Westminster Abbey Walsingham Festival

On Saturday 4th May, 2019 the Dean and Chapter of the Abbey Church of S. Peter at Westminster, London hosted a whole day of services and lectures in honour of Our Lady of Walsingham. Close on 2,000 pilgrims from all over the country attended and participated in the day’s events.

The Festival began at 11.00 am with Solemn Eucharist celebrated by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Revd John Hall. The Abbey Special Choir offered a fabulous setting of the Mass by the Spanish Renaissance composer Victoria plus a motet by Bruckner whilst the organists gave us a feast of Marian inspired pieces. The sermon at the Eucharist was given by the Rt Revd Philip North, Bishop of Burnley and Master of the College of Guardians. Its hard-hitting content was greeted with applause. (Click here to read Bishop North’s sermon.)

Following an opportunity for pilgrims to visit the Shrines of Our Lady of Pew and St Edward Confessor, the assembled company gathered in the Nave – and anywhere a seat could be found – to listen to a lecture by the eminent historian Professor Eamon Duffy – Walsingham from Ruin to Restoration. With many entertaining anecdotes, Professor Duffy traced the creation of the both the Anglican and Roman Catholic Shrines in Walsingham and their interaction (or lack of!) (Click here to read the full text of Professor Duffy’s lecture.)

A Carousel of Prayer and Blessings then took place – in various chapels in the Abbey short liturgies of prayer invited pilgrims to enter and participate; and then move on to the next venue.

Solemn Evensong at 5.00 pm was notable for the glorious singing of the Abbey’s main choir – under the direction of James O’Donnell, the Abbey’s Organist and Director of Music. The outpouring of John Tavener’s Magnificat was hypnotically powerful. Tavener (1944 – 2013) is of course well-known for such moving pieces of music strongly influenced by Orthodoxy i.e. The Protecting Veil and The Lamb.  The preacher at evensong was Archbishop Rino Fisichella from the Roman Catholic Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (Click here for a copy of Archbishop Fisichella’s sermon.) So it seemed that Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy had come together to greet Our Lady.

Click here to read Canon John Twisleton’s – a Priest Associate from Sussex – account of the festival.

Click here to visit Westminster Abbey’s website account of the Walsingham Festival