by Fr Stephen Willis
Despite all that Storm Callum could throw at us some 200 pilgrims gathered at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Willesden on Sunday 14th October for the 116th Torchlight Procession. The storm may have affected both the numbers attending, and challenged our ability to keep our candles alight, but it could not subdue the intensity of the prayer we offered for the Church in these times.
After gathering in the Shrine Church the procession formed up as we sang the Litany of Loreto, with both the image of Nossa Senhora Aparecida (from the Brazilian Community that meets here) and the processional image of Our Lady of Willesden. We made our way around a grid of local streets trying to keep our lamps lit whilst we prayed the Holy Rosary and sang Marian hymns, and wherever a house displayed an image, icon or crucifix, the home was blessed.
Returning to the Shrine Church, Fr Stephen Morrison O Pream, of the Norbertine Priory of Chelmsford was our preacher. He reflected firstly on how Marian devotion was part of his own vocation, and of his family’s life. He told us that as we accompanied Mary with our lights we were not only seeking her protection for these few streets, but for the whole of this city in which we are set, and how at this time we need that cleansing light to shine into the heart of the Church. Noting with delight the sight of the altars that parishioners had made that we might bless their homes as we passed by, he asked that we might also ask Mary’s prayers for those darkened windows where curtains had twitched and eyes peered out, and the congregation readily agreed to pray the Rosary for those who do not yet know the Lord Jesus.
After a period of Adoration, Solemn Benediction was given, with music sung by the Shrine Schola and Children’s Choir, and the pilgrimage concluded with a visit to the Shrine Chapel to greet the image of the Black Madonna, Our Lady of Willesden, with the singing of the Salve Regina, and an Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Next Street Procession will take place at 3.30pm on Sunday 12th May 2019.