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Photo: Janet Wamsley
A group of parishioners and affiliates of St. Paul's are traveling to the United Kingdom and visiting several holy sites, culminating with a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in Norfolk. You can keep abreast of their experiences by visiting this page for regular blog postings!
April 21 to 25: Edinburgh
April 25 to 27: Lindisfarne
April 27 to 30: Walsingham
Every day the pilgrims send to the parish a journal entry accompanied by photos. Each description/reflection is written by a different pilgrim.
April 23: Today we visited the Ruins of Sweetheart Abbey. This Cistercian abbey was founded in 1273 by Devorgilla in memory of her husband John Balliol. It was the last monastic institution of any size established on Scottish soil. This morning Fr. Andrew spoke of the way beauty can open interiority in us. Our visit to this abbey ruin was very evocative of all the prayer that had taken place there. We bring the entire parish with us on our pilgrimage in our hearts and in our prayers.
Photo: Sweetheart Abbey Ruins
Photo: Lunch at Dumfries House
April 24: Change and decay...and possibly renewal. After Morning Mass at St. Mary's Episcopal Cathedral the pilgrims, accompanied by our friend Fr. Alan Gyle (Vicar of St Paul's Knightsbridge and a native Scot), proceeded via coach south of Edinburgh into the countryside to the hauntingly beautiful ruined Abbey of Dryburgh. There we wandered pensively among the ruins conjuring up images of monks long gone. From there we proceeded to the larger but also ruined Abbey of Melrose. Fr. Alan suggested that we reflect on change and decay not only in buildings but in life. "Change and decay all around I see. Oh, thou who changes not, abide with me "
After these somber reflections we proceeded north to the exquisitely beautiful once ruined Rosslyn Chapel but now a functioning Episcopal Church in process of restoration where we reflected more happily on the possibility of renewal not only in buildings but in life and the possibility of life eternal. We then returned to Edinburgh where some of attended Choral Evensong at St. Mary's Cathedral. And now a pilgrim's day has ended and we become normal holiday makers and proceed to a prearranged gala dinner on our last night in Edinburgh. Tomorrow we leave for the Holy Island of Lindisfarne and maroon ourselves at high tide for 2 days' pilgrims prayer and reflection.
Photo: Dryburgh Abbey
Photo: Dinner with Fr. Alan Gyle
April 25: Today we drove from the mainland across the narrow road to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. We talked about how separated we would be from the mainland during the rising tide and about the sense we would have of being marooned. But I am struck by the fact that in order for the monks to have lived on Lindisfarne they had to have water from wells coming up from the same earth that they had left on the mainland. It reminds me that we rely on that same fount of love that underlies all of our faith and that source is the living God.
Photo: Pilgrims being welcomed to St. Mary's Parish Church, Lindisfarne, by the vicar, The Rev. Dr. Paul Collins
Photo: Our Lady of Haddington, a stop on the route of Middle Ages pilgrims going from St. Andrews to Santiago de Compostela
April 26: After the highly scheduled though thoroughly enjoyable activities of early in the week, Thursday was a day for relative relaxation and reflection. After Morning Prayer and Mass at St. Mary's the pilgrims were free for the morning. At noon some of us met in the rain and wind to be led by our indomitable guide Margaret to St. Cuthbert's Isle. There Fr. Andrew led us in reflection and prayer. The closing of Psalm 135 which was read at Morning Prayer struck me as being evocative of our charge today to reflect.
Remember us, O God, and shape our history,
Form of our inward eyes
To see the shadow of the life giving cross
In the turbulence of our time;
For his sake who died for all,
Christ our Lord.
We thank God today for the opportunity to use our inward eyes. Tomorrow onward to Walsingham.
Photo: Pilgrims cross the tidal flats in driving rain from Lindisfarne to St Cuthbert's Isle
Photo: Fr. Andrew cuts his birthday cake.
April 27: As the tides parted, we promptly departed the Holy Isle of Lindisfarne with the inspirational words of Fr. Andrew offered to us during Morning Prayer on the coach. The tides of nature are in reality much like the tides of life and the tides of time. The tides come in, the tides go out. We all have high tides in life and low tides in life. With that premise, as the coach sloshed through the causeway, we headed south with a stronger perspective and better understanding of our spiritual heritage and the main focus point of our St. Paul's pilgrimage to Walsingham.
