Pilgrimage has held a significant place in Christian experience for many centuries, a journey with intent, often with a holy site as destination, on which the pilgrim discovers new things about relationship with God, with others encountered on the way, with oneself. This intentional journey is often viewed as a model of our journey through life to our heavenly home.
Jason Brown, one of our servers, has recently returned from walking the Camino to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, the shrine of our St James’, and an ancient place of pilgrimage. We look forward to hearing from Jason about his experience: he has gifted us a pilgrim cross, which you may find in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.
On my recent UK visit, I made pilgrimage to Walsingham, a small Norfolk village (www.walsinghamanglican.org.uk). People have journeyed here to pray since the 11th century, when the Lady Richeldis received a vision in which Mary asked her to build a copy of the holy family’s house in Nazareth. So Walsingham became England’s Nazareth, and the restored Anglican Shrine has its Holy House, in which there is an image of Mary and her Child, Our Lady of Walsingham, copied from a medieval seal. Since the 1920s revival, Walsingham has been a focus of prayer and intercession, with pilgrims coming individually and in parish groups, and for larger gatherings too, such as the National, Healing and Youth Pilgrimages.
The weekend pilgrimage is a time of retreat and renewal, with pilgrims sharing in processions and liturgies, with opportunity to walk the Stations of the Cross, to make confession, to receive the sacrament of healing, to offer intercession together for the church, the world and all in need. Lamps burn in the Holy House as a sign of prayer for individuals and churches: there is now a lamp for our St James’.
With all generations, as Magnificat reminds us, we call Mary blessed: she who gave flesh to Christ in her womb, and who still today says to us, as she did to the wedding guests at Cana, “Do whatever Jesus tells you.” [John 2.5] The image of Our Lady of Walsingham reminds us that now, as then, Mary always points us to Jesus, her Son.