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  Pilgrimage in Focus
Visiting The ShrineExtract from 'Points from a Pilgrimage' by Chris Price St. Faith's Parish Church, Liverpool

Twenty-nine of us crossing coast-to-coast by coach and car on the long haul to Little Walsingham. A warm and amazing place of hidden corners, pathways and passages, soaked in sanctity and pervaded by prayer.

48 hours of rich and varied experiences. Worship in forms familiar and strange. Fellowship in the refectory queue and around the bars of the welcoming village hostelries.

A fascinating mixture of prayerful devotion and shared laughter, not all of it always entirely reverent. The mysteries of the rosary... for many a focus of prayer, for others, even by the end, about forty Hail Mary's too many. The intense and wondrous silence of the Holy House, bedecked with blue and gold and a myriad of burning lights, the most moving of backgrounds to a parish at worship and in intercessory prayer.

The mysterious Shrine Church shafts of light on fifteen chapel altars large and small secret vistas round every corner and archway. On many occasions, the awareness of others at prayer or in praise: voices murmuring and distant bells sounding.

Statue of MaryA trip to two amazing, vast and beautiful Anglican churches in the middle of nowhere yet open and unattended, richly adorned and powerfully prayerful (they wouldn't last a week on Merseyside). The Stations of the Cross around the Shrine gardens ... parish parties wending their way beneath the trees and the singing birds, each group doing its own thing yet part of one another. A little gem of an Orthodox Church. St Seraphim and icons galore in, of all places, an old railway station.

A singularly moving and spectacular Procession of Our Lady around the dark grounds, by candle-light and to the enthusiastic accompaniment of a hymn with more verses (and certainly more Ave Maria's) than you could shake a stick at, and punctuated by dubious descants and just a little departure from devotion in places.

A visit to the Roman Catholic Shrine (the Slipper Chapel down the road), and moving words in their official handbook commending a visit to 'our' Shrine and 'our' Parish Church and asking for prayers for the Anglican Diocese and its priests and people how far and wonderfully we have come in recent years!

Conversations in corridors, coffee brewed in little rooms, bonding between people who may scarcely have spoken to one another before. No sense (at least not for long) of anything alien or frightening ... and no pressure to accept anything you weren't happy about, nor to feel left out if you chose to snooze or stroll rather than join in things.

A place where even the gardens smell of incense. Village streets dotted with black-garbed priests, like something from centuries past. Pilgrims young and old leafing through racks of prayer cards in the Shrine Shop weighing up icons ... settling for the least garish statuette.

Parish Mass in the Parish Church in the village, packed with pilgrims and locals a building gloriously light and airy, with acres of clear grass, after the intense and sometimes stifling weight of the shrine church. Strolling back after coffee at the back of that church through sunny, still streets lined with flint-set, pantiled-roofed cottages.

Drinks outside the Bull in God's providential lunchtime sunshine. The transporting experience of going down into the well in the shrine in a new baptism for the blessing of pure, cold water in the mouth, on the forehead and splashing over the hands.


And, on the road home abiding memories of:

  • Peace and a deep silence of prayer made simple and appealing.
  • Fellowship made stronger and laughter more ready than ever (where even the old jokes sounded new)
  • A place to which to bring doubts and scepticism, but where, even where those reservations remained, it did not matter.
  • A place where it seemed overwhelmingly and satisfyingly normal to be a Christian, an Anglican and to live a life founded in the sacraments and prayer where to believe and to practise the faith was simple and natural ...
  • A place where the unlikely became possible, the flamboyant and even the absurd were at home with the beauty of the holiness and where we could all be ourselves for a spell a lovely place and a lovely time, together for a time out of time with our fellow Christians and, without a shadow of doubt, with our God.

If you would like to find out more about how a pilgrimage is organised go to Pilgrimage Programme


 
   

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  The Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, Walsingham, Norfolk NR22 6BP | Tel: 01328 820255 | Fax: 01328 824206