Our Lady Of Premontre
Country : England
Year : 1537
A little below Lancaster, England, stand the ruins of what was once Cockersands Abbey, also known as Our Lady of the Marshes, and Our Lady of Premontre, because the Premonstratensians were responsible for its erection, changing the bleak and barren lands into fertile profitable ones. When the dissolution of the Lancashire monasteries began in 1537, the Abbey seal was broken and the gold and jewels given to Henry VIII. Furniture and goods were sold, and the monks’ quarters stripped of their lead and left to fall into ruin, and decay. Some who live around the ruins claim up-to-date that at midnight the chant of the monks can be heard amid the cries and moans of the desolate.
Since this monastery was dedicated to Mary, at least one monk was set aside as the “Mary priest” whose special duty it was to offer daily or two or three times a week a votive Mass in honor of Our Lady. He also rang the “Mary Bell” morning and evening and kept her shrine decked with flowers and lights and saw that the best vessels and finest linens were used on her feast days. Going on a pilgrimage to Mary’s shrine, people would be “measured” for a candle by taking their length and breadth in the form of a cross and candles were made to equal the sum of these two numbers. The candles were coiled and carried to burn either in supplication or thanksgiving before Our Lady’s image. On her feast days large candles, “wreathed with flowers” were burned in profusion. They were called “Gaud-candles” originally meaning joy and beauty; now the word degenerated from “gaud”—gaudy, means crude, loud, ugly.
Hough de Pourte in 1318 left a yearly rent “to maintain a three pound candle to burn before Our Lady’s altar daily at her High Mass, whilst John Baret at Bury requested in his will that at his burial and Requiem Mass five men should follow the coffin dressed in black to represent the five wounds of Our Blessed Lord, and five women dressed in white to represent the five joys of Our Blessed Lady. Each “must hold a candle of clean wax”. Another man left a half acre of ground to purchase “Lady” candles to burn yearly to “lighten Our Lady’s way.” Countless more of these requests could be enumerated.
And why this love of candles and light? Because like so much in the Catholic Church is symbolic. A light is put to the wick—the hard wax melts and overflows and is drawn downward with blessings from Our Lady; the light illumines our darkness of mind and soul—when our hearts are lit with God’s love and that of His Blessed Mother, they soften, become filled with God’s grace and light, and inevitably shine before men.
May the candles of Premontre continue to lighten Our Lady in our souls and make us more and more Mary-like each day. May the number of votive Masses in Mary’s honor increase and may there be again those who will be proud to style themselves “Mary priests”. May hearts glow with love of her. Only through her intercession may we ever hope for the conversion of our land which is so rapidly falling prey to the mighty evils of these modern times in which we all need our Heavenly Mother more than ever before in the world’s history.
Our Lady of Premontre, Light us ever on our way!