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