Tuesday, 30 August 2016

LMS Ely to Walsingham Pilgrimage 2016

3 Days. 60 miles. At least 60 decades of the Rosary. Countless litanies. Scores of hymns and marching songs. Many friendships. Innumerable graces. Deo gratias!

If you haven't done this pilgrimage, do consider it. It was my first time, and I'm pleased to say that I managed to walk the whole thing. It is physically difficult, but nothing that a reasonably fit adult can't manage. 

In a way it needs to be gruelling in order to reach that place of inner peace that allows for fruitful prayer. For me it was a profoundly spiritually healthy experience and one which I've been waiting many years to do... I had to wait until my children were either old enough to complete the walk themselves (around 11-12 seems to be realistic) or were old enough to be left for 5 days with somebody else while I was on pilgrimage  (which is what we did with the littlies - 7 & 9 - this year). The older two children joined us. 

Walking a pilgrimage as a family (or partial family)  is probably quite different than walking alone: I was moved by how stoic my children were in the face of  demanding physical hardship, how prayerful they were, how cheerful and helpful they were to others. Walking in prayer for long hard miles with my husband nourished our marriage in way that I didn't expect. 

Walking alone or with old or new friends offered countless possibilities for insights and inspirations. Having confession heard by an excellent priest whilst walking through a forest was a novel (but very positive) experience. 60 miles is a long way. It feels much further on foot than it does, say, in a car or even on a bike. 

The last mile on the Saturday was probably the hardest: the sky clouded over, the wind became fierce and heavy rain lashed down. Still, we managed to enter Great Massingham singing Jubilate Deo. Loudly, happily; a glorious burst of praise. 

May God help us all to keep singing in the face of adversity until next year's pilgrimage. 

I hope I see some of you there. 

We arrived for the first night: fresh and ready to walk...

There was a sense of excitement the evening before we left Ely...

Ely Cathedral: the start of our pilgrimmage. Morning of Day 1 (Friday)

Ely Cathedral

Ely Cathedral

Ely Cathedral

Ely Cathedral. This photo and the next three -- A history lesson: the work of the iconoclasts. One has to wonder how convinced the 16th C proto-Isis "reformers" were about what they were doing to leave walls that speak more eloquently of their folly than any historian could do.

 Reformation vandalism.

Reformation vandalism.

Reformation vandalism.

Leaving Ely. Mile one of sixty.

"Faith of our fathers, Mary's prayers
Shall win our country back to thee;
And through the truth that comes from God
England shall then indeed be free."

"Blest Isle! With machless, with machless beauty crown'd,
And many hearts to guard the fair."

The first and very welcome rest stop. Little did we know we were about to head into 90 minutes of walking through knee-high nettles!

"Lorsque la nuit paisible
Nous invite au sommeil,
Près de nous, invisible,
Restez jusqu'au réveil"

This was one of the stranger signs we saw along the way.

"Oxburgh Hall: built by the Bedingfeld family in the 15th C an they have lived here ever since. Today mos of hte house belongs to the National Trust , but the Bedingfeld's still live there and they still own the chapel. We are very grateful to Sir Henry and Lady (Mary) Bedingfeld for welcoming us to Oxburgh Hall and allwing us to use the chapel for Mass." (From the LMS Pilgrim's Handbook 2016) 

A brief rest stop along the road.

Castle Acre priory: founded 1089, stolen by Henry VIII & given to the Duke of Norfolk in 1539; the monks were turned out and the priory was left in ruins. More fruits of the "Reformation". 

"Faith of our fathers, living still
In spite of dungeon, fire and sword;
O how our hearts beat high with joy
Whenever we hear that glorious Word!"

Soaking wet! A torrential deluge hit us the last mile of our longest walking day. The 24th mile was the hardest. However thanks to Lucy Shaw and Clare Auty and their able team, a wonderful meal and moral support awaited the cold, wet pilgrims.

Father, in heaven employ thy prayer,
lest we, whom happier times befriend,
forgetful of our birthright there,
On this dull world our love should spend."

"Yet a thin stream of pilgrims still walked the old way,
And hearts longed to see this night turned into day."

In addition to the the hardships, great fun was had by all, new friendships forged and old ones cemented.

Along the pilgrims' way

Getting closer... how glad we were to see this sign!

Almost there. Lovely husband multitasking while carrying the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham.

The Pilgrim's mile between the Basilica of Our Lady of Walsingham and the ruins of Walsingham Abbey. 
Traditionally this is walked barefoot.

The ruins of the Walsingham Abbey. The former site of the Holy House is marked by a wooden plaque in the grass.

"But at last came a King who had greed in his eyes,
And he lusted for treasure with fraud and with lies.

The order went forth; and with horror 'twas learned,
That the Shrine was destroyed and the Image was burned"

40 English Martyrs: picture in the Pilgrims' Guest House, Walsingham village.

Monday morning Mass, Votive Mass of Our Lady with commemoration of the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist; Basilica of Our Lady of Walsigham (aka the Slipper Chapel). Celebrant is Fr Michael Rowe; My eldest son (14) is MC.

"Still pilgrim feet are treading, along the holy way,
Hostess of England's Nazareth, receive us home today"

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this delightful account of the Walsingham Pilgrimage I've heard so much about via friends on the annual Chartres pilgrimage. I hope to finally join you next year, Deo volente.