‘The origin of the image [of Our Lady of Walsingham] and how it first came to the Stiffkey valley is lost in obscurity, but that it was venerated here from the eleventh century is well known, and it is not unlikely that it was an object of pious devotion long before the visions of Our Lady made Walsingham a household name in Europe. It has been suggested by some writers that Richeldis only renewed a long-standing cult in this place by building a chapel, or restoring an older one, according to the plan shown to her by Our Lady.
A great Augstinian Priory, with one of the most beautiful churches in the country, was raised to the south of the little church containing the Shrine. This was rebuilt on a more magnificent scale at least twice.
The Holy House was enclosed in a protecting chapel, which was being rebuilt, or at least transformed, in the early sixteenth century and was known as the “new work”. When it was visited by Erasmus in 1511 it seems to have still been waiting for its new windows which were under order from the king.
And then came the devastation of the Religious Houses, the shrines and most of the holy places of England, and with them Our Lady’s shrine in Walsingham was so utterly broken down that even the certain memory of its actual site was lost. But the tradition remained that God had worked many miracles at this places through the prayers of the Holy Virgin.
Silence settled over the lanes and byeways of the countryside; the roads were neglected. Walsingham slipped back into insignificance, and swift ruin overcame its magnificent precincts and churches. The song of vast concourses of pilgrims died on the air’.
from Mary’s Shrine of the Holy House, Walsingham, 1954
by A. Hope Patten, CSA, 1885-1958
O God, who, through the mystery of the Word made flesh, didst in thy mercy sanctify the house of the Blessed Virgin Mary: do thou grant that we may keep aloof from the tabernacle of sinners, and become worthy indwellers of thy house; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Keep, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy Church with thy perpetual mercy: and, because the frailty of man without thee cannot but fall; keep us ever by thy help from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘This is a prayer with a double petition, for the Church and for our salvation. The juxtaposition of the two is not accidental but arises out of a logical necessity. We cannot think adequately of salvation without calling to mind the Church, for in any case we cannot be saved alone and the Church is the instrument of salvation.
…The Church is often described as the ark of salvation, not meaning that membership of it is a mechanical guarantee of ultimate heaven, but that, as St Cyprian said seventeen centuries ago, outside it there is really no safety. We pray that God will “keep” it, knowing that so long as the vessel remains unharmed there is always the chance that the passengers, one and all, may arrive safe at their journey’s end.
There is always, however, the chance of accident to the individual passenger, and so we repeat the word “keep” asking that not only the Church as a whole be kept in God’s perpetual mercy, but also that each several soul may be kept from all things hurtful and led to all things profitable for its salvation.
Salvation is thus a double process: negatively it is a rescue from every possibility of harm, and positively it is an introduction to all that is good. By derivation the word implies perfect health. Theologically it includes not only the well-being of the individual but also of his environment, and finally the ultimate bliss of heaven’.
from Reflections on the Collects, 1964
by William Wand KCVO, 1885-1977 (Bishop of London 1945-1955)
‘My God, who could have imagined, by any light of nature, that it was one of Thy attributes to lower Thyself, and to work out Thy purposes by Thy own humiliation and suffering? Thou hadst lived from eternity in ineffable blessedness. My God, I might have understood as much as this, viz. that, when Thou didst begin to create and surround Thyself with a world of creatures, that these attributes would show themselves in Thee which before had no exercise. Thou couldest not show Thy power when there was nothing whatever to exercise it. Then too, Thou didst begin to show thy wonderful and tender providence, Thy faithfulness, Thy solicitous care for those whom Thou hadst created. But who could have fancied that Thy creation of the universe implied and involved in it Thy humiliation? O my great God, Thou hast humbled Thyself, Thou hast stooped to take our flesh and blood, and hast been lifted up upon the tree! I praise and glorify Thee tenfold the more, because Thou hast shown Thy power by means of Thy suffering, than hadst Thou carried on Thy work without it. It is worthy of Thy infinitude thus to surpass and transcend all our thoughts.
2. O my Lord Jesu, I believe, and by Thy grace will ever believe and hold, and I know that it is true, and will be true to the end of the world, that nothing great is done without suffering, without humiliation, and that all things are possible by means of it. I believe, O my God, that poverty is better than riches, pain better than pleasure, obscurity and contempt than name, and ignominy and reproach than honour. My Lord, I do not ask Thee to bring these trials on me, for I know not if I could face them; but at least, O Lord, whether I be in prosperity or adversity, I will believe that it is as I have said. I will never have faith in riches, rank, power, or reputation. I will never set my heart on worldly success or on worldly advantages. I will never wish for what men call the prizes of life. I will ever, with Thy grace, make much of those who are despised or neglected, honour the poor, revere the suffering, and admire and venerate Thy saints and confessors, and take my part with them in spite of the world.
