This Friday, 24 September, is the Memorial of Our Lady of Walsingham.
The story of Walsingham is enchanting. For it was in that tiny Norfolk village in the year 1061 that a noble lady called Richeldis had visions of the Blessed Virgin. In prayer, Our Lady showed her the Holy House of Nazareth, the home where Jesus, Mary and Joseph lived. She asked Lady Richeldis to build a replica of that house in the village, which she duly did, and so Walsingham soon became an international pilgrimage centre, after Rome and Jerusalem, one of the greatest in the mediaeval world. Thousands of pilgrims, from kings to the lowest, flocked there to pray to God, to honour Mary and to seek answers, often miraculous, to their prayers.
Although destroyed at the Reformation by King Henry VIII, in 20C the shrine was revived and today flourishes as a place where both Anglicans and Catholics go to pray. Indeed, Walsingham is now England’s national Marian shrine.
In the Middle Ages, more than any other land, England was known for its love of the Blessed Virgin: this is why it was called Mary’s Dowry, and why so many churches were dedicated to St Mary. Today it’s a very different story with so many souls adrift in danger, in the toxic swell of secular culture. We can thus do no better than turn to Mary, asking Her help. God did something new in 11C. Let us ask Him to do something new today. Let us pray through Mary for the evangelisation and conversion of England, for the spread of Christian values and for a reawakening in this land of Christian faith.