This was the first time I led a pilgrimage in Walsingham as a Catholic priest. Forty assembled at the Parish Church in Westerham for Mass and the blessing of pilgrims and off we went to the holy place.
The Administrator of the Anglican Shrine, the Rt Revd Lindsay Urwin made us most welcome and spoke to us movingly on Friday after Supper.
On Saturday, we made our way to the National Shrine where we had Stations of the Cross followed by an excellent Pilgrim Mass in the Chapel of Reconciliation. After a rest we walked the holy mile reciting the Rosary that ended with sprinkling at the Anglican Shrine. After Supper we went to the Catholic Parish Church for adoration, benediction and candle lit procession to the outdoor image of the Blessed Mother in the grounds of the Catholic Accommodation Centre. Later that night we joined our Orthodox brethren at the village of Great Walsingham for part of the Easter Vigil celebrations. It was truly an ecumenical day.
On Divine Mercy Sunday we started the day by joining in the Parish Mass at the Catholic Parish Church and after lunch we walked to the National Shrine where Monsignor Andrew Burnham led the Divine Mercy devotions.
Back to the village, we found the coach waiting to take us back home, all content for a spiritual weekend at the feet of Mary.
For a number of pilgrims this was their first time in Walsingham, it was a joy for the veterans to see these people exploring and cherishing all the new experiences they sampled; and many of them already booked for next year!
For me there were several moving moments during the week-end. I mention only two for the sake of brevity. At the Orthodox Church the lights were dimmed as we progressed in the readings of Scripture. When complete darkness engulfed us the priest came out holding one small candle asking us all to approach it and partake of the light of Christ. In a few seconds the whole church was engulfed in a warm glow of light highlighting faces of disciples of the Lord in 2012. We then moved around the church, taking the light outside to enter a building radiant with light and adorned with an exquisite icon of the Resurrection. For three times the priest came out of the iconostasis and in English, Greek and Russian proclaimed that Christ is risen. For us in the Octave of Easter it was truly magical to share in this intense moment of faith of our brothers and sisters. Walking back to the Little Walsingham the biting cold wind stopped and we were all enjoying the mild, wonderful night with the words Christ is Risen ringing in our ears and delighting our hearts.
The other moment was the privilege I had in sitting in the confessional for two hours at the National Shrine during the Divine Mercy devotions. While those in church where living the devotion I was humbled in experiencing it face to face each time I pronounced the words of absolution. How careless of us when we do not take this great sacrament with true disposition of heart. It really is a miraculous sacrament.