Walsingham Bible Week

The statue of OLW at Holy Trinity Church

The statue of OLW at Holy Trinity Church

At the end of October a number us attended the annual Bible Week at the Shrine of Our Lady in Walsingham.

For those who do not know the place, Walsingham is a beautiful village in North Norfolk where, in the year 1061, Richeldis, the lady of the Manor, had a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who asked her to build a replica of the Holy House at Nazareth where the Angel had appeared to her (Luke 1:26-38). Richeldis obeyed, and during the middle ages Walsingham became an important place of pilgrimage until the shrine that had grown up there was destroyed at the Reformation. (I feel a sense of irony writing these words on 31st October 2017 – 500 years to the day after Martin Luther published his 95 theses – symbolizing the start of the Reformation). The Anglican shrine was restored in the 1920s and 1930s, and today attracts thousands of pilgrims every year who go there for all sorts of reasons; they may be curious, they may seek healing for themselves or someone else, or they may have a great devotion to Mary.

The reason we went to Walsingham was to take part in a week-long pilgrimage, with the focus on the study of Our Lady in the Sacred Scriptures. We were treated to three excellent but very different keynote addresses, one looking at Mary in the Old Testament, another at Mary in the Gospels and the third discussed the vision of the woman clothed in the sun found in Revelation chapter twelve. The talks were complemented by some beautiful liturgies with very entertaining sermons that always had an important and insightful spiritual point to them.

Like all good pilgrimages, prayer and study were balanced with some free time. We used this time to take the light railway through the beautiful Norfolk countryside to the seaside town of Wells (a ‘first’ for even some seasoned pilgrims), to visit to the beach where the brave paddled in the sea, and to pray at the Roman Catholic shrine and Slipper Chapel. Traditionally pilgrims removed their shoes here and walked the last mile to the village barefoot.

What did we get out of this experience? Apart from learning a lot in good company and enjoying good food, I think we each brought away precious memories and blessings, and a sense of being renewed in our faith. I for one never know in advance what Our Lord has to show me through his blessed mother when I go on pilgrimage to Walsingham, but I never come away disappointed or empty-handed. Deo gratias.

Fr. Patrick