TIMOTHY McDONALD previews centenary celebrations at Walsingham
TUESDAY 19 August 1997 will be the first day in a year of celebration, marking 100 years of pilgrimage to Walsingham in modern times.
In 1061, the Lady of the Manor of Walsingham, a devout woman named Richeldis was transported in a dream to Nazareth where Our Lady asked her to build a replica of the Holy House where the Angel Gabriel announced to her that she was to be the Mother of God.
Richeldis built the house and by the Middle Ages it had become one of the premier places of pilgrimage, in fact the most important Marian Shrine in Christendom. All this came to an end with the dissolution of Walsingham Priory, and the consequent demolition of the Holy House in 1538, when pilgrimages to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham all but ceased. The Holy House and the Priory, which had been built beside it, were razed to the ground and apart from the parish churches in the neighbourhood, the only building standing connected with the Shrine was the 14th Century Slipper Chapel.
In the late 19th century, in the wake of the Oxford Movement, Fr Philip Fletcher, founder of the Guild of Our Lady of Ransom, answered an advertisment from Fr George Wrigglesworth, pleading for help to rebuild the Catholic Parish Church in King's Lynn. Walsingham, at that time, was in the Catholic Parish of King's Lynn. The two priests met and became great friends, and made a pact "to revive the great pilgrimage to Wal-singham". Out of that pact comes the reason for our celebrations, beginning on 19 August with a SolemnMass at the Red Mount Chapel in King's Lynn. This will be followed on 20 August by a Solemn Mass at the Slipper Chapel, the National Shrine of Our Lady.
OUR TWO DAYS of Pilgrimage will follow the same format as in 1897, when the statue chosen and blessed in Rome by Pope Leo XIII for Fr Wrigglesworth's new church, was received at King's Lynn Railway Station on 19 August and processed by way of the Red Mount Chapel (one of the ancient chapels used by Pilgrims to Walsingham) to the new church.
On 20 August 1897, the day after the solemn events at the Holy house in King's Lynn, about 50 pilgrims boarded the 12.08 train to Walsingham. On their arrival they walked to the Slipper Chapel where they said prayers in the meadow before entering the Chapel for further devo tions. They returned to the village, where they visited the Priory ruins and prayed at the site of the original shrine.
Tuesday 19 August will begin a year of celebration in music, liturgy and song with concerts by world renowned artists and many new National Pilgrimages. A Flower Festival in May 1998 to coincide with the Anglican National Pilgrimage and a Forty Hours Devotion at Corpus Christi 1998 will be two of the major events. The majority of the concerts will be held in the Chapel of Reconciliation, a modern building at the National Shrine with excellent acoustics. September 1998 will see a week long festival to conclude the year of celebration.
Timothy McDonald is Centenary Co-ordinator of the National Shrine, Walsingham