Saturday, 24 September 2011

Happy Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham.

In 1061 Our Lady appeared to Richeldis of Walsingham, asking her to build a replica of the Holy House of Nazareth, where the Angel Gabriel had sought her consent to become the Mother of God.

This Holy House, and the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham it contained, became the greatest Shrine of Our Lady in the world, and was ranked alongside Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago de Compostela. It was known as ‘England’s Nazareth’ and was renowned for miraculous cures, answers to prayer, penance and thanksgiving.

In 1538 the Shrine was destroyed under the orders of Henry VIII, and the sacred image, along with many others, was publicly burnt in London. The Augustinians who looked after the Shrine, and the Franciscans in the village, were dispersed, and their religious houses ruined. Some men were put to death; hung, drawn and quartered on what is known today as the Martyrs’ Field, trying in vain to save the Shrine and Priory.

The restoration began in 1897 with the creation of a new Holy House within the Catholic Church at nearby King’s Lynn, for which Pope Leo XIII blessed a new statue. The first pilgrimage since the Reformation was made in that year to the fourteenth-century Slipper Chapel that had been preserved and restored. In 1934, the Slipper Chapel, containing a copy of the original image of Our Lady of Walsingham, was designated England’s National Shrine of Our Lady, by the bishops of England and Wales, with the approval of the Pope. Meanwhile, Anglicans too restored pilgrimage in 1922, by placing in their parish church an image of Our Lady of Walsingham. This was transferred in 1931 to a new Holy House and Pilgrimage Church built in the village.

Walsingham today is once again a powerhouse of prayer, and a major centre of pilgrimage for Catholics, Anglicans, Orthodox and others. It bears witness to the remarkable way in which Our Lady draws together the followers of her Son in unity and reconciliation. Devotion centres on the mystery of the Annunciation and Our Lady’s willing response to the Word of God, assisting us to respond in the same way to God’s will and to live out the meaning of the Incarnation, God made man, in our daily lives.

Prayer for England

O Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God
and our most gentle Queen and Mother,
look down in mercy upon England, thy
Dowry, and upon us all who greatly hope
and trust in thee.

By thee it was that Jesus,
our Saviour and our hope, was given
unto the world and he has given thee to
us that we might hope still more.
Plead for us thy children, whom thou didst
receive and accept at the foot of the cross,
O sorrowful Mother. Intercede for our
separated brethren, that with us in the
one true fold, they may be united to the
Chief Shepherd, the Vicar of thy Son.

Pray for us all, dear Mother, that by faith,
fruitful in good works we may all deserve
to see and praise God, together with thee
in our heavenly home. Amen.

Picture © ST PAULS
Text © ST PAULS taken from Novena in Honour of Our Lady of Walsingham

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