By Marian Curd
ON the eve of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception Our Lady was solemnly crowned at the heart
of the Commonwealth.
Only a few yards from Piccadilly Circus and Regent Streetdecked with shining Christmas lanterns the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster crowned the statue of Our Lady of Warwick Street" in the former Bavarian Embassy Chapel, the Church of the Assumption and St. Gregory.
Half an hour before the ceremony began the church was packed: 800 people squeezed into a church built for half that number.
With little concern for the traffic. they spilled over into the street and on to the roadway.
They resembled, perhaps, but in numbers only. the crowd of Gordon Rioters who less than 200 years ago intrned this church in their "No Popery" campaign.
On a low platform. to the Epistle side of the high altar, the statue of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal stood enshrined amid lilies, red roses and white chrysanthemums.
With her golden patterned robe partly covered with a real lace veil hanging in gentle folds she :stood waiting for the moment which would end a triduum of Prayer climaxing Mary's Year iu London's West End.
And to the statue-believed to be the first Lady shrine set up publicly in an English Catholic church after the Retormation-came the Cardinal. passing a guard of honour of Children of Mary accompanied by Fr. Reginald Fuller, the parish priest.
Before the high altar, under the half-dome of golden mosaic. and with the selfsame blessing used at Walsingham and at Wembley, the Cardinal had blessed the crown of gold and jewels and precious stones.
For many years the friends of Warwick Street made their gifts of gold, platinum, pearls and diamonds until in Mary's Year there was at last sufficient to fashion a diadem of golden filigree and bearing a cross set with topazes and jewel-petalled flowers.
With the main doors of the church flung wide open letting in blasts of cold December air, but letting the singing ring out into the world of fashion and amusement, the Cardinal first spoke to the crowds of the "ancient and glorious history" of Warwick Street.
"Of the old historic London Catholic churches which have not been rebuilt, this Church of the Assumption takes seniority," said His Eminence.
"The present church, dating back to 1788," is one of our most cherished possessions. We can imagine the rejoicing in this church when the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was defined.
"It gave new impetus to devotion to Our Lady the world over, and when this church was re-adorned in 1885 the rector of that time, Mgr. Talbot, secured from France a most beautiful statue of Our Lady.
"At once the people made it their own."
A special feature of this shrine is the huge number of silver votive offerings, mostly heart-shaped, which adorn the walls, sending off winking reflections of the brilliant lights and candles.
Taking the crown from a silken cushion, the Cardinal Archbishop placed it gently on the head of the statue. Then everyone stood for the solemn 7'e Dean!, and the Cardinal returned to the high altar to give Pontifical Benediction.
But this was not the end. This indeed was a new beginning-the beginning of a night-long vigil during which hundreds staved to pray, their places being taken horn time to time by others who watched through the night while the lanterns of Regent Street faded and the bustle of Piccadilly had quietened.
All night vigil
During the night, between their Rosaries, there was time to meditate upon those heroic people of the penal days to whom this Bavarian chapel was a haven, covered by diplomatic privilege, where they could hear Mass and receive the sacraments.
The night the chapel was burning during the Gordon Riots Bishop Challoner was staying less than a mile away. Here it was that the Vicars Apostolic of the London District. who lived at 33 Golden Square, for 20 years until the Restoration of the Hierarchy, had their special pew.
Here, too, came Cardinal Wiseman. Celebrated preachers, opera singers and orchestras added to the fame of Warwick Street, the only remaining Embassy Chapel to link us with the penal days.
Praying and meditating, there were those who Watched through the night of Tuesday and on into the bitterly cold sunrise of Wednesday morning, when the streets-washed. cleaned and aired--stirred with life again.
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception dawned and another vigil ended with five Masses heralding the closing of a glorious Mary Year.
When Archbishop McGrath of Cardiff goes to St. Mary's Church, Canton, Cardiff, on Sunday to consecrate a bell, Mgr. Cyril Taylor, ot Garston, formerly secretary to the late Archbishop Downey, will be the special preacher.
Nottingham.-Thc Mission will this week visit Crowland, Shepean Stow, Dousdale and Tongue End. Mass will be said at Bank House, Crowland, at 8 a.m., at Tongue End School at 10 a.m., and at The Butcher's Arms. Aneaster, at 5.45 pm.
Southwark.-The Mission will this week visit : 1, Barham in the parish of Canterbury and Chilham in the parish of Ashford. Mass will he said on Sunday at 28 The Grove, Barham, at 8.30 a.m., and at the Village Hall. Chilham, at 10 a.m. 2. I3ethersden in the parish of Ashford and Headcorn in the parish of Maidstone. Mass will be said on Sunday at the Village Hall, Bethersden, at 8 a.m., and at the Village Institute, Headcom, at 10 a.m.
Shrewsbury.-Mass will be said on Sunday at 9 a.m. in Ford, at 11 a.m. in No and 9 a.m. in Atedlem. Next week the Mission will visit Pontesbury and Bentlawnt.
Menevia.---Fr. Riordan will this weekend visit the Burry Port parish. Masses will be said at Llanddarog. Pontyberem and Trimsaran. Fr. Doyle will visit Kinnerton, Llanarmon and Broughton.
Brentwood.-Mass will be said cm Sunday in the British Legion Hall, West Mersea, at 8.15 a.m. A second Mass will be said in East Mersea at 10 a.m.-the place will be announced locally. Next week the Mission will visit Pilgrim's Hatch and Stapleford Abbotts.
Northampton.-Mass will be said tomorrow (Saturday) at Lamport Hall al 8 a.m. Mass will he said on Sunday at 68 Hill Sheet, Raunds, at 9 a.m.. and at Finedon Hall at 10.30 a.m. Mass will be said on Tuesday at Mr. Bank's, Hardwick, at 7.25 a.m. The Mission will next week visit Acton and Glensford. Crib Campaign: Harrowden, Hardwick and Burton Latimer.