Saturday 15th September saw the pilgrimage of the Personal Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham to Walsingham. The National Shrine of our Lady just outside Little Walsingham was overflowing with people. Several priests led by the Ordinary, Mgr Keith Newton, led a moving Sung Mass of our Lady of Sorrows. The liturgy was truly noble in its simplicity and simple in its nobility. The hymns were well chosen as was evidenced by the devotion in the singing. I found the homily truly inspiring and hope that it will be made available for many to read and ponder. The pilgrimage to Little Walsingham was joyful and blessed by the sun, it was a pity that those of us in front could not hear the leader reciting the Rosary, but I assume that it is difficult to achieve that. Arriving in Little Walsingham to the hymn of our Lady we were welcomed in the Anglican Shrine and led into sprinkling by the altar of the Mysteries of Light in the gardens as the Anglican Shrine Church would not accommodate the large number of pilgrims; ten priests administered sprinkling. It was good to be part of this, an event that brought Ordinariate folk together from all over the country – Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity. Ps 133:1.
It was great to meet so many friends, also from our Anglican past. As always Bishop Lindsay Urwin is a delight to meet and so refreshing. His welcome, as ever was warm and genuine. It was also good to meet Anglicans who live in Walsingham, and I was pleased to feel that after a year from the brothers and sisters taking different paths there are clear signs of acceptance and understanding, hopefully a sign of better things yet to come in accepting and honouring each other.
During the pilgrimage I could not stop reflecting on our patrimony. The Mass was straight from the Roman Rite, no rubrics or ceremonial that departed an iota. It ended with the consecration of the Ordinariate to our Lady, something that we were not used to in our Anglican days but which was so so right, in fact the highlight for me. What is our patrimony then? I enjoyed reading the Apostolic Exhortation “Ecclesia in Medio Oriente” of Pope Benedict XVI promulgated, the day before our pilgrimage, in Lebanon. In its opening paragraphs the Pope writes that the rites of the Eastern Churches belong to the patrimony of the whole Church of Christ, in this Church shines forth the tradition coming down from the Apostles through the Fathers, and which, in its variety affirms the divine unity of the Catholic Faith. (Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, 6 and CCEO, 39) The mention of the Fathers is key for me. The Church of England since its 1549 liturgy, departed from an approved Catholic rite, to something that could accommodate a variety of views, as all the controversies of the late Victorian era regarding worship attest. When through Bl J H Newman and the Oxford Movement luminaries, the Fathers were rediscovered with zest, the second generation of Tractarians became known as Ritualists. The discovery of the Fathers led to a return to a liturgy that is more consonant with the Faith Catholic. This happened in stages or according to different temperaments. In places it focused on vestments, in others manual acts, others in new liturgies and in other places still a combination of two or more of these. The study of the Fathers led to liturgical reform in the CofE. A liturgical reform paralleled by a theological reform which reached its zenith in theologians like Mascall.
This is the patrimony that as Anglicans we held in the CofE. Using the Roman Rite or Anglican liturgies that so influenced by the Tractarian Movement led to similar rites and the centrality of the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
Using that patrimony in the changing CofE, as I saw it, made us a distinct part of that church, maybe numerically small but not insignificant. However, for me it felt like singing the Lord’s song in a foreign land. So it was an organic development for some in that movement to accept with great joy the most generous offer of the Holy Father, as now we could cherish and uphold the Catholic rites resulting from the discovery of the Fathers in their own landscape.
I am often asked if the Ordinariate will grow and florish. I always reply that the definitive answer must be given in at least fifty years time. But living this pilgrimage and sharing in its joys I can see that the shoots are there, the acorn is well embedded, the ground fertile. May God’s will be done.