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Pilgrimage

Parish Pilgrimage to Walsingham 

     


Six of us from St. Peter’s arrived in the gathering light of an October morning to join with an equally enthusiastic group from St. Helen’s. The pinks and greys of the dawn were lovely as we set off, with Fr Daniel’s blessing, for our Norfolk adventure. Fathers Keith and Michael from St. Helen’s were to be our mentors for the next two days.

The trip to Walsingham (in deep countryside north of Fakenham) was longer than expected due to some problem on the M11, but in the true tradition of a pilgrimage we were made most welcome on arrival. Our little rooms were delightful, and a meal in the refectory revived our spirits in no time. The Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham was founded in 1061, following a vision received by a local lady, Richeldis. At the very centre is a replica of the house in Nazareth where Mary had first received the news and invitation from God to be the Mother of Jesus. The vision was a message from Mary to build this replica, and 950 years later it is a lovely and inspirational place, visited by many people, but each one a pilgrim.

It was not always exactly like this. The reformation of the 16th century saw the destruction of the site, and it was not until the 1920s that the efforts of Fr Hope Patten led to the restoration of the Shrine. So while the village of Walsingham has the timeless air of old Norfolk, the Shrine feels modern and busy, totally 21st century, but at the same time relaxed and very welcoming.

We were at the Shrine for less than 48 hours and our time there was certainly used well. This was my first visit, but others who had been several times said that each pilgrimage gives new insights and the reason is clear. Apart from our group there were perhaps eight or ten other parishes represented; maybe 150 people together from all parts of England. Some of the celebrations involved just our own group of St. Helen’s with St. Peter’s. Many thanks to Fr Keith and Fr Michael for leading us in these very close, even intimate, moments.

The lesson on the purpose of the Rosary, the time of Intercession, and the visits to the Holy House (the Nazareth replica) were peaceful and full of meaning, but for me the prayers at the 14 Stations of the Cross were special. To be recalling the mounting agony of Jesus’ ordeal, in glorious autumn sunshine, was extremely poignant, ending as it did at the tomb with the stone about to be rolled shut. Other celebrations involved on the pilgrims. Saturday evening Mass included a candlelit procession outside, and later, healing ministries in a full but very peaceful Shrine Church. I loved the Sunday morning walk to and from the Parish Church of Walsingham at the far end of the village. This Christian Pilgrimage, for me, was more rewarding than I was expecting. A few weeks later, I still feel on a spiritual ‘high’ and would like to go again. We were told the experience would change us. Whether this is true for me, I cannot say yet, but I am going to enjoy finding out.

Keith Bassant



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