OUR LADY OF WALSINGHAM – celebrated on 24th September. During the 12th century, Walsingham in Norfolk, was one of the four main shrines in Christendom. England was known as Mary’s Dowry and Walsingham was its ‘Little Nazareth’. In 1061, Our Lady appeared in a vision to Richeldis de Faverches and showed her the house where the Annunciation had taken place. Richeldis was requested to build a similar holy house at Walsingham. In 1538, the Reformation caused the Priory 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. The Shrine now attracts some 150,000 pilgrims during the pilgrimage season with about 35 Major Pilgrimages from Catholic, Diocesan or Ethnic groups and Catholic Societies or Associations as well as many Parish and Overseas groups. On the Feast of the Holy Family, 2015, during Pontifical Mass in the Chapel of Our Lady of Reconciliation at the Shrine, Bishop Alan Hopes read out a document from the Vatican, stating that Pope Francis was pleased to confer the title of Minor Basilica on the Shrine. There are only three sites with that title in England, the other two being St Chad’s Cathedral in Birmingham and Downside Abbey Church. We are fortunate to have on loan a statue of Our Lady of Walsingham, in St Patrick’s Church. Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for us.
After the destruction of the Shrine, Walsingham ceased to be a place of pilgrimage. Devotion was necessarily in secret until after Catholic Emancipation (1829) when public expressions of faith were allowed.
At the end of the 19th century, Charlotte Boyd, an Anglican convert, bought the disused 14th century Slipper Chapel, restored it and donated it to the Benedictines of Downside. On the 19th August 1934, the chapel was formally consecrated as the National Catholic Shrine to Our Lady.