Last year’s National Pilgrimage to Walsingham!?
A great and holy place I know! But when I’ve been there on my own, I find it too restless with pilgrims to settle to prayer. Scilla Landale introduced me to a quieter, calmer Walsingham. Here are some highlights:-
1) On a raised section of lawn in the Abbey grounds is a six inch wooden square. It marks the site of the original place of pilgrimage. I stood on the spot, took in the very English country scene and reflected about the vision that had led the Lady Richeldis to build the replica of Jesus’ and Mary’s Nazareth home.
2)Crossing the grass to where the Priory’s high altar once stood, I tried to imagine the generations of Christians, from 1061 to the present day who had come here to pay homage to the human Jesus and the mother who had nurtured him. I marvelled anew at the mystery of the incarnation – God in Man! Heaven in the ordinary!
3)Passing through the ruined arch I soon found myself in a quiet garden next to a clear running brook – the site of the original holy well. Psalm 42 provided words for my prayer, “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.”
4) Later I knelt in the new Roman Catholic Church in the Friday Market Place. There’s nothing restless about this place! It is close to the still centre of the turning world! In the quiet I thought about Henry VIII who came as a pilgrim to Walsingham but whose reforms destroyed the shrine and led to the Anglican break with Rome. Remembering the bloody cost of the Reformation I prayed for reconciliation.
5) Great Walsingham’s parish church is short walk away. The notes say, “St. Peter’s Church is a fine example of the decorated style…” what caught my attention was broken glass. All the windows down one side of the church had been vandalised. Inside pictures on a display board revealed lively children’s work. Mary would have liked that! Beside broken glass, I found myself praying with Mary at the foot of the cross. How evil longs to spoil the holy!
Scilla Landale’s booklet Walk around and Discover Walsingham is available from the Shrine Shop in Common Place. Guided tours leave the Tourist Information Centre (opposite) at 11.00 a.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays from May 1st to 25th September and at 14.00 on Saturdays in June, July and August. Group tours can be arranged throughout the year by phoning Scilla on 01328 820250.