In April 2016 our society arranged a pilgrimage to Walsingham. 45 pilgrims (mainly from the Island) were accompanied by Fr. Jozef Gruszkiewicz and Fr. Jonathan Redvers Harris.
En route the pilgrims stopped at Oxburgh House, about 30 miles south west of Walsingham. This quintessential Tudor house, with its magnificent gatehouse and accessible priest’s hole, was built in 1482 by the Bedingfeld family. The present family still reside in the house and it has been in Catholic hands throughout the penal times. After a tour of the house and a visit to the priest’s hiding hole, Mass was offered in the family chapel by Frs. Jonathan and Jozef.
After settling into their accommodation in the village of Walsingham, the pilgrims were joined another pilgrim group from Manchester for Evening Prayer
In England it is Walsingham which has a special place in the hearts of all traditional Catholics. The history of this wonderful Marian Shrine, (England’s Nazareth) reminds us of our glorious past when piety and devotion were prominent in the Church and the faithful found hope, inspiration and consolation in Our Blessed Lady. Virtually all the kings and queens of England visited and prayed at Walsingham (until the Reformation). Many travelled the final mile from the Medieval Slipper Chapel barefoot. By tradition, pilgrims went to Confession here and removed their shoes before embarking on the final leg of their pilgrimage to the Shrine in Walsingham village. To show affiliation with those Medieval pilgrims, the Isle of Wight group walked from Walsingham, carrying the statue of Our Blessed Lady along the holy mile, whilst reciting the rosary and litany of Our Lady and singing Marian hymns.
At the heart of any pilgrimage is the Mass. This in itself is a means of bearing witness to our Catholic Faith; for the truths of our Faith are all contained within and flow from the Sacrifice of the Mass and we joined in the mid day Pilgrim Mass at the Chapel of Reconciliation and both Island priests concelebrated.
Afterwards most pilgrims visited the Slipper Chapel for private prayer and devotion and passed through the Holy Door to obtain a Year of Mercy Indulgence. After the Holy Hour with Exposition and Benediction, Mass was offered by Fr. Joe inside the Slipper Chapel.
In the evening two of the Ryde pilgrims gave a talk on the Dolour Rosary, which reflects on the seven sorrowful events in the life of Our Lady.
After Mass the next day in the Church of the Annuciation, the pilgrims visited the Medieval ruins for a guided tour. Fr. Jonathan led prayers at the site of the ancient Holy House built within the abbey ruins.
After lunch the group visited the Anglican shrine for a talk by Fr. Philip Barnes (interim shrine custodian) and they were sprinkled with Walsingham water from the same water source that flowed by the old abbey ruins.
There was some free time in nearby town of Wells next the Sea, which culminated in a visit to the Catholic church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, for rosary and devotions.
In the evening after Benediction, given by Fr. Jonathan, the pilgrims participated in the torchlight procession around the garden whilst singing “Immaculate Mary”, before leaving their lighted candles at the statue of Our Lady.
The following day pilgrims left to commence their journey back to the Island, having been refreshed spiritually. It is on pilgrimages that one often makes new friends and discover a little more about oneself, both as an individual and as a Catholic. “The most important part of any pilgrimage“, wrote G. K. Chesterton, “is going home afterwards“. This is not because we have reached our journey’s end, but because we have reached a new beginning. The purpose of any pilgrimage is to bring back something of what we have discovered to enrich our lives and the world in which we live. A pilgrimage also reminds us of the greater pilgrimage here on earth; that which takes us, please God, to our eternal home.
We journeyed back having been inspired by Our Blessed Lady on this Year of Mercy Pilgrimage, whilst reminding themselves that she is their hope and consolation and it is through her intercession that the One True Faith, (universal in these shores for a thousand years) will flourish once again. England has always been a place of devotion to Our Lady, a special place set apart for her use alone. This has been at different times in history, a reality, a hope and a dream, and now it has been raised in stature by Pope Francis, who has declared it to be a (minor) Basilica.
English Catholics recognise the seed that rose from St. Augustine. They remember its steadfast loyalty to the Holy See; its deep and tender devotion to Our Blessed Lady – the Shrine at Walsingham and all those medieval poems, prayers and hymns that were written in her honour. They have so much in which to take pride. They take courage from the history of Catholic England; not least from the glorious band of martyrs who went to their execution radiant and light-hearted. Isle of Wight Catholics remember especially their own Island martyrs, Blessed Robert Anderton and Blessed William Marsden, whose anniversary of martyrdom is on Tuesday, 26th April. Their faith in adversity and their devotion to Almighty God and His Church gives them heart, a pride in their Catholic forebears and an even deeper love of the Holy Faith; that same Faith which was evident at the holy Shrine at Walsingham
The group stopped en route home for Mass at the beautiful little church of St. Edward the Confessor at Sutton Park, Guildford, where (like Oxburgh House) the Faith was never lost throughout the penal times. This is one of the finest examples of a mid Victorian English country Catholic church in the south. Sutton Park was a recusant centre during the penal times. The present church, built in 1876, evolved from the Mass Centre at the nearby Sutton Place House. For a small country church, there was much to see inside. It is often said that both the Reformation and subsequently, Vatican II by-passed Sutton Place. This is one of the very few Catholic churches dedicated to the 11th century saint and king, who died 950 years ago. Afterwards the parish priest, Fr. Brian Taylor, spoke to pilgrims on the history of the church before they visited the ancient St. Edward’s well in the church garden.
This pilgrimage had been both successful and a spiritually uplifting experience. See photographs on our Gallery – Processions / Pilgrimage page.