During a long day of coach travel we all were able to interact due to the sheer necessity of confinement on the coach. That helped us to better understand the confinement of the monastic life of the early spread of Christianity that we experienced at the Holy Isle. Yes, onward to Walsingham.
A highlight of the day's excursion was enjoying the gracious hospitality extended by our dear friend of St. Paul's, Bishop Martin Warner, a former administrator of the Shrine and now Bishop of Whitby. He led us in the singing of Regina Coeli to the tune of "Jesus Christ is risen today" prior to lunch. Then, like the pilgrims of old, the pilgrims of today trudged on in the rain, each of us with anticipation of our own individual as well as corporate participation of the Our Lady of Walsingham experience. Some of us first-timers, others of us repeat pilgrims, we experience the Shrine in our own way. We each have our own vision and way of seeing it. The shrine offers a unique opportunity for our individual and personal spiritual growth. There, relieved of the rigors of everyday life in the quiet venue and beauty of healing, reflection, prayer and intercession, we may look into our inner selves and try to understand better. We have come full circle realizing more than ever before the love and strength we gather from each other.
As we all know, things seem to come in threes at St Paul's, so we invite you to tune in to the next two days at the Shrine before we head home.
Photo: The Holy Island of Lindisfarne
Photo: Our lunch with Bishop Martin Warner at his Stokesley residence
Photo: The Pilgrims arrive at Walsingham.
April 28: The morning of April 28 was windy with rain and began early for the Pilgrims as they assembled in the Narthex of the Chapel of Mary. Standing underneath the Della Robbia bas relief of the Annunciation prayers offered by Fr. Philip Barnes, once seminarian intern at St. Paul's. As we moved to the Holy House within the chapel more prayers were offered up to our Lord and Mary, Queen of Heaven.
Later we boarded the bus and drove to Binham Priory, the facade of which is said to be the model for Westminster Abbey. After touring the Abbey grounds and interior of the Abbey church, we motored to Wells-Next-the-Sea to the house of Barbara Marlow, a dear friend of St. Paul's who entertained us with a lovely high tea. Also present was St. Paul's friend, Peter Macken of the Shrine.
After arriving back at the Shrine, all attended Mass celebrated by The Rt. Rev. John Salt, OGS, retired Bishop of St. Helena. The evening ended with an indoor procession (due to inclement weather ) led by Bishop Lindsay Urwin and song of " Ave, Ave, Ave Maria " followed by unction and reconciliation.
Photo: Welcome sign at The Bull Pub in Walsingham where glasses were raised to the memory of late parishioner Ken Springstead, a great friend of the Shrine
Photo: Edna prepares the tea table at Barbara Marlow's.
Photo: A highlight of our pilgrimage—tea given by Barbara Marlow with Peter Mackin also in attendance
Photo: A view of the Shrine grounds from a pilgrim's room in the new Milner Wing
April 29: Today, Sunday, is the last full day at the goal of our pilgrimage, the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. We have joined this pilgrimage weekend with a total of 220 fellow pilgrims resident here at the Shrine. With them we have followed the normal weekend schedule and so we gathered at the Parish Church of St. Mary in this village of Little Walsingham for their parish Mass at the very civilized hour of 11 a.m. We battled there and back through continuing wind and rain and like the US Postal service were not prevented from our rounds. Our efforts were rewarded with a glass of sherry (reminiscent of the Atrium after our 11:15) followed by a proper Sunday lunch of roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and trifle. I must say, fasting has not been an aspect of this pilgrimage!
In the afternoon we gathered with everyone else for the liturgy of Sprinkling with water from the Holy Well--actually not sprinkling at all, but as Bishop Lindsay reminded us we drank of the water to be reminded of Christ's desire to dwell within us; the sign of the cross was made on our foreheads reminding us of our baptisms and finally poured through our cupped hands as a sign of God's abundance and of His empowering us for mission and ministry. A procession of the Blessed Sacrament was followed by Benediction and corporately we made our "Last Visit" to the Holy House where we gave thanks for the blessings received and recited Simeon's song of farewell, Nunc Dimittis.
