Parish & other Pilgrimages
|descriptions from Our Lady's Mirror and elsewhere of individual parish and other pilgrimages||
members of the 1947 Tonge Moor pilgrimage on a trip out to Cromer: click on photograph to see enlarged version;
(click here to go to Fr Humphrey Whistler's report below and another photograph, which can also be enlarged)
pilgrimage before the Translation 1925
The ecumenical August Feast of Mary, 1925, has so far seen the post Reformation high water mark of the Pilgrimages to England’s Nazareth. Nearly 100 Pilgrims, excluding those from the immediate neighbourhood of Walsingham, came during the Octave of the Assumption to visit the Shrine and present their petitions.
All ages and all classes were represented, while the presence of a retired Judge and a goodly muster of the more robust sex made any outside comment of exotic devotions suitable for ladies and sacristy minded youths, utterly untrue.
The village was quite en fête, and the Pilgrims were housed, thanks to the great generosity of the inhabitants, in many of their houses. Outside the Roman Communion I have never experienced such an atmosphere, charged with prayer and devotion, as I found at Walsingham. It is often possible to attend very gorgeous services, most accurately and punctiliously performed, but there is always the amateurish and self-conscious element present, but here everything was spontaneous and natural, and not only the Church seemed sanctified, but the village also. The Pilgrimage, like those in mediæval times, was a meeting place for old friends and a time of real Christian jollity and merriment. It was no mere round of services and devotions, and it was indeed at “holiday” in the best meaning of that well-worn word.
It is this confined atmosphere of holiness and gaiety, rather than any diary of events, that I would press upon the notice of possible Pilgrims for other years. Two scenes were strangely reminiscent of the Béarnais Pilgrimage – the outside procession in the twilight, in honour of Our Blessed Lady, when some hundreds, all with lighted tapers, traversed the grounds of the Church, singing the old story of Mary’s love for Walsingham, to the well-known Lourdes tune; and also the evangelical gathering at the Holy Wells in the grounds of the Old Augustinian Religious House, where several lame and deaf Pilgrims bathed, amid the prayers of the faithful. It seemed as if we were transported far from Walsingham, or even Lourdes, back to those distant Gospel days, when the sick and infirm waited to go down into the pool of Bethesda.
History has a strange way of repeating itself, and the miraculous takes place at the bidding of the Mother of God just as readily in the twentieth century in a Norfolk village as at the marriage feast of Cana in Galilee. Round the Shrine in the Lady Chapel of the Parish Church hundreds of candles burned continually throughout each day, silent witnesses to the efficacy of intercessory prayer, placed there by the Pilgrims as a reminder of their intercessions and petitions. Many clients of Mary, unable to come in person, sent money for candles to be put up for their intentions. “Ask and ye shall receive”. We did ask, and we did receive.
To my mind,
nothing could restore Faith to the waverer and the doubter more than a
pilgrimage to Walsingham, where controversy, discussion, and argument
are non-existent, and where the Seven Fruits of the Holy Spirit take their
place. [Fr Archdale King]
ST BARNABAS, PIMLICO July 1928 [before the Holy House was built]
This is not an article on pilgrimages in general, but an attempt to describe one pilgrimage in particular - the one conducted by Fr Eves to the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham on July 10th. This is not an article on pilgrimages in general, but an attempt to describe one pilgrimage in particular – the one conducted by Fr. Eves to the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham on July 10th. But in this case this should catch the eye of someone to whom the word "pilgrimage" means a bare-footed friar seeking the Holy Sepulchre in Palestine, or else that more boisterous affair, immortalized by Chaucer, when worldly ecclesiastics went on horseback to Canterbury, it may be as well first to "define our terms."
To go a-travelling is as old as Abraham and as young as the latest American globe-trotter; and there are no dates in the history of the Catholic Faith, save one, Anno Domini. It is therefore quite immaterial to the modern pilgrim as to what precise year or century or age the Blessed Virgin appeared in a vision to the lady Richeldis at Walsingham, commanding her to build a shrine in Her honour.
The essential point is that here is a place, hallowed by the presence of Our Lord and His Blessed Mother, for years the object of the devotion and prayers of the Faithful; and it is beyond any shadow of doubt a holy place. What more natural than that the Faithful, in the year of grace 1928, should resort there to pay honour to Our Lady, to witness for the Faith and to ask Her prayers?
It is not therefore a medieval pageant, but a pilgrimage with an intention. This was explained to us by Fr. Eves on the first evening that we arrived there. Our intention was to be (1) a deeper personal consecration to Our Lord and His Blessed Mother, (2) the conversion of souls in our own parishes and elsewhere.
A copy of the original statue of Our Lady is now in a chapel in the parish church. On an altar in the same chapel the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. Here was the centre of our devotions. There are places where intercession comes more easily and more spontaneously than others and all that seems necessary is an act of will to join in the unseen force of prayer that is going on all around. This is such a place.
The original shrine (destroyed by Henry VIII, himself a devout pilgrim in his earlier days) was of course in the Priory, now a ruin and in private hands. We went there on Wednesday afternoon, to the holy wells, where each pilgrim received a blessing. Here, too, while all knelt in prayer, the sick were "anointed" with holy water and received the laying on of hands. In the evening there were Vespers of Our Lady, a great procession in Her honour round the outside of the church, and Benediction. (Not the least attractive feature about Walsingham is that the Faith has got back into the hearts of the people; the servers, for instance, are all Norfolk men and boys).
I have omitted to mention a visit to the Slipper Chapel in the morning. This is the place where pilgrims in the old days stopped and removed their shoes and so walked barefoot into Walsingham; but on the whole the place is of historical interest rather than of present piety.
No, a pilgrimage
to Walsingham is not a medieval pageant, nor is it just a pleasant outing
(it is that, certainly, and the Vicar, the Sisters and the people give
you a real welcome); but like the monstrance in Enid Dinnis’ book,
the clock without hands, it tells not time but Eternity.
