair.
Once the parade had travelled through the local streets, and down a few avenues and roads, it would wend its way back to the church grounds.
The brass band of the boy’s brigade would play a few marching tunes, the little kids would march up and down, swinging their arms, just like real soldiers.
Merriment was the order of the day. The tasting of the many scrumptious home baked cakes, and jams, that were on sale were sampled. Followed by real lemonade sipped out of glass bottles through paper straws. The cake stand and tea tent were very popular amongst the Grandparents, who welcomed a sit down, and rest away from the shrieks and laughter of the youngsters on the swing boats, trying out their skills and prowess in beat the goalie, and ever popular dunk the vicar, great fun!
The judging of the fancy dress competition always a favourite among parents, and grandmas, when they could demonstrate their sewing crafts, it was always a well-entered competition. Children paraded around in a circle whilst the vicar’s wife and a few others wrote their selection on a card.
Imagine my surprise and joy when one year I was picked as winner. My costume was simple I went as Huckle Berry Fin, that free spirit in one of my favourite childhood stories Tom Sawyer.
The last event of the day was the crowning of the May Queen. The crowd applauded as the crown was placed on the head of the girl usually aged about twelve or thirteen, as she sat regally on her makeshift throne.
My prize, incidentally, was a box of chocolates and a girl’s annual.
As I became an adult and parent myself to three children. May was another important date in the church my children attended. First holy communions were celebrated. This time the children aged 7 to 8, the age of reasoning for a child. As the Jesuit saying goes; give me the child at seven and I will show you the adult.
It was an important time for Catholic children who took their first communion bread; a small white wafer that had been consecrated by the priest. All the children were dressed in their best. Most wore new clothes white dresses, for the girls, and white shirt red tie and black or grey trousers for the boys. How sweet and innocent they looked.
They had rehearsed what to do with their teachers long before the big day. So, when the event took place, they were not overwhelmed.
Traditionally, this was a rite of passage for the child and one of the church’s sacrament’s.
A special Sunday tea would take place afterwards. Many children were given gifts of rosary beads, prayer books, or a bible. Money was also given. May is known as the month of Mary the blessed mother of the Lord.
Many Catholics, pay homage to Mary, in various festivals under her many titles around the world. The word catholic means universal, so she is universally honoured. We might also refer to her as the divine Mother.
I too in my adult years honoured Mary, by attending a special day in Walsingham Norfolk here in the UK.
Slipper Chapel, Walsingham.
It came about after I had prayed to the blessed mother for help. I was trying to cope with a young family and keep up my college work when training as a therapist. Homework, housework, travelling, and the dozens of other jobs every busy Mom knows had to be done. Tired and frustrated at not passing my first-year exams, I had to do a resit. I went to church despondent, I prayed earnestly. And I followed this up with a nine-day prayer known as a novena; novena being nine. I just wanted to let her know I was serious in requesting her help. I did put my all into my studies, as I also believe that God helps those who help themselves.
Later that month I sat my resits, and I passed my exams.
I was delighted, relieved, and very grateful.
In gratitude, I went to church to thank her.
I lit my candle and knelt, in prayer. Clear as a bell, came the words, “Come to Walsingham”. I did not hear them from outside myself. The words were within yet not my voice. I doubted did I hear that. Again “come to Walsingham”. No mistake. I was astonished, thrilled, tearful, grateful. I will come, is all I could manage to say. Thank you.
Over the next few weeks serendipity occurred. You know when things and people just all fall into place. The lady who organised these trips sat at the edge of my bench at the back of the church, she usually took her place at the front. I took my opportunity and simply asked, “how to I get to put my name down for Walsingham as I’d like to go”. This pilgrimage was attended by the women of the Union Catholic of Mothers, affectionately known as the UCM.
I was not a member; she gave me instruction. And July that year I travelled by coach with the Mum’s to Walsingham, to fulfil my request to Mary.
It was a day full of kindness, prayer, reflection, and fun. From the simple mass at the Slipper Chapel to the long procession to the Abbey Grounds. History, has it that in the 1061; the lady of the Manor, (Richeldis DeSaverch a pious English noblewoman) had a visitation from the Blessed Virgin Mary, she requested that a little house of Nazareth be built in the grounds. So traditionally this has always been a place of pilgrimage and grace.
I have never forgotten that request, or my first trip there. And think of the divine Mother and pray to her, every day. I no longer attend any church. But my faith has grown steadily, as has my knowledge of spiritual things has grown.
All I can tell you dear friends, is that God loves us. The divine Mother loves us, as does her son our Lord Jesus. I can also tell you that every sincere prayer is heard, especially the prayers of a Mother, for another.
In the realms of spirit, Love reigns supreme.
Let me gently remind you all that we are a team, who care, and we are here to help and support you, in any way we can, reaching out is the first step.
I have other wonderful accounts to share with you dear readers.
So, until next time. As always. Look after one another.
And remember a problem shared is a problem halved.