The statue at the back of the church was commissioned by Monsignor James McGettrick (Fr Jim) in 1984, as part of a shrine to Our Lady. The following text appeared in the parish newsletter at Christmas that year.
Our Lady’s Shrine
If we call our Church ‘St Mary of the Crays’, it would seem appropriate to have a shrine to our Patronal Saint. This we now have thanks to the design of Mr Mead, our architect.
The statue is the work of David John, a Catholic artist, who lives in Reading. He was asked to design a statue that would focus our attention on the presence of Our Lady in Crayford. To do this he could not copy a statue of Our Lady of Paris, or Our Lady of Aylesford, or Our Lady of Liseaux, because we do not live in these places. Crayford is the place where we meet Mary as well as her Son. So the statue is set in Crayford by the bank of the River Cray.
What does the statue do to us? Well it is for each person to speak for him or herself. The artist has tried to show:
- How Our Lady tries to protect her Son – notice the way she grasps Him with large hands.
- She looks affectionately at the Child – He was her child, but also her God.
- She holds him apart from her – one day she will have to surrender Him.
No doubt you will see other aspects of the relationship between Mother and Son. Only time will tell if the statue will be a help to your devotion.
The carved wooden kneelers in front of the shrine at the back of the church are all that remain of a memorial to Sybil Mary Hart Davis. They formed part of the altar rails from the original church, given by her family.
Sybil was a Handmaid of the Blessed Sacrament, a devotional organisation that seems to have been lost in obscurity. She regularly took her turn in cleaning the altar brass and arranging the flowers. She was highly thought of by Father Carroll and helped to nurse him in his final illness. Just one year after his death, Sybil, who was aged only forty, died in a nursing home in Queen Anne Street in the heart of the West End. Her Requiem Mass was offered in St James’s Church, Spanish Place.
At the time of her death, Sybil’s son, Rupert was only twenty-one years old. Later to become famous in the literary world, he was devoted to his mother, and in his old age has written a book about her. It was her dearest wish that he would follow her into the church but as he so truly said, it would have to be from an inner conviction that he did not have.
On 21st July 1927 (the eve of the feast of St Mary Magdalene), Father Bede Jarrett, the Provincial of the Dominican Order, came to Crayford for the dedication ceremony. Sybil Hart Davis embraced the Catholic faith four years before her death in 1927 and during her short Catholic life was very much influenced by Father Jarrett and the Dominican Fathers. It was fitting, therefore, that he should be present on that memorable occasion. In the remarkable sermon that he preached on that day, Father Jarrett said: “In that true vision of herself which the first vision of her Redeemer brought her, she would have asked for our prayers. We must see to it that she does not ask in vain”.