Last week the English Catholics assembled in Norwich concluded their Congress by a visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. This was the first official Norwich pilgrimage since the 16th Century. After the High Mass of thanksgiving for the Congress, sung in St. Laurence’s Church at Norwich – the members who were taking part in the visit to Walsingham preceded by the bannerette which they were taking to the Shrine – left the Church and embarked in the char-a-bancs and other cars waiting to carry them over the twenty-seven miles’ journey.
Arrived at the Pilgrimage Church of Our Lady, they were met by the parish Priest and servers and, following in procession, proceeded to the Shrine in the Lady Chapel. Here the conductor of the Pilgrimage (the Rev. Father Raybould), acting on behalf of the Norwich A.C.C. Committee, presented the bannerette to be “Kept as a perpetual memorial of our visit to the Shrine of Our Lady”, after which prayers were said. About two hundred pilgrims had assembled and lunch was taken, some at the Pilgrims’ Refectory at the Hospice, others in the Parish Hall or the shops of the town.
Priests sat for confessions after lunch – and at 2.30 all collected in the Church and made the Stations of the Cross; at the conclusion of which, walking two by two, and singing first the Litany and afterwards the hymn, “Faith of our Fathers”, they passed through the village to the Abbey Gate. Through the kindness of Lady Gurney the grounds were open free to this Norfolk Pilgrimage (the gardens are only open to visitors on Wednesday as a general rule). Here they visited the sites of the “Holy House”, or ancient Shrine of Walsingham, and the High Altar of the Priory Church, where suitable prayers were said, after which gathering round the Holy Wells the pilgrims were blessed by the Rt. Rev. Bishop O’Rorke (Blakeney), and to the accompaniment of special ejaculatory petitions, everyone drank of the water of the Wells.
After tea the pilgrims once again gathered in the fast darkening Church and assisted at Pontifical Vespers sung by Bishop O’Rorke at the fauld-stool. A sermon was preached by Father Raybould, at the conclusion of which a procession was formed, and passing out into the dark night, singing the Pilgrims’ Hymn, the Church and churchyard was encircled by a ring of light as each pilgrim proceeded bearing his candle. The service was concluded by hymns and devotions to the Most Holy Sacrament; and so the final act of the Congress was made in the ancient traditional way of praising God for His condescension in being made Man – seeking the prayers of the Mother of Our Lord – and adoring that same Lord truly present in our midst.
Many fail to understand the purpose of such a Sanctuary as that of Walsingham, but if it stands for anything at all – it is as a witness to the great fundamental truths of Christianity that, “the Word was God . . . . . and the Word was made flesh”, and that the Word “was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary”. However much the original purpose of the existence of the Walsingham Shrine may or may not have been lost sight of during the latter middle ages – the fact remains, namely, that it is a Holy Place approved by God and honoured by His servants out of devotion to the mystery of the Incarnation of Our Lord and the Virgin Birth, two fundamental truths of Christianity which are so constantly attacked by unbelievers in these days.
The Birmingham Pilgrimages of the League of Our Lady (The Society of Mary from 1931) were among the first to visit the Shrine. There have been unbroken pilgrimages since 1932 (except for the war years). Eight members had visited Walsingham in 1931. In 1932 the first members were admitted to the Society of Our Lady of Walsingham. Fr Patten came to promote the pilgrimage on a visit to Birmingham in 1935.
The earliest record of costs are in 1939 when the weekend cost 24 shillings [£1.20 today] all-inclusive!! In 1940 the cost increased by one shilling [5p]; in 1945 the cost at Walsingham was 8/6 a day [42.5p].
The travelling time was six hours. We have a note on the programme that it was obligatory for ladies to wear blue veils. In 1947 our pilgrims stayed at the Sanctuary School (six to a room). Your own sheets and pillowcases had to be taken "due to coupon difficulties". In 1947 the intentions were Thanksgiving for Victory [after the war], and for the Ten Year Movement. The cost for this postwar weekend pilgrimage was £2/3 shillings [£2.15 today]. It would appear that the weekend programme has changed very little since then.
On 3 July 1947 the first Shrine of OLW was officially set up in St Saviour's Church, Birmingham. In 1960 a film of the Shrine was made by Fr Wills of Leigh-on-Sea and shown at St Saviour's. A special pilgrimage was organised for the Silver Jubilee [of the opening of the Holy House] on 13-14 October 1956.
The history of the Shrine of Walsingham was related in the Magazine three years ago. We knew that one day some of us would have the fortune and happiness of going there. We didn’t “wear black” for the occasion. We tried our best to go in the real pilgrimage spirit of humble faith and gaiety. After Mass and Communion at St. Andrew’s seven of us went to St. Magnus, London Bridge, where we received our badges, said the itinerary, and were blessed. On arrival at Walsingham, we were given a great welcome and made our first visit to the Holy House. Walsingham is coming back to life again since England is returning to the faith of its fathers, and her sons and daughters more and more desire to return to the old paths. It is a “never ending May” there. It is impossible to describe its joyous atmosphere. It must be experienced. There were about 250 of us there, although every day large numbers make private pilgrimages. We sang vespers in the beautifully devotional parish church and this was followed by Adoration and Benediction. Fr. Monahan, who conducted the Pilgrimage, set before us the ideals of a Pilgrimage, reminding us that its primary intention is to give honour and worship to God through the veneration of one of His saints or some place holy to Him. Once he told us that we were there to thank our Lady for what we sometimes were inclined to thank ourselves. Pilgrim priests were then kept busy until quite late, hearing confessions, since as it was rightly said, a good confession and communion are essential to the making of a good Pilgrimage. At 7 o’clock the next morning High Mass was sung and Holy Communion given to the pilgrims. Pilgrim priests saying their own Masses. I had the great privilege of saying Mass at the Shrine Altar itself, and the great happiness of being served by a priest who was once one of my own servers.