3. And lastly, O my dear Lord, though I am so very weak that I am not fit to ask Thee for suffering as a gift, and have not strength to do so, at least I will beg of Thee grace to meet suffering well, when Thou in Thy love and wisdom dost bring it upon me. Let me bear pain, reproach, disappointment, slander, anxiety, suspense, as Thou wouldest have me, O my Jesu, and as Thou by Thy own suffering hast taught me, when it comes. And I promise too, with Thy grace, that I will never set myself up, never seek pre-eminence, never court any great thing of the world, never prefer myself to others. I wish to bear insult meekly, and to return good for evil. I wish to humble myself in all things, and to be silent when I am ill-used, and to be patient when sorrow or pain is prolonged, and all for the love of Thee, and Thy Cross, knowing that in this way I shall gain the promise both of this life and of the next’.
St John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
Almighty God, whose Son our Saviour Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the Cross that he might draw the whole world unto himself: mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Holy Cross Day, Divine Worship: The Missal.
Almighty and everlasting God: give unto us the increase of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain that which thou dost promise, make us to love that which thou dost command; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Trinity XIV, Divine Worship: The Missal.
Heaven’s great triad still abideth,
The divinely blended Three,--
Faith, Hope, and Charity,--
Over all supreme presideth.
Faith in Him whose love protecteth,
And through sorrow, sin, and strife,
As His power to all gave life,
All controlleth, all directeth.
Hope – that like a constellation,
Ever smiling from above,
Brings with ever-living love
God’s bright promise of salvation.
Charity – of all supremest,
Greatest, noblest of the three--
Beam upon us, Charity!
Bringing blessings as thou beamest.
John Bowring, 1792-1872
Blessed was the day
and welcome was the hour
whereon God’s Virgin Mother
was brought forth.
For of that birth
and said in prophecy
that a noble tree would spring
out of the root of Jesse,
and that this tree a bloom would bear
on which the Holy Spirit
of God himself would rest.
Blessed was the day
and welcome was the hour
whereon God’s Virgin Mother
was brought forth.
King Alfonsus of Castile, 13th century
O Lord, we beseech thee, bestow on thy servants the gift of heavenly grace: that as our redemption began to dawn in the child-bearing of the Blessed Virgin Mary; so this festival of her Nativity may yield us an increase of peace; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
‘Whenever I am in Northumbria, I think about Cuthbert. He is, even today, a much-loved figure in the north, and I share with him a real love of the monastic life. Early in his youth he had entered the Monastery of Melrose, and, after being there for a while, became prior. He is fondly remembered for his visits to the neighbouring hamlets and cottages of the poor. He would gather the people around him, preaching, hearing confessions and doing whatever he could to alleviate their suffering.
He was asked to assume greater responsibilities and became Prior of Holy Island. I quite easily understand how, when he was at Holy Island, Cuthbert came to a crossroads in his life. He longed to be nearer to God, and his solution lay among the remote rocks, seven miles from Lindisfarne. Cuthbert became a hermit on Inner Farne, one of the Farne Islands.
A small cell and chapel were constructed for him on Inner Farne, where a spring supplied him with water and a small plot of land enabled him to grow barley for food. There he experienced peace and contentment in continual prayer and conversation with God’.
Basil, Cardinal Hume OSB OM, 1923-1999
Almighty God, who didst call thy servant Cuthbert from tending sheep to follow thy Son and to be a shepherd of thy people: in thy mercy, grant that we may so follow his example; that we may bring those who are lost home to thy fold; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘During the fourteen years that this holy Pope held the place of Peter, he was the object of the admiration of the Christian world, both in the East and West. His profound learning, his talent for administration, his position, all tended to make him beloved and respected. But who could describe the virtues of his great soul? that contempt for the world and its riches, which led him to seek obscurity in the cloister; that humility, which made him flee the honours of the Papacy, and hide himself in a cave, where, at length, he was miraculously discovered, and God himself put into his hands the Keys of Heaven, which he was evidently worthy to hold, because he feared the responsibility; that zeal for the whole flock, of which he considered himself not the master, but the servant, so much so indeed that he assumed the title, which the Popes have ever since retained, of Servant of the Servants of God; that charity which took care of the poor throughout the whole world; that ceaseless solicitude, which provided for every calamity, whether public or private; that unruffled sweetness of manner, which he showed to all around him, in spite of the bodily sufferings which never left him during the whole period of his laborious pontificate; that firmness in defending the deposit of the Faith, and crushing error wheresoever it showed itself; in a word, that vigilance with regard to discipline, which made itself felt for long ages after in the whole Church? All these services, and glorious examples of virtue have endeared our Saint to the whole world, and will make his name be blessed by all future generations, even to the end of time’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
Almighty and merciful God, who didst raise up thy servant Pope Gregory to be the servant of the servants of God, and didst inspire him to send missionaries to preach the Gospel to the English people: preserve in thy Church the Catholic and Apostolic Faith they taught; that thy people, being fruitful in every good work, may receive the crown of glory that fadeth not away; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon