On Saturday 10 May, hundreds of pilgrims from across the Archdiocese of Birmingham once again made pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in Norfolk.

The pilgrims gathered for a peaceful Mass, celebrated by Canon Paul McNally in the Chapel of Reconciliation, before walking and praying the rosary in silent procession through the countryside to the ruins of the Abbey where the original shrine stood. 


"What is it that has brought so many of us to travel today so many miles to this shrine in an obscure valley in the Norfolk countryside with its vast skies?

"It is true that for hundreds of years in the Middle Ages, the shrine of Walsingham was one of the great places of pilgrimage, famous throughout Europe.  But after the destruction of the Priory, the probable burning of the original statue and the ban on pilgrimages, Walsingham settled back into being an agricultural backwater with an almost forgotten, distant memory of having a very special and unique past.

"But at the heart of that past, and our reason for being here today was and is that faith-filled, courageous, prayerful Virgin of Nazareth, Mary, the Mother of the Lord, venerated in this place under the title and image of ‘Our Lady of Walsingham.’ As English Catholics this image is woven into the fabric of our nation’s story and is a symbol of its rich, yet often forgotten Catholic heritage.

"It is Mary who has drawn us here, not only to remind us of who we were but more importantly who we are and who we are called to be.  At the heart of Mary’s life is her relationship with God, her openness to Him, her complete trust in Him, her willingness to follow His will in her life.  This was only possible because Mary was a woman of prayer and contemplation.

"Her life of prayer is clearly revealed in the Gospel story that we have just heard, the Wedding Feast at Cana.  Here, as in fact in all of Mary’s life, all that she is and was, points not to herself but to her Son. True Marian devotion always brings us to Christ.  That is why the fanatical iconoclasts who in the 16th Century destroyed images of Mary got it so wrong, because in destroying her they also destroyed her Son.

"But let us return to that wedding in Cana.  A joyful occasion that was about to change as the wine flow begins to run out. Embarrassment and discomfort are in the air.  Mary, sensitive to the needs of others comes forward, she knows how this will affect the young couple and their families, with quiet confidence she approaches her son, Jesus. 

"Mary does not tell Jesus what to do, she does not offer her own solution, she simply says, “They have no wine.” This is a beautiful model for prayer. When we come before God, telling Him about our concerns, our joys, and our sorrows, we should do so with humility and with the realization that our solutions may make things worse. We simply need to have trust in God’s wisdom and love.

"Mary’s next words, are so profound and so important, they are in fact the last words that Mary utters in the whole of the Scriptures, “Do whatever he tells you.” Mary is showing us the importance of obedience and faith in God.  Even though Jesus’ response at first seems dismissive, Mary trusts that He will act in the best way and at the best time.  At the heart of prayer, continuous faith in God is essential, especially in the most difficult and trying of circumstances. We may not always understand how and when God will act but we must trust in Him, that He will do so at His own time and in His own way. 

"In the end Jesus performs His first miracle and transforms water into the finest wine, going far beyond what was expected.  God is abundantly generous. Our prayers may be simple, but His response can and so often is extraordinary.

"Mary, as the model of prayer, teaches us to be attentive to the needs of others.  That we bring their needs and our own to God in prayer, with trust and without demanding how things will be resolved.  Finally, Mary shows that we must have faith that God will answer in His own perfect way and time.

"So today let us draw inspiration from Mary as Our Lady of Walsingham.  Let her be the model for our lives in prayer.  Like the pilgrims from all ages who have come to this shrine, let us ensure that we have time in our lives for quiet reflection and heartfelt conversations with God.  And when at times doubt or fear cloud our minds, let us turn to Our Lady of Walsingham, our intercessor.  Entrust our petitions to her care, and know that through her intercession, they will reach the loving embrace of her Son.

"May the centuries of prayer that have made this place holy, inspire us to deepen our relationship with God.  May Our Lady of Walsingham pray for us, for our Archdiocese, for our nation, and for all who in our world are searching for that solace and that peace that only God’s presence can bring."

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Walsingham Pilgrimage

Video: Walsingham 2024