Be part of something
Saturday 22 September promises to be a day to remember. Once again the Diocese of Westminster, led by Cardinal Vincent, will be gracing the Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham for a pilgrimage. For those who have never travelled there and for those who are regular visitors, we are in for quite an experience.
Walsingham is our principal National Shrine of Our Lady, and in December 2015 was granted the status of a Minor Basilica by Pope Francis. It all started in 1061, five years before the Battle of Hastings, when Our Lady appeared to a local woman, Richeldis, and asked her to build a little shrine, a Holy House, to remind pilgrims of the Holy Family’s own home at Nazareth. As Our Lady said to her: ‘O you who are in any way distressed or in need, come to that little house that you have built in Walsingham.’ Walsingham soon became known as England’s Nazareth and pilgrims flocked there from far and wide. It was the Lourdes or Fatima or Medjugorje of its day! Even King Henry VIII was a pilgrim there, like every King before him, before allowing the shrine and Holy House to be destroyed by Thomas Cromwell and the beautiful original image of Our Lady of Walsingham to be burnt at Chelsea. Walsingham today is like a phoenix risen from the ashes and shines with another kind of glory, the glory of being a place of welcome, a spiritual home in the heart of England, a place to experience for ourselves the love at the heart of the Holy Family. This little village in Norfolk, in Bishop Alan Hopes’ Diocese of East Anglia, is waiting to welcome us again.
There will also be an air of excitement in Walsingham as it prepares for England’s rededication as the Dowry of Mary. Since the 11th Century it has been understood that Mary has a special relationship with England and in 2017 Mgr John Armitage, rector of the National Shrine, announced that in 2020 the rededication will take place
What and how?
The invitation is simply to be part of something big and beautiful as our diocesan family travels and prays and celebrates together. There will be an opportunity during our pilgrimage day to visit the Slipper Chapel Basilica, to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to light candles and take holy water, to celebrate Mass with the Cardinal, to pray the Rosary as we walk the Holy Mile in procession to the site of the original Holy House, and to be sent on our way ‘to proclaim the Gospel of the Lord’ as we receive the Lord’s blessing in Solemn Benediction. So look out for a coach leaving from your parish or deanery and book early, and I look forward to welcoming you there.
For further information, please talk to your parish priest.