A sleepy but happy band of 11 pilgrims gathered in church at 7.15 on Monday September18th for a celebration of Mass before embarking on Master Thomas,our coach, for our journey to Walsingham.
As we set off Father Andrew gave each of us a sealed envelope containing a rosary. Driven expertly by Tom, our excellent driver, we paused for lunch at Spalding. The journey passed very quickly and it didn't seem long before we were swooping down the narrow lanes and into the loveliest medieval village.
The coach deposited us at the entrance to the Shrine and we trundled our cases to the Green Room where we were warmly welcomed and given our keys.
We had to act fast and deposit our cases in our rooms before meeting at the Altar of the Annunciation for the First Visit to the Holy House. Here, in the replica of Our Lord's home in Nazareth, we greeted Our Lady. Time then for a quick unpack and wash before some went to the Shrine Church for Evening prayer followed by Shrine Prayers where our rosaries were used for the first time.
Then a stroll through the garden, still looking lovely in autumnal foliage, to the refectory for supper. A choice of hot meal or cold buffet awaited us and we tucked in contentedly, not forgetting to partake of the odd glass of wine at the same time. Most of us were accommodated in Richeldis so after supper we adjourned to the comfortable lounge on the ground floor where our butler, “Parker” (alias Trevor), served us gin with an amazing variety of additives which included star anise, lemon and lime - plus a spot of tonic. Strangely the kitchen contained not only tea making facilities but also a plentiful supply of glasses!
The following morning we were up with the lark for Mass in the Holy House then ate a good breakfast before boarding Master Thomas for a spin to Cromer. The aim – to seek out crab! It is de rigeur to eat crab in Cromer and all went their separate ways to find it.
The weather, fortunately, remained fine and sunny and it was pleasant to stroll through the streets down to the front. Having satisfied the inner man there was a pier to explore , shops to trawl and a parish church to visit before making our way back to the coach and heading back to base.
Most of us went to Evening prayer and Shrine Prayers and then to Supper. This evening The Sprinkling at the Well and the Ministries of Healing and Reconciliation took place in the Church and the Service ended with Benediction. The entire service is very moving and affected many people extremely deeply.
Once again we met in the lounge to talk over our day. It's surprising how many good ideas are formulated when you spend time together.
On Wednesday after breakfast we met at the Shrine Church to walk the outdoor Stations of the Cross and again were blessed by good weather. At 11am the Pilgrimage Mass was held. During our stay each group takes a part in the services so we were asked to read the lesson and psalm. After Mass the rest of the day was free until prayers so some had lunch at Norton's (the Cafe), others went off to the Pub , and the afternoon was spent exploring the village, visiting the Shrine Shop,looking at the Priory Ruins,discovering the tiny Orthodox church, strolling the mile to the Slipper Chapel, revisiting Norton's for afternoon tea and other relaxing activities.
At 8.15 we gathered in the Shrine Church for the Sermon and processed out into the darkness of the Shrine Gardens singing The Walsingham Hymn. Ian and Terry carried the statue of Our Lady and Neil crucifered. The long procession of pilgrims bearing their flickering candles wound its' way around the serpentine paths and returned to the Church for Benediction. Almost the end of our Pilgrimage.
The next morning we met for the final time in the Holy House for Mass. At 11am we said goodbye to the Shrine, boarded Master Thomas and drove to the Slipper Chapel for a very brief visit before setting off for home.
As Father Andrew said in his message to us before our Pilgrimage, Walsingham is about prayer and worship and we all felt drawn to join together in everything that took place during our stay and were enriched and exalted by the experience. He also said that it is about being together and learning to appreciate each other's company. We had an extremely happy and blessed time together, thanks to the hard work of Ian who planned the pilgrimage and to Father Andrew who led our worship.
Special thanks too to our driver, Tom who looked after us so well on our travels. Now we can begin to look forward to next year.
Come and join us!
The 2018 Pilgrimage will take place 24-27 September. Sign up in the Narthex now.