Friday, September 29, 2023

Pilgrimage, suffering, and sacred geography: for 1Peter5

LMS Procession through the streets of Little Walsingham, in the rain.

My latest for 1Peter5. It begins:

I recently walked the 76 miles from Cambridge to Walsingham in Norfolk, via Ely, over four days, a walk organised by the Latin Mass Society. I met most of my fellow pilgrims—for that was what they were—after the first leg, and walked with them for the remaining 57 mile: 200 people slogging along paths and roads, or looking after the walkers as drivers or cooks. Some of the young men never seemed to lose their bounce, but I think for everyone at certain points, and for a lot of us for a lot of the time, the element of suffering, of penance, dominated our feelings. After a certain point you can keep walking in a mechanical way, despite the discomfort of your feet or legs, but the discomfort remains.

Mass in the Slipper Chapel

As my aching limbs have slowly recovered—it takes longer every year—I have been reflecting on what it was actually for. It was, of course, an act of devotion to Our Lady, for the conversion of England. In 1061 Our Lady ordered a replica of the Holy House of Nazareth to be built in this small Norfolk village, but this was completely destroyed on the order of King Henry VIII in 1538. To honour its location today may seem quixotic, but it is a reassertion, in the teeth of apparent political and cultural reality, of the idea that this is still a holy place: that we will still honour it as our heavenly mother wished us to, more than 960 years ago.

Mass in the Catholic Shrine's Reconciliation Chapel

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