Later in the morning in various groups, we made the Stations of the Cross as an act of reparation for the desecrations in the impious age of “reform,” and as an act of penitence for our own short-comings. The Stations are erected in the beautiful grounds around the Holy House, and though small in comparison, are similar to the ones at Lourdes. Then we made a pilgrimage to the Slipper Chapel, two miles away, which is now in the hands of the Roman authorities. It was from here in the days of faith, that pilgrims removed their shoes and walked barefooted to the Shrine at Walsingham. Perhaps the day is not far distant when 5,000 will do the same. We were not permitted to enter the Chapel, but we knelt down outside and said “Our Father” and “Hail! Mary,” and an act of adoration to our Lord present there in the Holy Sacrament. In the afternoon we visited the Saxon Well under the Holy House and were sprinkled with, and drank of the waters. The sick are bathed in a piscina near by. During this, the most moving part of the Pilgrimage, pilgrim priests offered Intercessions and Thanksgivings, many of them coming from all over the world. The walls of the chapel are covered with tokens of gratitude for answers to prayers. Then after tea, the seven of us went to the ruins of the Augustinian Priory, and on the actual sites of the High Altar and shrines, knelt and said a decade of the Rosary, again in reparation for its desecration. Again, Vespers and Adoration, and then a gorgeous Torchlight Procession in honour of our Lady from the Church to the Holy House, a wonderful paean of praise when it was impossible to remembers one’s ailments, such exuberant and infectious joy as we sang“Ave, Ave, Ave, Maria,” and uplifted our candles to show our gratitude and greetings and love: I’ve rarely seen so much spluttering grease. No verger would put up with it!! But there, we didn’t mind!! Next morning pilgrims thronged the altars where priests again dispensed the bread of Life. Then a final visit to the Holy House and once more we turned homewards, exhilarated and more divinely controlled.
Now Walsingham is one of the special spots which God has chosen and hallowed in a peculiar way, and in which he has seen fit to manifest His love and mercy, and to distribute His favours. There is always joy and laughter, and mirth there, with the sick as well as the whole. You are aware, as soon as you arrive there, that our Lady has enfolded Walsingham within her mantle, and has in so many ways shown her gratitude for this intention to make Walsingham a centre of true faith and devotion to her Divine Son, whence it will radiate to all the corners of the world in the grace of true conversion. You will one day, if not now, have something in which you would especially wish our Lady to have a share. Then go to Walsingham. Don’t take newspaper or even Church newspaper reports about the shrine with you. Go there for the glory of God, and the Honour of Mary, and blessings far more than any you could feel yourselves worthy of, will be yours. Send your Intercessions to Fr. Hope Patten. He will be only too pleased to add them to the list, and you will be remembered weekly at the shrine altar. Send a small offering, if you can, for the upkeep and continuance of a work that will once again make England the “Merrie England” of our Lady.
Lady of Walsingham, pray for us.”
second year in succession Church of England pilgrims set out from Bradford
and Worth Valley parishes early on Whit Monday morning bound for Walsingham
in Norfolk. They went by road – one bus load leaving Oakworth at
6.30, after service in the Parish Church at 5.45. In all, over 70 pilgrims,
old and young, men and women, boys and girls, and children took the Great
North Road. They stayed for prayers at St. Mary’s Church in the
lovely little village of Egmanton, near Tuxford, and they visited the
college of the Sacred Mission at Kelham, near Newark– and at Newark
stayed for lunch. Through
Lincolnshire to King’s Lynn and then on by the outskirts of Sandringham
until, at 6 o’clock in the evening, the famous village of Walsingham
was reached. Here the buses drive up to the courtyard of the restored
chapel. In the chapel is the reproduction of the House at Nazareth where
the angel came to announce to Mary that Christ was to be her son, and
where, in later years, lived Jesus and Mary and Joseph.
But in 1931 the vicar and people of Walsingham brought to completion the first part of the restoration of the ancient shrine, and it was into the restored house that Yorkshire’s sons and daughters made their entry on Whit Monday evening. They saw, as Erasmus says he saw in his day, and as Erasmus reports in his writings, “the small inner chapel, which admits by a narrow and little door on either side, those who come; the light is feeble, in fact, scarcely any excepting for the wax candles, whose most delightful fragrance gladdens one’s nose. You would say that it is the abode of Saints, so brilliantly does it shine on all sides with gems, gold and silver." The grounds round about the buildings are beautifully laid out, and through these grounds the pilgrims joined in a torchlight procession on the Monday evening. On the Tuesday there was general Communion in the Parish Church at 7 a.m., later in the morning another outdoor devotional exercise, when meditations were made at the open-air “Stations of the Cross” which finish at an exact reproduction of Our Saviour’s Sepulchre. Later again, prayers and intercessions were offered in the shrine, and all drank of the waters of the Holy Well, which was rediscovered during the building operations of 1931, and is now incorporated into the arrangements of the chapel. The people of the village of Walsingham provided beds for the pilgrims and meals were taken in a dining hall constructed out of a fourteenth century barn, and the catering was in the hands of the Sisters from Horbury, who have a branch house of their Order in Walsingham.
Before leaving Walsingham all the pilgrims assembled to have their photographs taken in front of a pavilion, which houses an altar for use in the open, and which was presented to Walsingham by the late Lord Halifax after it had been used for functions at Hickleton in 1933. The return journey was made via Lincoln, and the section of pilgrims from Oakworth were able to be singing “Te Deum” in the Parish Church there just before midnight. [by Fr Frank Harwood]
PILGRIMAGE 1936 [after the Holy House was built
but before the Shrine Church]
from The Scottish Guardian 9 October 1936
As the date of the Pilgrimage drew nearer my enthusiasm waned. Memories of my first and only Retreat came back to me, when as an undergraduate I had spent a dreary weekend in Cambridge, being tormented by a hearty "loyal" Anglican clergyman. I prayed that I might develop a chill before it was too late. Then again, I am rather fussy about food, and I had visions of all sorts of depressing meals eaten in the company of elderly ladies whose spectacular piety would only increase my indignation. But it was now too late, and I had promised to go to Walsingham.
