Society of Our Lady of Walsingham
When the Rector Father Davies and former Associate Rector Father Stuart had returned from pilgrimage to Walsingham in 2004, they had brought with them a statue of Our Lady of Walsingham to be placed in the church. Looking for where in the church to place the statue, they walked about, placing her here and there. Ultimately, she looked best in the Damien Chapel, where you will find our particular shrine to her today. There the Rosary is prayed on Sunday mornings. And there is Our Lady, most appropriately as she was in life, at Calvary, at the foot of our Blessed Lord, Jesus Christ the King.
Although the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham is medieval in origin, 1997 marks the centenary of the restoration of devotional life at England’s famed Marian shrine of Walsingham, Norfolk. “England’s Nazareth” is a holy place held in high regard by the Christians of the country.
As popular legend has it, the shrine originated with a noble widow, Lady Richeldis, in 1061. A fifteen century manuscript records the Walsingham ballad, which explains how the noble woman wished to honor Our Lady. Mary responded by asking her to build a chapel. Mary led Richeldis “in spirit” to Nazareth to show her the place where the Archangel Gabriel had greeted her, and directed the widow to take measurements of the house so that she could build one like it at Walsingham. In this spot, the Virgin Mary explained, the people would celebrate the Annunciation, the “root of mankind’s gracious redemption,” and would find help in their needs.
Three times Richeldis experienced this vision and request. This confirmed her desire to have the chapel constructed, but the directions about the location were unclear to her and to the carpenters. When the carpenters could make no progress in building, Richeldis spent the night in prayer. Her supplications were answered immediately, for Our Lady herself had angels complete the construction on the site she wanted, just two hundred feet from where the workmen had labored.
Over the years, many miracles were attributed to Our Lady of Walsingham, including one in which Kind Edward I was saved from a piece of falling masonry.
Our Lady of Walsingham is a very old designation of the Virgin Mary, dating from 1061 when she appeared in the village of Walsingham, England directing that a replica of the Holy House in Nazareth be constructed. Soon it became a great pilgrimage site and ranked as one of the top pilgrimage destinations of medeival Europe (this was long before Lourdes, Fatima, or Guadalupe.) In the 16th century the Shrine was destroyed but the memory and devotion to Our Lady of Walsingham lived on in the hearts of the faithful until the Shrine was rebuilt some 80 years ago. According to a BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) poll in 2004 Walsingham ranks as the number one most popular pilgrimage site in the United Kingdom.
Devotion to Our Lady of Walsingham is a particularly Anglican way of honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary, and St. Thomas the Apostle has a statue of her and honours her with the parish’s Society of Our Lady of Walsingham. More recently, we have every two years offered a pilgrimage to Walsingham.
It is important to understand that any statue is a focus for devotion – a visual aid – and not something to be worshipped in itself. Down through the years Christians have sought the prayers of Mary to support them in their pilgrimage through life. At times in the history of the church there has been controversy about devotion to Mary but in these ecumenical days there are few who would deny a right respect and love to the Mother of Jesus.
Formed in 2004, The Cell of the Holy House of Our Lady of Walsingham and Saint Thomas the Apostle follows:
The Objects of the Society:
- To honour Mary, the Mother of God and to deepen faith in the incarnation of Our Lord.
- To promote devotion to Our Lady and pilgrimage to Walsingham.
- To further, with the aid of Our Lady’s prayers, the conversion of the nations and the re-union of Christendom.
- To seek holiness of life through prayer, the scriptures and the sacraments.
- Members of the Society are asked to say the Angelus each day.
…all are encouraged to join in venerating the patron of “England’s Nazareth”…meetings are generally arranged to coinside with the holy days of Our Lady.
The Holy Rosary is offered to Our Lord through Our Lady at 9:15 AM every Sunday in the Lady Chapel.
Links to Our Lady
Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham
Link to The Society of Our Lady of Walsingham’s website
Link to The Angelus prayer
Pictures from Walsingham in Norfolk
Click here for a virtual tour of Walsingham, and the beautiful shrine there