Before dinner this evening, after nearly all the other pilgrims here had departed, we gathered as our own group in the Holy House to offer our thanksgivings and intercessions and to say farewell to Our Lady of Walsingham until next time! Tomorrow morning most of our pilgrims wend their way back home, others stay for some time on their own, but everyone will return refreshed, renewed, and enlarged in every possible way! Fr. Andrew will stay on for a few days for the Chapter meeting of the Guardians here at the Shrine.
Pilgrimage such as ours gives not only depth and breadth to our life experience and broadens our perspective but also traces its imprint on our inner lives and recalls us to the imprint of the pilgrimage each of us is on and all of us are on together from the font to the grave and beyond to our heavenly home.
Photo: Breakfast in the refectory with Fr. Philip Barnes
Photo: The Holy House at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham
Photo: The pilgrims's last visit to The Holy House
Photo: Farewell dinner at the Norfolk Riddle
Words from Fr. Andrew on the Pilgrimage
Pilgrimages exist in most of the major religions of the world and they are usually associated with holy sites. The earliest Christian pilgrimages were of course to the Christian holy places of the Holy Land, the places of Our Lord's birth, ministry, death, and resurrection. Other places, too, became centers of pilgrimage. Walsingham in Norfolk in the now relatively remote northeast corner of Norfolk, England, has been a place of pilgrimage since the eleventh century, and until Henry VIII destroyed the shrine of Our Lady there and dissolved the monastery, kings, queens, and ordinary people made their way there on pilgrimage--to what has always been called "England's Nazareth," to the replica of the Holy House of Nazareth as directed in the vision of Our Lady to the Lady Richeldis. For nearly four hundred years the shrine remained dormant until the Anglican parish priest at the village church at Walsingham had a new statue carved and people started to return to make pilgrimage, and so the new shrine church was built in 1931. It is now once again a chief place of pilgrimage in England and is renowned for its ministry of healing and intercession, a ministry now also reflected in St. Paul's own Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham at the Lady Altar.
Such pilgrimages remind us of the "particularity" of our Faith. God came to us in Jesus of Nazareth in a particular person at a particular time and in a particular place; and that same Jesus, by the power of the same Spirit, comes to us particularly in our time and our spaces in Word and Sacrament, in fellowship and ministry. There are some places where the veil between earth and heaven is very thin--Walsingham is one such place--in no small part because of the devotion that is offered there by thousands of ordinary pilgrims each year, and the miracles that can accompany such.
We shall begin our time in Edinburgh--hardly known as a great catholic shrine destination but ancient and beautiful and within driving distance of hauntingly beautiful ruins of a flourishing monastic life prior to the Reformation. Iona, in the opposite corner of the country, is a place of pilgrimage and, rather like Walsingham, it is relatively modern in its aspect but ancient in its origins. It was from Iona at the beginning the seventh century that St. Aidan set out to found an abbey at Lindisfarne at the request of King Oswald and in imitation of St. Columba, the founder of the community at Iona. Like Iona, Lindisfarne, our next stop after Edinburgh, became a monastic center of Faith and learning and missionary activity. Like Iona, it is an island--the tides allowing access at low tide across a causeway now, but at other times of the day wonderfully cut off from the magnificent Northumbrian coast of northeast England. A place of majestic and lonely beauty, and another place where the "veil" is thin. And then on to Walsingham itself to join with dozens of other pilgrims from all over the UK--some of whom will have driven many hours on a bus after their work was finished at the other end of the country to be able to make their weekend visit to the Shrine.
But pilgrimages also remind us all, whether departing on Friday or not, that we are all in fact on pilgrimage in the journey of faith--or should be! Moving ever more deeply into Christ himself, sometimes gently led and at other times "ballisticized" by the operation of the Holy Spirit--the ongoing "Journey Godward."
Pilgrimages are also vicarious--they can be undertaken with one's own special intention--such an intention going to Walsingham years ago brought me here to St. Paul's, but that is another story!--and on behalf of others. As we set out (somewhat luxuriously and certainly more speedily compared to our eleventh century forbears!), we carry all our parish with us in what will also therefore be a great act of intercession for all those we leave behind. We shall carry everyone with us to these holy places in our hearts and in our prayers, and of course most especially the sick and infirm among us, even as we covet your prayers for safe passage and for blessings to be received and so to be shared upon our return, refreshed and renewed in the ongoing joys and adventures of the Paschal Mystery.