On Saturday our two parishes here in Chelmsford went on pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. In 1061 a Saxon noblewoman, Richeldis de Faverches, had a vision of the Virgin Mary in which she was instructed to build a replica of the house of the Holy Family in Nazareth in honour of the Annunciation. When it was built the Holy House in Walsingham was panelled with wood and contained a wooden statue of an enthroned Virgin Mary with the child Jesus seated on her lap.
In 1153 a priory was built for a community of Augustinian canons (our own order is part of the wider family of Augustinian canons) and the site became a major centre for pilgrims for all over England and beyond. Several kings of England also came to the shrine and even Henry VIII made a major benefaction to the priory.
With the coming of the new religion in England the priory was dissolved and the statue of Our Lady was taken to Chelsea and burnt in public.
Weep Weep O Walsingam,
Whose dayes are nights,
Blessings turned to blasphemies,
Holy deeds to despites
In the 19th century the shrine was happily revived and His Holiness Pope Leo XIII himself blessed the new statue of Our Lady of Walsingham. Walsingham continues to be a centre of devotion for English Catholics, who continue to pray for the return of our country to the faith of its fathers.
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 supreme 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.
Jesu, Angliam converte!
Augustine et Norberte
Intercedite pro me!