As I was on holiday at the time, I was able to persuade two other Scottish friends to come down from London with me. One of them conveyed us in his car, so leaving town, we bowled along the flat but pleasant roads of Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire very happily, and so arrived at Walsingham about 5 p.m. on Saturday, 22nd August.
And here just a word about Walsingham itself; the village has for its main feature a long, rather sloping street between old-fashioned thatched cottages, and the ruins of two great monasteries on either side of the highway. Just an East Anglian village in picturesque surroundings; we could see the flannel trousers of trippers alternating with the breeches and leggings of the local farm-workers. But everywhere one also sees evidence of a specially Christian atmosphere; notices "To the Holy House" are to be seen in the windows of shops and inns, while several repositories displaying pictures and objects of piety testify to the presence of a Holy Shrine close at hand.
As we drove through the village we met a well-known Edinburgh W.S., who had just arrived before us, and our first welcome was from him. He told us that he was speeding off to Fakenham station, six miles away, to meet our leader, Fr. Joblin, and the pilgrims who were coming by train from Edinburgh; he told us also that the whole party were to meet at the Holy House at 6.45 p.m. for our first visit to the Shrine in Walsingham. Our rooms had been booked at the Black Lion Inn, which has housed every Sovereign of England from William the Conqueror to Henry VIII, and has not altered much since the 16th century. At this hostelry a little grey-haired lady welcomed us, and told us something of the great pilgrimages that have come to Walsingham in recent years from many famous London parishes and from all over England; she added that we Scots were always "behindhand", whatever that may have meant.
The Blue Blanket
At 6.30 we found our way to the Shrine, our small party of three reinforced by a friend who had motored all the way from Nairn to join us. There on the spot we met Father Hope Patten, Vicar of the Parish, and Father Derrick Lingwood, the Pilgrimage Secretary. While we were exchanging greetings, the bus arrived and out clambered a little laddie carrying the Scottish Pilgrimage Banner of blue and silver with the Cross of St. Andrew, our Patron; he was followed by Father Joblin, who is Rector of St. Michael’s, Edinburgh, and the rest of the pilgrims, all looking very fresh and fit in spite of their ten-hour train journey. And so we made our first visit to the Holy House, England’s Nazareth. Among the Intercessions, the priest prayed that the glorious Mother of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ might make good all that was imperfect in our poor requests, and thus obtain for us the blessing of a heart completely surrendered to His Will. This was the introductory act of our visit.
After a delightful supper served by the Sisters in the Pilgrims’ Refectory, we returned to the Shrine, where Fr. Joblin gave us a little address. He spoke of Pilgrimage Places throughout the ages, and dealt in particular with the history of Walsingham. The evening closed with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, after which Confessions were heard, and so to bed, feeling rather unaccountably happy.
Whole Village Astir
Sunday morning was heralded by a blaze of sunshine and scent of honeysuckle, and after customary ablutions (all in cold water), I set forth from the Black Lion. The whole village was astir at a quarter to eight for the early Mass at the Parish Church; there were boys and girls on pushbikes, and older men and women sedately walking. But my companions and I were bound for the Holy House again, where our Priest-Conductor was to say Mass for the Scottish pilgrims.
Everyone seemed to be in the Chapel before our arrival, and with difficulty we found corners to kneel in. The beautiful statue of Our Lady was lit with many tapers, and the little chapel seemed to be silently thrilling with the quiet business of prayer, when the server pushed his way through the crowds who knelt on the floor to make a passage for the priest to the altar. I kept reminding myself that to a true Catholic it would all be just the same at Paisley or Prestonpans, and yet everything seemed different in a strange way in this sacred centre.
Making the Stations
Breakfast followed in the Refectory, and at 10 o’clock we set out to make the Way of the Cross at the open-air Stations in the lovely Shrine garden, under the guidance of our Leader. Over and over again we prayed, “O God, I love Thee with my whole heart, and above all things, and am heartily sorry that I have ever offended Thee. May I never offend Thee any more. O May I love Thee without ceasing, and make it my delight in all things to do Thy Holy Will”. This was our Litany.
When we had finished the Stations, we made for the Parish Church to join with the people of the village in their Parish Mass. The church was full to suffocation, though I imagine it must hold at least 400 people. I noticed our landlady, the postman, and the Master of a Cambridge College among the congregation, and the Mass music was well sung by a large choir of men and boys – a fine service.
After church we had a stroll round, and then met again at the Hospice for an excellent lunch, after which came the Intercessions, and our visit to the Holy Well. I shall not soon forget the reading of the Intercessions by the Leader; they were of all sorts, personal and general. For Spain; for the Conversion of Scotland; for the return of a friend to the Sacraments; for a greater sense of devotion to the Blessed Sacrament – all just as they were written and sent in by the pilgrims themselves. After each group of petitions came the oft-repeated prayer, “Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us; Jesus full of goodness and love, have mercy on us; Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for us”. Then the pilgrims in turn drank of the water of the Holy Well, and were blessed one by one.
All this may seem to be the record of rather an intensive Sunday’s worship, but the curious things if that when these devotions were over at about 3 p.m., we felt almost lost when we heard that we were free to go and explore the village or anywhere else we liked until the 6.30 p.m. Evensong in the Parish Church. My friends and I pushed off to Hunstanton to get a breath of the sea, and others went with the youngsters to row or bathe at Wells-on-Sea, where the pilgrims from Scotland and abroad used to land long ago in the far-off ages of Faith.
