Monday, 18 July 2011

Pilgrimage to Walsingham

On the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, 16th July, a significant proportion of the Ordinariate gathered at Walsingham to join the Pilgrimage of Reparation and Consecration. As the weather was particularly British we all crammed into the Catholic National Shrine Church avoiding the torrential rain. Confessions were heard from 11am and Mass began at 12noon. A goodly proportion of the Ordinariate clergy arrived during the hour beforehand such that the vestry could not accomodate us all and we had to leave and wait in the church while others vested. As coaches arrived with pilgrims so the church filled to capacity with many standing at the back.

Monsignor Newton was the principal celebrant and preacher and reminded us that we gathered to give thanks for the visit of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, to Britain. Many of the members of the ordinariate gave special thanks because the holy Father had given them special encouragement as they were discerning the call of God. This is true for me and I remembered some very happy memories of sitting with my family at the Beatification Mass in Birmingham and thinking, "yes I feel more at home here than in the Church of England." Yet at the same time the Mass felt welcoming of Anglican tradition as we sang so many of Newman's hymns, and his very English character seemed palpably present.

Following mass we went back to our cars, coaches and minibuses to each lunch until we gathered in the church for exposition and benediction. During benediction we offered the intentions of the day including asking for forgiveness for the sins that separate the followers of Christ. We also prayed a prayer to consecrate ourselves and the Ordinariate to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, Our Lady of Walsingham. The priests of the Ordinariate prayed:

Behold, as we stand before you, Mother of Christ, before your Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart, we desire, together with the whole Church, to unite ourselves with the consecration which, for love of us, your Son made of himself to the Father: For their sake, He said, I consecrate myself that they also may be consecrated in the truth. (Jn 17:19) We wish to unite ourselves with our Redeemer in this His consecration for the world and for the human race, which, in His divine Heart, has the power to obtain pardon and to secure reparation.
 Following benedicition we formed into a silent procession along the holy mile to the Anglican Shrine. Plans had been altered by the persistent rain, but then as we formed up suddenly the rain stopped and we could feel the sun's warmth on our heads. So we began a silent offering for reparation for the sins of disunity amongst Christians. I pushed Rose's pram and a brother priest asked if he could put his case on the pram, and I was reminded that we must be willing to carry our brother's burden in the pilgrimage to unity.

As the sun shone over the fields I was particularly taken by the diversity of wild flowers along the edges of the pilgrim route. Seeing my sons joyfully dancing through the verges of the path I was severely tempted to shout a fatherly word that they shouldn't be tramping the flowers, but we were offering up silence so I bit my tongue. In the gathering quietude in procession I looked out on a field of wheat and was reminded of the parable we would be hearing the following day, and the sermon I would preach the next day. Not too many weeds evident in these fields, and they definitely shone in the sunshine.

Eventually we passed the orthodox church and 'landed' at the Anglican Shrine where we were warmly and emotionally welcomed by the Shrine Administrator. To be on Anglican ground as the Ordinariate, and to worship with our Anglican brothers and sisters was a significant moment for many of us. Part of the worship was the traditional taking of Walsingham water: renewing our baptism and asking for healing and peace.

A very special and heartfelt day for everyone present.

May our Lady of Walsingham pray for us.
May Blessed John Henry Newman pray for us.

May God's Holy Angels defend us from every evil.

DAY NINE (Eve of Pentecost)