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Diary of a pilgrim on the Parish Pilgrimage to Walsingham 2019

     

Monday

We attended the morning mass at St Matthew’s after which we received a short blessing and sprinkling of holy water. In previous years I have felt that Father Nicholas misses out on this part as he is the one dispensing the blessing. However, this year Father Nicholas Gandy was there so he sprinkled (showered) Father Nicholas.


After this we were given our room numbers and Father Nicholas being the dutiful father that he is reminded us to check we had everything and to use the toilet before we set off.

So eventually after much to-ing and fro-ing thirteen of us set off in four cars. Our first destination two thirds of the way to Walsingham was Worzals Farm Shop and Restaurant just outside Wisbech for lunch. We met in the car park then once inside spread ourselves across two tables and enjoyed a delicious meal. When it came to paying to my horror/embarrassment I realised I didn’t have my wallet in my pocket. I went back to the car but it wasn’t there, then somebody suggested maybe I had left it at home. I made a phone call, asked a friend to use the spare key to let herself in and have a look. She was able to tell me it was sat on my coffee table. I am grateful to this friend both for doing this and not telling people how untidy my sitting room is. If only I had listened to the vicar when he said to check we had everything…

After this short delay we set off again to make our way to The Slipper Chapel about a mile from the shrine. This was where in ancient times pilgrims would gather for prayer and then removing their shoes walk barefoot the remaining ‘holy mile’. After prayer and a visit to the inevitable souvenir shop we got back in the cars and drove to the shrine.

We made our first visit of the pilgrimage to the Holy House not long after arriving. This is the part of the shrine where the image of our Lady of Walsingham is kept. The image has recently been restored so looks brighter and cleaner than we have seen it for a long time.

After unpacking and enjoying supper we met in the upper room of the Milner wing where most people were staying and aided by a glass or two of wine shared our thoughts on the day and the differences at Walsingham since we were last there.

Tuesday

Every morning at Walsingham starts with a hearty breakfast in the refectory. We then went to the Barn Chapel where Father Nicholas led morning prayer and celebrated the mass.

The programme then said a talk by Father Kevin Smith Priest Administrator. This had been arranged via the Sacristy office, but unfortunately they hadn’t asked Father Kevin who was unable to do it with only returning from a weekend away the previous day. We therefore had a talk on Our Lady from Father Nicholas followed by a discussion about what he’d said.


After lunch we had intercessions in the Holy House where we laid the prayer requests completed by individuals from St Matthew’s on the altar and prayed through them.

Following supper, yes more food, the Service of Sprinkling, Healing Ministries and Benediction took place. This gave us the opportunity to be sprinkled with the water from the well, laying on of hands and anointing followed by Benediction. The sacrament of reconciliation (confession) was also available at the end of the service.

Some of us rounded off the day with a nightcap in the Norton’s Café-Bar which is on site and is open from 9am – 11pm daily providing breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea to day pilgrims and tourists. It is fully licensed and has a wide variety of drinks from homemade lemonade to real ale to an excellent selection of gins.

Wednesday

Morning prayer after breakfast was led by Jean. On Wednesdays there is the Pilgrim Mass in the Shrine Church which is concelebrated by whatever priests are at the shrine with either the Shrine Priest or Priest Administrator presiding.

The afternoon was free so people chose to do their own thing. Some had a rest, some walked the Holy mile, some went to the coast. I went with Father Nicholas, Glenda and Carol to Kings Lynn. The Vicar went to look round the Minster, I went to the (rather disappointing) museum whilst Carol and Glenda went to Primark. We then had a coffee in Costa before returning to the shrine.

Wednesday evening at the shrine is the Sermon, Procession of OLW and Benediction. The sermon spoke of how Mary in her obedience is an example of discipleship that we all should follow and how her example can inspire us as we strive to believe that Christ is present in the Holy Sacrament. It was also pointed out to us, which I had never noticed, that the image of Our Lady of Walsingham has her hand pointing to Christ on her lap, almost like she is saying ‘it’s all about Him’. The procession was led by Seymour as thurifer around the garden returning to the Shrine Church where the altar had been prepared ready for Benediction.

The Bull Inn was the venue for those of us who wanted to socialise before bed. We were lucky it was open as due to a dispute between the brewery and landlord it has been shut, however anxious not to lose money with the National Pilgrimage that weekend they reopened for the week.

Thursday

Morning Prayer took place in the Guild of All Souls Chapel. It was led very confidently and ably by Carol who although doing this for the first time showed no sign of how nervous she said she was.

We then went to The Priory of Our Lady in the grounds of the shrine to join them in The Litany of the Holy Name, Mass and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. There are just two sisters of the Society of St Margaret resident there now. Sister Carol was away assisting in a Fan the Flame Mission leaving Sister Angela to regale us with tales of her life and service to God over coffee in their conservatory. I could sit and listen to her all day; she always has new stories to tell about being a GP in poor areas and speaks in a very engaging manner. The clock was striking noon as we were leaving so we said the Regina Caeli it being Eastertide before Sister went to Chapel for Midday prayer and we went to lunch.

During the afternoon Father Nicholas led us in the Stations of the Cross using the outdoor stations. Each reading was done by a different person, all of them sounded confident so I am looking forward to hearing some new readers in church.

As is usual our last evening together was a visit to the pub, in this case the Black Lion. Gifts were given to Jean and Father Nicholas for organising and leading us respectively. There was much laughter and talking and maybe even a bit of gossiping.

Friday

After Morning Prayer led by me the Mass was celebrated by Father Nicholas followed by our last visit to the Holy House.

We gathered our things together, packed the cars, said adieu and began our journeys home. Some stopped for lunch whilst others returned without stopping.

Pilgrimage is an essential part of life and living. Christians see life itself in terms of a journey, coming from God and returning to God.

Gary

 

 
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