The First Scottish Pilgrims
I have attended evening service and Benediction in many lands, but it was a wonderful experience to hear the well-known hymns, “O Saving Victim” and “Therefore we before Him bending”, sung in English instead of Latin by English folk in honour of Christ the King; it was inspiring, too, to reflect that we were the first party of Scottish pilgrims to visit the restored Shrine since its destruction four hundred years ago by the forces of Satan. The experiences of that unforgettable weekend can only be a personal memory; it is impossible to describe them. I will merely say that once again one felt rather lost and lonely when Sunday’s worship was over, and we came out of church.
Supper and a most pointed and vigorous discussion about modern architecture closed the day, for we were to be at Mass at 7 a.m. the next morning. It was St. Bartholomew’s Day, and the crimson chasuble was the colour of the giant peonies in the Sisters’ garden. Suitcases and bags were stacked outside the little chapel of the Holy House, and then after a hurried breakfast we made our last visit to the Shrine.
“Alas, O Mary, I must leave this Sanctuary of your choice, this holy place, trodden by so many of your clients throughout the ages. I have now to return to my ordinary daily life, which will be no easier, no less difficult, than in the days that have passed, but I go with a new purpose, increased fidelity, and a renewed assurance of your constant prayers”. So prayed our Leader, and so pray I, hoping that in the Month of Mary next year an even larger band of Scots people will come to visit the Shrine of the Holy Mother of God, and by her gracious aid may help to win back our country for her Son.
& DISTRICT PILGRIMAGE ASSOCIATION : from 1946
A Chaplain was appointed and a Committee formed in 1947 and since that time the Association has been able to carry out a full programme every year. The chief event is of course the Walsingham pilgrimage and in addition one other long-distance pilgrimage to a Cathedral or other shrine is also undertaken. There are normally from four to six other visits, frequently to small country parishes where priests are teaching the Catholic faith to small and sometimes rather unresponsive congregations. By such visits the Association tries to help in the work of Catholic evangelism; its members see something of the work and worship of small parishes that they would not otherwise know, and we are told that such visits are often very useful stimuli to those on the spot.
Some years ago the Association was able to set up its own shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in a local Church and here on the fourth Friday in each month members meet for a short office and Intercessions. These follow closely on the pattern of those offered in the Holy House, and a number of thanksgivings have already been recorded for answers to prayer. A weekly Mass is also said by the Chaplain for the work of the Association.
As far as possible, pilgrimages or visits are arranged to take place on or near to one of the Feasts of Our Lady and the Walsingham pilgrimage is always made in Mary’s month of May. Until last year, the Walsingham pilgrimages had been day pilgrimages only, but last year’s and this year’s are week-end visits and it is hoped that this will now become the rule. In addition it is hoped to arrange a day pilgrimage later in the year for those who cannot be away for the full week-end.
Care in organisation has resulted in minimum cost to pilgrims and any surplus in the funds at the end of the year enables a donation to be sent to the work of the Shrine. For the past two years the Association has published a small annual magazine on the eve of its Annual general meeting, giving a resume of the year’s work and the latest news from Walsingham in addition to other interesting articles.
Membership of the Association is open to Anglicans who are in sympathy with its objects, and who live within a reasonable distance of Southend-on-Sea.
The practical usefulness of an organisation such as this extends in many directions. It has been responsible for bringing home hundreds of people to Walsingham over the past seven years – many of who have experienced a deepened devotion to Our Lady and the mystery of the Incarnation as a result and not a few of whom have benefited from prayer at the shrine or sprinkling at the well. It has been the means of many prayers and much intercession being offered in Holy Places . . . in some perhaps for the first time since the Reformation. Many of its members have been able to visit places which ordinarily would have presented considerable difficulties – such as Religious Houses at a considerable distance away – or to join in observances such as the Whit Monday pilgrimage at Walsingham, the Commemoration of King Charles the Martyr in London, or the Corpus Christi procession at Otford, to mention but one or two examples. From time to time, walking pilgrimages have been undertaken by some of the junior members. All these experiences bring to those who participate in them a new vista of the life and work of the Church outside their own parishes. The feeling of happy devotion that pervades these pilgrimages must be experienced to be appreciated. Many friendships have been formed and new links forged.
It is in the hope that possible this experiment which God has prospered, may interest others who might like to try something of the same kind elsewhere, that these notes have been written.
& DISTRICT PILGRIMAGE ASSOCIATION : ON FOOT TO WALSINGHAM
Each year since 1946, with one exception, the Southend-on-Sea and District Pilgrimage Association has organised a pilgrimage by coach to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.. The writer had for long, however, cherished the ambition to make the journey on foot and had been inspired by the accounts of the successful Church Union walking pilgrimage undertaken in 1950 and by the publicity given to recent Roman Catholic pilgrimages.
In October last year, we started to pray and plan and a lengthy correspondence ensued with the Priests of Parishes situated along the proposed route. Those who have done the walk before seem to have been athletic young men of the student type, but we, nevertheless, decided not to restrict membership of the party in this way. Thus our party eventually consisted of four men and two women and two school boys and ages ranged from fifteen to the middle forties. We hoped that a number of practice walks could be arranged and it must be stressed that this is eminently desirable to save blisters. Unfortunately, owing to all the pilgrims being extremely busy people it proved impossible to do so and, apart from a daily application to the feet of surgical spirit for a week or so beforehand, we had no special preliminary training for our effort. It was apparent that the pilgrimage would be an act of witness as well as one of personal devotion so we decided that the intention should be to pray for the return of England to the practice of the Christian religion – this intention was offered at Walsingham and at the Altars of the Churches we proposed to visit on the way.
On Easter Sunday we were given Benediction after Mass in St. Clement’s Church, Leigh-on-Sea. When we came out of the Church, we were somewhat overwhelmed by finding a battery of cameras, including two from the press. We were made to pose for photos and our picture and reports of the pilgrimage appeared later in the week in various newspapers.
