The shrine of our Lady of Walsingham is a notable part of the Catholic history of England. In 1061 our Lady appeared there in a vision to a pious Norfolk lady, Richeldis de Faverches, and asked her to build a replica of the house at Nazareth where the Annunciation had taken place. Richeldis did as our Lady asked, and the Holy House was cared for by the Augustinian canons of a large abbey church. Walsingham became the greatest Marian shrine in the medieval world, and was known as England’s Nazareth. It rivalled Jerusalem and Santiago de Compostella as a place of pilgrimage.
Devotion to our Lady flourished at Walsingham and edified the whole Church. England became known as the ‘Dowry of Mary’. England’s disastrous King Henry VIII made the pilgrimage in his early years, walking the holy mile barefoot from the Slipper Chapel to the Holy House, and making offerings for a daily Mass to be said there for his intentions. Alas that his intentions later became so twisted and led so many astray.
In the 16th century Walsingham was a victim of the Protestant Reformation. The shrine was ransacked, the statue burned, the abbey dissolved, and two of the canons martyred. Three centuries elapsed during which the shrine existed only as a memory. Then in the late nineteenth century the pilgrimage to Walsingham was revived both by Catholics and by Anglicans.
Walsingham inspires us to pray for the conversion of England to Catholicism, that Christ the Lord may once again be at the centre of English life.
PRAYER FOR THE CONVERSION OF ENGLAND
O Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our most gentle Queen and Mother, look down in mercy upon England thy Dowry, and upon us all who greatly hope and trust in thee. By thee it was that Jesus our Saviour and our hope was given unto the world, and He has given thee to us that we may hope still more. Plead for us thy children, whom thou didst receive and accept at the foot of the Cross, O sorrowful Mother. Intercede for our separated brethren, that with us in the one true fold they may be united to the chief Shepherd, the Vicar of Thy Son. Pray for us all, dear Mother, that by faith fruitful in good works, we may all deserve to see and praise God, together with thee, in our heavenly home. Amen.