The Saturday before the fourth Sunday in July is the feast of Our Lady of Oxford and is the patronal feast day of the Newman Society.
The image of Our Lady of Oxford depicts the Madonna under the title Mater Miserecordiae (‘Mother of Mercy’) and is enshrined in a chapel at the Oxford Oratory, where the image is venerated today, amid the bones of the martyrs who hid in the Roman catacombs and laid down their lives for Christ and His Church and many of the saints who continue to inspire by their lives of faith and devotion.
The image was originally brought from Rome by our co-founder, Hartwell de la Garde Grissell, who housed it together with his vast collection of relics in a private chapel on the High Street. Upon his death in June 1907, Grissell left the image and his relics in trust to the Archdiocese of Birmingham, with the proviso that they be enshrined in a special chapel at the Church of St Aloysius Gonzaga in Oxford.
The church’s former baptistery was hastily prepared to receive the collection and was opened to the public in 1908. A number of ex voto offerings, including several silver ‘miracle hearts’, are preserved in the parish and attest to miraculous favours attributed to the intercession of Our Lady of Oxford.
A century later, in 2009, His Eminence George Cardinal Pell, celebrated Mass on the altar of Our Lady of Oxford after which he consecrated the Newman Society and all its members to her special patronage.
That we can address Mary as Our Lady of Oxford, reminds us that although the Virgin’s care and intercession is universal, she is also able to care for each one of us individually. To have her image set up in a particular place shows that she is not remote or unapproachable, but rather our Mother, whose love for each of us is intimate and personal.
A prayer card survives from the early twentieth century which begins with this special prayer: O Blessed Virgin Mary, whom we venerate in this thy Sanctuary under the sweet title of Mother of Mercy: thou who wast of old so loved and honoured in this University and City …