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Speaking an Ave or two

19 December 2006

MARIAN DEVOTION by Anglo-Catholics (in full fig) is the theme of the many photos in a new history of the Society of Mary, formed in 1931 from two older societies set up in 1880 and 1904. Founded by the 2nd Viscount Halifax, the society has counted Sir John Betjeman and Dame Sybil Thorndike among its vice-presidents, and colonial and other bishops. Its list of Superiors-General runs from the first two Abbots of Nashdom to the present Bishop of Whitby.

The history, People, Places and Things*, has been compiled by Alan Parkinson and Richard McEwan with a light touch. Mr McEwan’s grandmother’s pictures of St Paul’s, Walton Street, Oxford (below), now closed, are among those that evoke a past not too remote from the society’s present ethos and aims. “The powerful combination of beautiful music, carefully planned liturgy, and the holiness of worship is one of the most potent spiritual forces for good in our modern world,” writes Mr McEwan in his introduction.

*£9.50, inc. p. & p., from Fr Graeme Rowlands, St Silas Presbytery, St Silas Place, London NW5 3QP; cheques payable to the Society of Mary.

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