Walsing what? Walsingham of course! It’s England’s biggest shrine to Our Lady.
Personally I’d never heard of the place before coming to England and because in true Marian style it’s in the middle of nowhere, it’s not exactly easy to get to!
Now I’ve been to quite a few Marian shrines; Lourdes, Knock, Vailankanni and of course Medjugorje not to mention other shrines such as Paray le Monial, Ars, San Giovanni Rotundo……So I was expecting something of the same flavour.
However Walsingham was something very different and I must admit that I really liked it!
It was very peaceful just like Medjugorje but without the crowds of people and the hussle and bustle of all the crowds and shops.
Actually it reminded me of the peace of Medjugorje around October or November time when there are almost no pilgrims and one doesn’t have to negotiate crowds of people at every turn!
Walsingham also has a beautiful story. I hope I get this right but from what I understand Our Lady appeared to a woman almost 1000 years ago and showed her in a vision the house where Our Lady would have lived in Nazareth. Our Lady then asked for a replica of the house to be built in Walsingham and for it to become a place of prayer.
This is the spot where the house was constructed before it was destroyed some hundreds of years later during the English revolution. The King of England at the time had no love or need of the Queen of heaven!
And yet the place of pilgrimage still remains and it is truly beautiful and very prayerful.
Many lost sheep flock to this area for the intercession and help of Mary, the mother of the good shepard!!
I came with my own special intention and that being my ministry of prayer and healing to the LGBT community.
Satan the perpetual discourager was really doing his best yesterday and this morning to put me off….thoughts flooded my mind of experiences of rejection and hurt from Medjugorje and indeed other places and that I was in for more of the same, especially as Rayne was with me!
Anyway, Satan is best to be ignored because usually when he gets angry it means that the opposite is about to happen.
He is only a creature with limited power and energy so if he chooses to direct some of it towards me or you, it’s a sure sign that we are doing something good for God.
And good for God it was. As the bus was already full when we got on we ended up sitting with strangers, Rayne with a philipinno lady and me with an english lady.
Both were really nice and motherly and accepted us immediately into the group!
We hadba beautiful mass in Latin close to what is called the ‘Slipper Chapel’ which is one mile from the apparition site.
Long ago people would travel to the slipper chapel by car or horse or wherever and then get off, take off their shoes (slippers) and walk the last mile to the apparition site by foot!
After mass we then walked the “Holy mile” and arrived prayerfully at our destination.
As I entered through the arch I became very conscious of the LGBT community and of the souls that I was bringing with me in my heart.
I also became conscious of Rayne by my side and every so discreetly held his hand as we walked in. PDA’s (public displays of affection) are very difficult for gay people in these types of places where on one hand one wants to rejoice in the love of God and be free and on the other one doesn’t want to upset other pilgrims or attract trouble from those who don’t understand.
Only gay catholics can really relate to this dilemma and pain and how it causes old wounds to be reopened time after time and yet that is the cross and an opportunity for further healing and spiritual strengthening through the pain.
After praying at the park we had almost an hour to wander about but there were so many little places to go that it wasn’t enough time.
What hit me was how ecumenical Walsingham is with shrines and churches from all denominations such as Anglican (big shrine,) to Orthodox to Methodist and of course Catholic.
Isn’t it amazing that while we may all worship differently and have different beliefs that at the end of the day we are all praying to the same mother.
I’ve never seen this ecumenical dimension in any other shrine where often one can get the impression that Our Lady is owned by catholics!
How easy for us to forget that she is the mother of all nations and creeds and colours and listens to each prayer from every child even if they are not Christian at all! Our Lady knows them even if they don’t know her.
Finally we got on the bus shortly after 5pm and that’s where I am now, on the bus in the dark and stuck in traffic with Rayne across the aisle from me.
And so I thank Our Lady with all my heart for this wonderful day, trusting the she is helping me with my ministry and I’m already asking her to bring me back to Walsingham very soon with Rayne and my bike so that I can finish my exploration of the shrine and enjoy cycling in the Norfolk countryside!
“Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for me, pray for us and pray for the gay community. That more and more people experience your tender motherly love and come back to Jesus .”
Thanks for reading,