By 10.30 a.m. we were on the way – making via Rayleigh to the River Crouch at Hullbridge. Here we ate our picnic lunch on the banks of the river. Then the services of a friendly boatman were engaged to ferry us to the other side and the march resumed, past Danbury Church through winding lanes to St. Mary’s Church, Little Baddow, in time for Evening Service, having completed eighteen miles. After the service, we were introduced by the Rector, Fr. Honniball, to our various hosts for the night and were transported by cars to our lodgings in this scattered village. The good people of Little Baddow provided us with every comfort including, in one case, the delightful experience of staying at the Elizabethan house of Old Riffhams.
The next day, Easter Monday, we were taken by cars again to Church for Mass at 8.30 a.m. and after breakfast and goodbyes began the day’s march to Black Notley. Unfortunately, one of our members had left us after Mass as his wife had presented him with a son three weeks earlier than had been expected! This day we had planned should be an easy day’s walking of ten miles to enable us to recover from the fairly strenuous first day. We passed through the village of Hatfield Peverill where provisions were purchased and then followed what was to become a daily routine of a picnic lunch eaten in the open air. Tea and coffee were carried in vacuum flasks which fitted easily into the side pockets of the rucsacks carried by the Pilgrims. The weather was perfect as it had been the previous day and we reached Black Notley at 7 p.m. After a wash and meal in our various lodgings we met in the lovely little Church of SS. Peter and Paul for Devotions. We retired early as Mass the next day was to be at 6.30 a.m. as the Rector, Fr. McAllister, was taking the Blessed Sacraments to the hospital.
Tuesday dawned, another fine day with a pleasant breeze. We were on the road by 9.30 a.m. and quickly reached Braintree where we partook of coffee and did our shopping. One or two of the party were beginning to show signs of blisters and first-aid treatment at intervals during the day became a necessity. We trudged on, pausing to look in the fine Church as Bocking and after some diversion caused by non-existent footpaths and a visit to the impressive Norman Church at Castle Hedingham, the splendid tower of Great Yeldham Church came into view. We were met by the Rector, Fr. Godwin, by the Great Yeldham oak and escorted to our lodgings. After an excellent meal, Fr. Godwin said Evensong and gave us a short address which was much appreciated. He then showed us over his Elizabethan Rectory and after pleasant conversation we went to bed. This distance covered this day was about fifteen miles. At Great Yeldham we were joined by our Chaplain, the Revd. D. Thornton, who is on the staff of All Saints, New Eltham, and we were greatly to profit by his ministrations during the rest of the pilgrimage.
The next day, Wednesday, we approached with some trepidation as we knew our next stopping place, Bury St. Edmunds, to be some twenty-four miles away. Mass was said at 7.30 a.m. and we said goodbye to our kind hosts at 9.45 a.m. We covered the four miles to Clare in good style, had coffee and bought the provisions for our lunch. This is a lovely village with a beautiful Church. The journey continued along country lanes mercifully free of motor traffic and we reached Bury St. Edmunds by 7 p.m. It was necessary for two of the pilgrims to receive treatment, one for blisters and one for gastric trouble. Arrangements had been made by the Vicar and Mrs Heath, the wife of his Warden, for a communal meal in the Lathbury Hall adjacent to St. John’s Church, after which Evensong was said by our Chaplain as Fr. Peach, the Vicar, was unwell. We then went to our lodgings and met again at 8 a.m. on Thursday morning for Mass which was said by Fr. Snelling, one of the Priests from the Cathedral. A communal breakfast followed and we were given a splendid send off by our kind hosts.
The destination for Thursday evening was Mundford, a distance of 18 miles, and the route followed was the road through Brandon which passes through the extensive forests which have been developed in recent years. The weather had turned cold and we had our one and only shower of rain during the whole week. A leafy chestnut tree gave adequate shelter, however. We arrived at Mundford at 7 p.m. and were given a warm welcome by Fr. Rokeby and his wife. An excellent supper was eaten and we assembled for Solemn Evensong and Benediction at which two of the Pilgrims served and an inspiring address was given by the Rector. We stayed up late, being mightily entertained by Fr. Rokeby’s collection of a quarter of a million postcards, his tribe of cats and much good talk.
Friday began with a Sung Mass at 8 a.m. at which our Chaplain assisted at M.C., and then a good breakfast set us forth on our journey to Castleacre in right good spirits. It was cold with a strong North wind against us and we were glad when the tower of Swaffham Church cam into view at about 4 p.m. We had tea at Swaffham and visited the noble Church with its magnificent roof. Castleacre was reached before 7 p.m., and again we received real Norfolk hospitality. Fr. Bloom, the Vicar, had arranged Compline and Devotions for us in the S. Nicholas Chapel at which we rejoiced to be joined by a large number of his parishioners. Afterwards Fr. Bloom to us round his beautiful Church. Mass the following morning was at 7.30 a.m. and one of the Pilgrims was privileged to serve. When we had breakfasted we made our way to Castleacre Priory which had been wonderfully restored by H.M. Ministry of Works. The custodian, Mr Savage, obviously knows and loves every stone and a tour conducted by him made the glorious mediæval buildings rise again in our imagination. The culmination of our visit was when we all knelt before the site of the High Altar and were blessed by Fr. Bloom before proceeding on our last day’s journey. Reaching the main Fakenham Road, we looked in the lovely little Saxon Church of Newton and then, to avoid traffic, we took minor roads through Litcham and Titteshall, reaching Fakenham soon after 4 p.m. Lunch this day was eaten in the Inn at Litcham where a kind publican provided sandwiches and showed great interest in our pilgrimage. At Fakenham we found the coach bringing the week-end pilgrimage of our members from Southend and some of them dismounted and joined us for the last five miles.
