When the time came for the procession to the Village — the Catholic Shrine has developed around the Slipper Chapel, a mile from the centre of Little Walsingham — the rain had let up, and so we set off, Sisters of the Ordinariate bearing an image of Our Lady of Mercy, servers from Southbourne staggering under the weight of the Image, and Fr Pearson carrying a box containing the names of many of the thousands who have died for their faith, Catholics, Protestants and Anglicans, as we were told.
The Procession followed the route of the former railway line between Fakenham and Walsingham. Apart from some very deep puddles, and the occasional shower, we managed the mile without incident. At the end of the line is the old Railway Station, now converted into an Orthodox Chapel. This is the place to come if you want to see a Station with an onion dome above it.
The one major change to the day was that we did not go into the grounds of the ruined Priory. Instead we made straight for the Anglican Shrine where the pressure of numbers was even greater than before. There, as in all the other churches, there were masses of flowers. Methodists, Anglicans and Catholics have all agreed on holding their Flower Festivals over the same weekend. That act of ecumenical floristry seemed to echo the welcome which we received on all sides.
In particular, Bishop Lindsay Urwin, Administrator of the Anglican Shrine, spoke to us from the heart — and with great difficulty, for he and we were very emotional at this moment. Many of us are old friends, and this was a real home-coming. Perhaps, too, it was significant that all three bishops of Richborough were in Walsingham over the same weekend. The newest, Norman Banks, is still looking after Walsingham Parish, so it was perhaps understandable that he did not appear during our Pilgrimage. He was busy with the flower festival, which was celebrating fifty years since the fire almost destroyed the parish church — the flames of Gladioli and dyed Pampas Grass were amazingly effective.
His immediate predecessor as Bishop of Richborough is, of course, Msgr Keith Newton, our Ordinary. Before both of them I had that title for six years; now I assist the Ordinariate Group which worships in Southbourne; here are some of us gathered outside the Anglican Shrine with, in the centre, our Pastor, Fr Graham Smith.
Some of us managed to get to the Methodist Chapel in the Village, where they too were sharing in the festival of flowers. The display that greeted you on arrival commemorated the Vision to the Lady Richeldis 950 years ago.
They also, of course, made mention of the visit of John Wesley to Walsingham and the building of their Chapel (only three years after John Wesley's death). Very movingly, though, they too had a commemoration of the fire in 1961, with a display of flowers around a fireman's helmet worn by a firefighter, himself a Methodist, on that dreadful occasion. The welcome we were given by two on duty in their chapel could not have been more friendly.
So back onto a coach once more, for a long return home — it took us longer to get to Bournemouth (six hours) than another party had taken coming down from Scotland. But then, we did have to cicumnavigate London by way of the M25. A little tired, therefore, for mass this morning. But some wonderful memories of seeing so many of the Ordinariate together, at the very place where our Protectress is honoured, Mary, Mother of Our Lord, Our Lady of Walsingham. Pray for us, Holy Mary, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.