By Aluriun Curd BY the gateway to an old English garden leading to a stune-built house in Rochester, sonic 30 pilgrims on their way to Canterbury paused on Saturday to pray for the conversion of England.
The little house was for many years the home of Rochester's martyr-Bishop, St. John Fisher.
As men and women went to their shops and offices, a cream and green coach left Westminster Cathedral on the first of the instructional pilgrimages arranged by the new Master of the Guild of Our Lady of Ransom, Fr. G. L. Goulder.
Following the Pilgrims' Way along Oxford Street from Tyburn Vale through the route of Watling Street to Canterbury, Fr. Goulder gave a commentary on many scenes of C:atholic interest along the way.
Crossing the " Challoner country" of Holborn, the coach came by the lands of the Bishops of Ely to " Smoothfield," St. Paul's, and through the City to London Bridge, and down into Southwark by the long-gone prisons, inns, monasteries and churches.
Up Shooters Hill, with memories of the days when Henry VIII, Catherine of Aragon, and St. Thomas More played as children in the nearby woods, and of a sadder day when St. John Fisher, frail and tired, rested on his last long journey to London.
From Rochester it was but an hour's journey to Canterbury-to St, Dunstan's Church. where lies enshrined the lead-encased head of St. Thomas More-and to the start of the Penitential Mile to the Cathedral itself.
The pilgrims went on to the oldest church in the. land, to St. Martin's, built by Christian Roman legionaries. Queen Bertha, Christian wife of the pagan King Ethelbert of Kent, heard Mass there and later welcomed St. Augustine in his mission to the Jutes. They prayed by the site of St. Augustine's tomb-now a white stone cross in the grass of the ruined abbey hearing his name-and at the scene of the martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket.
St. Francis was still preaching in Assisi when the Franciscan friary, the oldest in England, was built in Canterbury. From the old stone building set amid gardens and standing on arches over a branch or the Stour, the pilgrims. not all of them Catholics and only a few of them Ransomers, went on to Benediction at St. Thomas's Church.
Because of the popularity of these pilgrimages-the first coach was filled within 24 hours of the first announcement Fr. Goulder is arranging others for the New Year.