Outside the Slipper Chapel, which contains the R.C. Shrine, we paused whilst our Chaplain said a prayer for unity, and walked the holy mile to Walsingham, entering the village singing the pilgrims’ hymn. At Walsingham we joined our fellow pilgrims from Southend in the usual programme for a week-end pilgrimage and returned home with them on Sunday. So ended a wonderful experience. The kindness and hospitality extended to us by Parish Priests and their people along the route were beyond praise. We shall long remember Easter Week 1957 with happy days in beautiful East Anglian countryside and culminating in a week-end spent in England’s Nazareth.
We had to come from Bolton in the foggy North. None of us had even been to Norfolk before. We had wondered for a long time how to make the pilgrimage from here, as it is nearly 200 miles each way, trains are awkward, and to charter a special "chara" would be beyond young people's pockets. To hitch-hike would not give us enough time. We only get two holidays in the year here, in July and September, from Saturday to Thursday. We do not go in for Bank Holidays. But something happened. One of the Boys who attends St Augustine's in the holidays has a father who is a furniture remover. He is of the "personal touch type", still able to do things on his own responsibility. He asked his foreman ("Bob") if he would like the trip, who said he would if he could take his wife. And that's how fifteen of us had a free lift both ways in a furniture van, while five others (a whole family) came in a private car. One of our priests [Fr Humphrey Whistler] came with us, and another [Fr Kenneth Child] met us at Walsingham. They belong to the Company of Mission Priests, which has a "House" here, and runs this parish (St Augustine's, Tonge Moor) somewhat as your College of St Augustine runs Walsingham and Houghton; though as yet we have no lay brothers.
We all intended to keep the Greater Pilgrimage, and had a copy of the Manual before we came. We went to our confessions the night before and attended a Votive Mass for Pilgrims and Travellers the next morning before setting off at 8 a.m. It was a long journey and we could not see much. The back was slightly open, but let in more fumes than fresh air. Kelham was our half-way "station", where we were welcomed by one of our former priests who has who has joined the Society of the Sacred Mission. The furniture van was not uncomfortable as we had put four settees in it, but some of us suffered a good deal from road-sickness. We eventually arrived at Walsingham at 7 p.m., and after finding our various billets, enjoyed the first of many excellent meals provided by the Sisters in the Refectory. The private car arrived a little later, having had to buy and fit a new radiator on the way.
Benediction that evening in the beautiful Shrine Church, and our first visit to the Holy House, was unforgettable, and a great climax to the day. The atmosphere of the "Holy Land of Walsingham" had infected us at once, added to which there is nothing so moving as arriving safely at the goal of your pilgrimage. I will not describe the details of the Greater Pilgrimage, familiar to you; daily Mass, which we all attended; Sung Mass at the Parish Church; Evensong and Devotions at St Giles; the Stations of the Cross, winding through the garden in brilliant sunlight; and finally the visit to the Holy Well, after offering our petitions in the Holy House. None of us had particularly bodily ailments, but others here have benefited since, and all of us in different ways, known only to ourselves. Not the least striking has been its effect on"Bob" and his wife, who joined in everything with us.
A "highlight" of the pilgrimage, not part of the official routine, was on Sunday evening, when we all gathered in the Shrine, and Father Derrick [Lingwood] talked to us for for a whole hour (tired as he was), at our request, about the wonderful history of Walsingham in the past, and the still more wonderful restoration of the Shrine of Our Lady in such recent years, still unknown to so many in England, with all the pilgrimages, and the miracles that Our Lady has begun to work again for the faithful, through her intercession with her Son. We could have gone on all night listening to him.
We had a day off on Tuesday, and paid a visit to Blakeney, visiting its beautiful Church, associated with your Bishop O'Rorke, and wading across mud-flats to the sea.
Tonge Moor is full of the story of our pilgrimage, and very envious. I
think we have learnt a new personal love and veneration for Our Lord's
Mother, and to think of her as a real person, actively helping us, and
loving us. To show our love and gratitude to her we were present at the
Mass of her Nativity the next Monday. We hope to keep up our contact with
Our Lady of Walsingham by always attending her Mass, if possible, on the
first Saturday of each month, when the two priests who came with us have
an obligation to say Mass for the pilgrims, as they are now Priest-Associates
of the Holy House. [by Fr Humphrey Whistler]
The twelfth annual pilgrimage by Brontë Bus took place on Whit Monday. For the second time the 360 miles were covered in one day. So the Sacraments were received in Oakworth or the other home Churches of the pilgrims. The Itinerary was said in Oakworth Church on Whit Sunday evening, and the pilgrims were blessed and sprinkled with holy water immediately after the Mass at 4 a.m. on the Monday morning. Some two dozen pilgrims – men, women and children – of ages ranging from four to sixty years were in the motor-bus ready to begin the 180 mile journey at 4.30 a.m. Fr. Ross, now Vicar of Holy Trinity, Bradford, and further pilgrims from Bradford, Burnley and Dewsbury were collected before many miles had been covered.
Fr. Dolman, Parish Priest of Cromwell, near Newark-on-Trent, had made arrangements for the pilgrims to have breakfast in a café garden in his parish at 7.15 a.m. Fr. Dolman once again gave the pilgrims a happy welcome, and said the Litany of Our Lady with them in his beautiful Church just before they continued their journey and he began his Mass.
King’s Lynn was reached soon after 10 a.m., and the pilgrims were in the Holy House soon after 11 a.m. Then they joined happily in the functions of the day, the children gaining good positions for the High mass, some of the others, assisting at the Low Mass in the garden, while the rest gallantly crushed themselves into the Church. Meals were taken at the Guildshop café. Amid much congestion and many halts, they made the Stations in the blazing sunshine of the afternoon – their banner of the Holy Family was carried before them in the procession through the streets.
