Walsingham Review 1

extracts from Walsingham Review Number 1 June 1961
What’s New The Chapel of the Nativity has been enriched by the splendid baroque reredos given by the Dean and Chapter of Milwaukee Cathedral and sent to us through the generosity of their Cell of the SOLW. This has entailed making a new altar which has a front of Norfolk pebble work and a niche into which the Relic of the True Cross will be placed when a safe and suitable grille has been put over it. The altar that was in this chapel is now in the hall which leads to the Orthodox Chapel and an altar piece of the Martyrdom of Saint Laurence is being painted for it. Those who know the history of Walsingham will remember that the original Shrine had a famous Chapel of Saint Laurence. An image of St Scholastica has been placed on the corbel over the entrance to St Joseph’s Chapel and appropriately surveying the choir. At the time of writing we are expecting an ancient image of St Benedict which has been painted and decorated and which will adorn the Chapel of St Augustine and St Benedict. In the Foundations Garden under the well-head has been placed a striking group of Our Lady appearing to Richeldis. This is the work of Miss Hawke who lives in Walsingham and has done it in the very little spare time she has from her exacting work for the blind. On the front of the Shrine is a splendid design of the same subject by Mr Francis Stephens and put up temporarily to mark the 900th anniversary. There are some new framed notices and the titles of the chapels done in Miss Chadwick’s exquisite script. Amongst things being planned is a new reredos for the Chapel of the Agony in the Garden which will depict this Mystery as this is now the only chapel which has no representation of the Mystery after which it is named. Things which are wanted A new Pilgrim Refectory built up near the kitchens. This would cost several thousand pounds but at the moment all the food has to be carried over and at big pilgrimages we cannot get everyone in. The image on the front of the Shrine is a temporary flat cut-out put up in 1931 when the Holy House was rebuilt. It is high time we had a permanent work of art. This would probably cost £250 but it would make a wonderful memorial and would be seen by thousands who never go inside the Shrine. As always we need vestments and linen and we are most grateful for the many gifts of this kind bestowed upon the Shrine. Many people have made kneelers, some of them of exquisite design and it does not want many more to furnish the Shrine completely. Miss O’Ferrall, Vicarage Flat, Walsingham, will provide all details for those who would finish this job. Whit-Monday at Walsingham At 4.00 am I was awaked by the sound of “Stabat Mater” being sung on the Way to the Cross. It was those who had been keeping Vigil all night coming to the end of their Watch. But before they had begun Mass at 5.30 in the Holy House the pilgrims of the dawn had already begun to arrive and the altars of the Shrine Church were already in use. Over 50 Masses were offered and when the Procession left for the High Mass in the Abbey Grounds two Low Masses were still going on in the Shrine. All through the morning the buses arrived from all parts of the country and queues formed at the Holy Well to be sprinkled while a smaller, but substantial queue waited for the Confessionals. At 12.45 the Bishop of Thetford entered the Shrine Church, and six priests, all of them Norfolk incumbents from surrounding parishes, shouldered the Image of Our Lady and, escorted by the Guardians and, for the first time, by Clerks, Lay-Clerks and Dames of the Order of Our Lady of Walsingham, we set out for the Abbey Grounds. The Precentor of Norwich Cathedral intoned the Litany of Our Lady in a voice of such fine timbre that many people found it hard to believe that it was not being relayed. For the 5,000 people assembled on the lawns of the Abbey it was a moving sight as the Procession came through the ancient Gateway and they saw the much loved image of Our Lady, so often seen in the dimness of the Holy House, now carried triumphantly in the bright sunlight of this glorious day. Amongst those waiting in the Abbey Ground was the Archimandrite Nicholas Gibbes at whose suggestion the Orthodox Chapel in the Shrine was originally planned. The Mass was sung by the choir of St Peter’s Streatham, and the servers of the Mass were provided by Brentwood. It was very much a congregational act of worship; and the setting of the ruined arch of the ancient church of the Augustinian Canons, while close by over the high wall the Campanile of the restored Shrine Church was clearly visible, linked the past and present in a very symbolic way. Father Dalby, the Superior-General of SSJE, took care that his audience were comfortable and relaxed before beginning a sermon which was listened to with rapt attention. It was an oration worthy of so great an occasion and a masterful exposition of St Mary’s place in the mystery of the Incarnation and so in the Church of Christ. The Bishop came before the altar and intoned the Te Deum and I think we all found a new richness in this great hymn of praise after the discourse to which we had just listened. Then, after the Bishop had sung a blessing, we set off on the long Processional route back to the Shrine. Soon, the whole village was ringing to the sound of “Ave”. There is a moment when one reaches the gateway leading out to the Sunk Road and looks back, when the size of the crowd is impressed upon one as one sees the solid phalanx of faithful laity with no sign of the end of the Procession. After the Image had been carried back into the Holy House the Bishop intoned the Gospel of the Annunciation telling of the visit of the Archangel Gabriel to the original house of the Blessed Virgin at Nazareth. A hush fell over the whole village as the Blessed Sacrament was carried to the doors of the Shrine and Benediction was given and then the bells in the Campanile rang out and the main act of pilgrimage was over. The Shrine was ablaze with votive candles and the queues formed again at the Holy Well, but already the first buses were leaving and by the time the bells rang again for Shrine Prayers the majority of the pilgrims had left to face the traffic jams and discomforts of Bank Holiday travel. But as more than one has written since “it was well worth it”.
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