Perhaps the culmination of our vacation, certainly the spiritual highlight of the trip, was our visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, on the 10th. So important was this visit that I gave it its own post.
As I wrote previously, our airBnB host from the night before graciously offered to drive us to Little Walsingham, which was about 15 minutes by car.
So, truly I can say I have trod upon the Walsingham Way, or at least ridden upon in within a horseless carriage.
The village was as breathtaking as ever, for all that we came in by another way, basically driving around the back of the Shrine, through Knight Street. We were let our by the Main Gate
We arrived a they were serving up for the brief service to follow the Archbishop’s time of prayer in the shrine. (I did mention the Archbishop of Canterbury’s being in Walsingham that day, yes?)
There was to be a choir of school children from two local CoE schools, but as people were asked, if they took pictures of the children, not to post them on social media, I elected not to take any. Well, the weather outside was a little chilly, but not cold enough to see your breath, so we were fine.
We wound up standing on the path perpendicular to the direction the service would take as it was situated before the great Calvary Crosses in the garden, which meant we had a perfect view of the Archbishop and the ecumenical partners who were participating in the prayer service, including a Minister from the local Methodist Church and the Roman Catholic Shrine (and possibly the Diocese) a well as the Bishop of Norwich, Bishop Grahamn under whose jurisdiction the Shrine sits, though designated an “Ancient Peculiar” (though for the life of me I have not been able to find out what such a designation means, canonically).
It was a brief service that consists of a welcome, a set of prayers, hymns set to canned organ, bible readings, responsory Psalm, and an address by the Archbishop (for which I took notes, but think it best to share under separate cover, though I will note that he spoke of the inner life of the Church beginning at the Foot of the Cross when John the Beloved Disciple made room for Mary in his house, and how this is how we should care for one another as believers).
This was followed by intercessory prayers read by members of the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Methodist, and Orthodox congregations,and an offering of song “On a hill far away” by the choir. A final hymn and a Blessing by the Archbishop completed the service. Afterwards he made the rounds to greet those of us at the service, beginning with the school choir.
Proving that I was there and not just a man behind a camera, I made a selfie.
And then it was *my* turn, a moment I had hoped for, -but had not expected to actually occur- I got to shake the hand of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and introduce myself and my wife. Inside I was flapping like the ecclesiastical fanboy that I am, but exteriorly of course I was all proper.
Then we began our slow, if abbreviated, tour of the Shrine Church and grounds itself.
The Chapel of St. Michael and All Angels belonging to the Guild of All Souls was unfortunately closed for (repair and/or renovation), so we merely peeked in a window -there was not much to see.
On the side of the chapel though is a [now apparently] restored lifesize Crucifix.
The feet at the bottom of the Crucifix has moved me more than any aspect of the crucifixion; but that, as well, deserves it’s own post, so I will say nothing further for now.
Perpendicular to the Crucifix on the wall is an inset statue of St.Therse the Little Flower [not pictured]
We went in by the Pilgrimage Entrance, where the first chapel is of the Annunciation itself, still one if the most beautiful parts of the Shrine for its simplicity. Sadly this time around I did not actually take a picture as I already had one in a previous collection, and did not have the time to set it up properly.
One thing you will note about the Shrine is the exorbitant riot of color everywhere, in the chapels (with inset reliquary of the True Cross at the bottom) and on the walls,
on the painted statues,
on the effigies of persons associated with the Shrine’s restoration, including Father Alfred Hope Patten, below.
Another thing you will note (alongside the many chapels, 15 side chapels, one each for the [then] 15 Mysteries of the Rosary,
though an Altar of the Mysteries of Light has since been erected in the garden, showing above;
is the presence of light, and candles. This particular day there were not many candles in evidence, true, but many people were still attending the Archbishop outside. Regardless, prayer is at the heart of the Shrine -prayer as the expectant waiting on the Lord that is the hallmark of all authentic piety, devotion, and service- and the air of expectant stillness that is the sweet odor of God was all around us.
The Shrine itself is built as a House, small and humble, having two side entrances and a window with a triptych-like shutter.
The odd-shaped stones set in the walls come from the many monastic and church foundations that were pulled down at the Reformation.
Inside the House are two rows for candles. Above the racks are emplacements for permanent candles on behalf of parishes, cathedrals, and other organizations. Against the [liturgical] West Wall is the Altar within which rests the Image of Our Lady (commissioned by Fr. Patten in 1922 and carved from a Priory seal found in the British Museum). Here in the physical focus of the shrine, we spent some moments in prayer and personal (and in my case, matrimonial) rededication to Christ through Our Lady.
For Saralyn, our visit to the Russian Orthodox chapel held a significance that I can never fully appreciate, as I did not attend an Orthodox high school as she did, which did much to prepare her for the gift of faith later in life.
Nevertheless, the Icons never fail to raise a prayer to my lips.
This last Icon pictured was actually the entrance Icon, sort of the “Icon of the Day” set up for initial veneration Other furnishings in the Chapel include the lectern (at top),
and a marvelous view of the College grounds through this window.
Now there are a few oddities about the Shrine Church (as with any place of worship, especially one that appears to be making up for a 400 years absence of devotion) such as this Intercession box,
The Sacred Heart statue in between two Confessional rooms just underneath the Orthodox chapel,
A dual tone Statue of S. Joseph and Child,
and this Statue of the Royal Martyr, on the steps.
Just to round things off, the plaque before the Holy Well (with its claims for healings,
and other assorted photos that did not make it into the narrative proper, but are memories all the same.They represent as well connections that have yet to be made between what I saw, what I know, and what I was meant to see, so I leave them here as a reminder that nothing exists in isolation, that everything has a place and a purpose, even if in the moment we can not or do not see that connection and plan (as Boethius was taught to see by Lady Wisdom in his The Consolation of Philosophy).
Though I will say that the brightly painted Cross, evidently the work of a school group evidences the continuing vitality and work of the Shrine today.
As is my want, apparently, we did things a little backwards, only finding the Welcome Centre after we had completed our tour. It contains a reconstruction of the original shrine as it might have looked before the Augustians enclosed it, with a set of comparative foot and shoeprints of the many classes of people who have visited Walsingham through the centuries and an introductory video.
Before we left the Shrine proper though, one final statue caught my eye, one restored in memory of a faithful pilgrim, that of Mary, Queen of Martyrs
who is a reminder from one who was herself a martyr to love her entire life, that in this world, tribulation, misunderstanding, and outright rejection (as 1 Peter 4 tells us) to say nothing of daily minor disappointments and annoyances is more to be expected in this life than comforts and conveniences with adulations. And in fact, we should fear the latter more than the former, because they are what will bring us closer to God.
We topped off our visit with souvenir shopping at The Shrine Shop, where among books, stickers, and a bottle for Holy Water to bring back, I acquired a Walsingham Shrine and Pilgrimage jacket [my designation], perhaps the greatest souvenir (apart from the road gravel from Sculthorpe) I brought back. The pictures -though (potentially) physical- and stories I count as memories, not souvenirs.
As to the meaning of it all, that too belongs to a separate essay.
And now we begin The Road From Walsingham. A journey that is for the rest of our lives.
With one final glance toward the Shrine grounds entrance.
[Special Note about the pictures. I took all the ones here posted, and have reproduced them in nearly the order they were taken, with a few exceptions, when the narrative called for it.]