Many who had not been able to reach the Holy Well earlier in the day, returned there when things were quieter after tea; and intercessions were offered in the Shrine at the same time.
had made arrangements for supper at 8.15 p.m., under the patronage of
S. Peter at the Inn of the Cross Keys in his parish of Suttertoy, on the
Great North Road. Oakworth
was reached soon after 1 a.m. on Tuesday morning – all the pilgrims
agreeing that the time had been all too short, and looking forward to
coming again and bringing other people with them.
The first pilgrimage from the parish started on 1st August 1959. The Fraternity of the Holy House of Our Lady of Walsingham & S. Bede the Venerable was established on 1st February 1961 with Fr. Charles Leslie Barron as first Superior. Fr Beresford Skelton is only the second Superior in the 45 years of its existence. The Diploma of Fraternity hangs on the wall of the Lady Chapel.
Fr. Graeme Carey, Assistant Curate of our parish, asked the Sunday Night Club if they would like to visit a very special place in Norfolk – a Shrine of Our Lady that had once been the greatest Shrine in England and devotion had been revived there - for a Pilgrimage in the first weekend of August, the end of the shipyard’s fortnight holiday. Thirty or more people said they would very much like to make the journey.
It was not going to be an easy or restful Bank Holiday week-end. It could only be a Sunday night stay in Walsingham because a great number of the pilgrims had to be back at work on the Tuesday. The pilgrimage could not start until late on Saturday night because one of the pilgrims worked in a Gents’ Outfitters and the shop did not close until after 6.00pm on Fridays.
Everyone gathered at S. Mary Magdalene’s Church and had cups of tea and sandwiches in the Church Hall. There were Marian Devotions in Church and the Itinerary before everyone got on board a coach hired from Don Smiths Coaches Durham. A number of pilgrims expressed their thanks for the prayers offered when they saw the coach. It must have been the oldest one on his books. Would it make the journey to Walsingham without Divine Intervention?
The journey was long and there was little opportunity for sleep. The Pilgrims were so excited at making such a long journey at dead of night. The sense of adventure and excitement was almost tangible among children and adults alike. This was really something very different from anything they had done before. The children were unable to contain their anticipation until they fell asleep with exhaustion. There were very late night, and very early morning, stops for refreshment and comfort. The road was slow – the old A1 - with out any of the by-passes and dual carriageways. When we left the A1 we wound our way along the A17 through all the villages, passing great shadows of churches and crossing great rivers until in the early hours of the morning day light started to appear as we came near to Kings Lynn.
We got out of the coach at the Slipper Chapel at about 5.00am and walked into Walsingham, while Fr. Carey led us in praying the Rosary. It felt very like S. Mary Magdalene coming to the tomb in the first light of Easter Day. Mother Margaret Mary was waiting to welcome us with hot tea and a slice of bread in the kitchen (which is now Stella Maris Green Room). The boarding out of the Pilgrims was confirmed – a great number of us were at Mount Pleasant and a few at Great Walsingham. Having had breakfast the Mass could not be celebrated until the three hour fast had been observed. We were taken down to the Shrine Church for our First Visit to the Holy House. Everyone was struck by the beauty of the small Holy House inside the Church and the sense of wonder of being in such a holy place could not have escaped anyone. Fr. Carey celebrated Mass for us at a side altar in the Shrine Church and we went to the Parish Church later in the morning. The afternoon was spent in the Shrine Gardens. We had our photograph taken and some Pilgrims found time to catch up on sleep by lying down on the lawns.
In the late afternoon there was intercession in the Holy House and Sprinkling at The Well. This was a most moving devotion and everyone felt that they had been touched by God. In the evening everyone gathered again into the Shrine Church for the Address, given by Fr. Colin Stephenson, and Benediction. Some of the other pilgrims stayed behind for their last visit but S. Mary Magdalene Pilgrims made their way to their lodgings after supper.
The following morning before breakfast Fr. Carey celebrated for us and breakfast was served in the Marquee. After that we made our way round the garden for Stations of the Cross. After lunch there must have been some more free time in the afternoon because many of the Pilgrims had bought articles from the Shrine Shop which was also part of the Archway building of what is now Stella Maris.
The Pilgrimage concluded with the Last Visit at about because 4.00pm because there was the long journey back to face – the winding roads of Norfolk and the A1. Again use was made the “greasy spoon” cafes along the way.
The total cost of the pilgrimage – coach fare and boarding – was £3.10s 0d (£3.50). Most of us had saved £1 as spending money were asked to take 10s (50p) as a donation for the work of the Shrine. The Pilgrims’ Manuals were 1/6 (7 1/2p) and were very thorough in setting out the meaning and objects of a Pilgrimage and the form of the spiritual exercises that each type of pilgrimage would follow whether it was a Greater Pilgrimage, lasting three days, the Day or Private pilgrimage or in the case of S. Mary Magdalene’s first pilgrimage the week-end Pilgrimage.
visit to Walsingham, to England’s Nazareth, inspired us at S. Mary
Magdalene to make it a regular event in the spiritual life of the parish
and so it is that 47 years later pilgrims still come to Walsingham in
an unbroken chain of visits at least once a year and sometimes even four
times a year. The Fraternity of Our Lady of Walsingham was given its Diploma
in February 1961 and the Lady Chapel was refurbished to make space for
a Statue of Our Lady of Walsingham. The image of Our Lady of Walsingham
is in the niche above the altar, and can be seen on our Parish Website.
As we prepare for the 75 Anniversary of the Translation of the Image at
Walsingham itself we cannot help wondering whether Fr. Hope Patten who
had died the year before, had any notion that what he had started would
involve such a large number of pilgrims, and had Fr. Carey any idea what
seeds he had sown in the parish of S. Mary Magdalene Millfield and across
the region, because he and Edward Ross were forever on the road visiting
church groups to promote the Shrine and encourage parishes to found Cells
of Our Lady of Walsingham.