Thursday, September 01, 2011

Sign up for Walsingham 2012!

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The Walking Pilgrimage to Walsingham was such a success that we want to build on it without delay. We are already thinking about how it can be made even better, and we are offering this year's pilgrims, and the general public, the opportunity to sign up now for next year's event (24-26 August 2012) at this year's prices, our 'Early Bird Offer', which runs until 15th September. I don't know how much the price is likely to go up, but this year's prices are rock bottom. We provide dinner and breakfast from Thursday evening to Sunday morning, we arrange accommodation, we provide the back up transport, and daily Sung Mass, for a unique event in the Catholic calendar.
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This year, and I assume next year too, the men were in tents two nights and a school hall one night, and the ladies used mats and sleeping bags on the floor of various halls all three nights. Our heavy bags, tents and so on were taken by car to the next evening's stop. Transport from and back to London should be available. Transport from other parts of the country is often easy to arrange, with car sharing with other pilgrims.

There is no reason why this shouldn't be a really big event, and a great witness to the Faith.
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Don't get left behind!

What is it really like? Walking all day is quite hard work, but the distances are not as extreme as on the Chartres Pilgrimage, where pilgrims plod for up 30 miles in a day. To Walsingham we go about 20 miles on the full days; the last day is much shorter, arriving at the Shrine in the middle of the day. Walking is on (nearly all very quiet) roads and good paths; there is no rough ground and no stony hills to climb. Norfolk is famously flat, with nothing but very gentle slopes towards the end: ideal for the pilgrim. We walk through countryside and villages, past a great many medieval churches and the wonderful historic flint houses of the area. We pray the Rosary, singing it in Latin, French and English, we sing the Litanies - the Great Litany, the Litany of Loreto, the Litany of St Joseph - we sing lots of hymns and some fun secular songs. We have meditations as we go along and periods of silence or quiet talk. There are opportunities for confession and spiritual direction with our chaplain. And every day there is Mass, sung and served by members of the pilgrimage, and to a high standard too.
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I am always amazed at the stamina of young people, who seem to be able to do the walk without any kind of preparation. Speaking for myself, at the end of my 30s, I went to some lengths to get into shape, taking long walks over the summer, and this stood me in good stead. Some of the pilgrims had to take to the support vehicles, but only a few. Essential are good shoes or boots, which won't rub and give you blisters, will give you ankle support if you need it, and will keep out water. Having said that some people walked in sandals, which also seemed to work well.

If you've not done this sort of thing before, don't be frightened, it is not too cruel on the legs and it is great fun. If you have done this kind of thing before, then the LMS Walking Pilgrimage to Walsingham is one of the best ways of doing it, from the point of view of the importance of the Shrine, the liturgy, and the company. So sign up now!

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