Saturday 24th September is the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham. The Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham was established in 1061 when Richeldis de Faverches prayed that she might undertake some special work in honour of Our Lady. In answer to her prayer, the Virgin Mary led her in spirit to Nazareth, showed her the house where the Annunciation occurred, and asked her to build a replica in Walsingham to serve as a perpetual memorial of the Annunciation.
This Holy House was built and Walsingham grew to become one of the greatest Shrines in Medieval Christendom.
In 1538, the Reformation caused the property to be handed over to the King’s Commissioners and the famous statue of Our Lady of Walsingham was taken to London and burnt. Nothing remains today of the original shrine, but its site is marked on the lawn in “The Abbey Grounds” in the village.
After the destruction of the Shrine, Walsingham ceased to be a place of pilgrimage. Devotion was necessarily in secret until after Catholic Emancipation in 1829 when public expressions of faith were allowed.
In 1896 Charlotte Pearson Boyd purchased the 14th century Slipper Chapel, the last of the wayside chapels on the road to Walsingham, and restored it for Catholic use. Since then Catholic devotion at Walsingham has revived and grown to such an extent that there is an urgent need to upgrade existing buildings and construct new facilities.
The current plans include the development of: new and upgraded pilgrim accommodation; modern accommodation for the disabled; retreat centre; youth ministry and accommodation; wet weather cloister; pilgrim hall; conference centre; new hospitality centre; Catholic media hub; Perpetual Adoration chapel; and an exhibition of the history of England through the lives of the Saints. These ambitious plans will cost up to £10 million!
So, this year to coincide with the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham there will be a retiring collection in all churches in England and Wales.
For further details, go to www.walsingham.org.uk