Today’s historic Rededication of England as the Dowry of Mary – centred naturally on the Image of Our Lady of Walsingham, the premier Marian shrine in that realm - brought to mind memories of many happy and peaceful pilgrim visits to Our Lady’s sanctuary there. Walsingham has long held a special place in my devotional and spiritual life; a place that offers safe harbour, protection, respite from the busyness of the world, and the sense of home beyond home. Entering into the Holy House – which remains the first pilgrim port of call in the village for those of us in the Ordinariate, as it did in our Anglican days – is an act to be accompanied by deep sigh of relief. Words from the 43rd Psalm, fittingly part of the Introit for today’s Mass for Passion Sunday, mark every pilgrim’s First Visit – ‘I will go into the house of the Lord, even the house of my joy and gladness’ – echoing and underlying that sense of homecoming and also of the joy – Mary’s joy – in the mystery of the Incarnation, to which Walsingham bears witness.
A fourth Canadian pilgrimage was planned for the spring of next year but, as with much else, that has had to be put on hold until a clearer path can be discerned in the wake of evolving circumstances due to the global pandemic. So for now, and for a little while longer, as with the Eucharistic fast, may we be content with and comforted by many spiritual visits to Walsingham, pledging our love and devotion to Our Blessed Lady, under that ancient title, and pleading to her for the conversion of England (and wherever else we may live), the restoration of the sick, consolation for the afflicted, and peace for the departed.
Here is Fr Alfred Hope Patten’s (Anglican) prayer ‘to Our Lady of Walsingham When Absent’, from an old copy of the Walsingham Pilgrim Manual.
Most holy Virgin! I prostrate myself in spirit before thy Shrine at Walsingham, that Sanctuary favoured by thy visits, favours and many miracles. I unite myself with all those who have ever sought thee, and do now seek thee, in that holy place, and join my prayers with theirs. But especially I unite my intentions with the intentions of the Priests who offer the holy sacrifice upon thy Altar there. I offer thee my love and devotion, asking thee to remember for all eternity that I am numbered among the pilgrims who have sought thy intercession in the Sanctuary of thy choice. I renew the promises and intentions I made when it was my privilege to salute thee at thy Shrine in the Vale of the Stiffkey. Dear Mother, Our Lady of Walsingham, remember me.
Fr Lee Kenyon