I have always loved Walsingham. There are quite a number of posts that have appeared on this blog in the years I’ve been writing it about the place — you can find them by clicking here. I was lucky enough to be able to go for the inside of last week, as mentioned in my last post. I wasn’t sure it was advisable with my health as it had been, but am so glad I went.
There were very few people there last week — November is outside of the main pilgrimage season — so it was even more tranquil than it is normally. But peace and quiet; time to think; and especially, time to pray, were just what I needed: and they were all there in abundance.
I know we are with God everywhere, and don’t need to go to a special place to pray. But sometimes it can help. Especially when it’s a place where thousands of other people have prayed before you. Being somewhere special like that with absolutely no time-pressure — no services to prepare for, no meals to think about, etc — can make the communion with God very special indeed. At least, that’s what I found last week.
Even without the pilgrimage activities there are several regular acts of corporate worship each day: Mass is celebrated three times at various places within the shrine complex; and Evening Prayer and Shrine Prayers, both in the shrine church. I joined in with some, though not all, of that regular round of worship. But it was the time alone with God that was particularly special last week.
I spent much of that time alone upstairs in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, in front of the Tabernacle (pictured below) where the Sacrament is constantly reserved. It’s a lovely place to sit, and probably one of the most comfortable places to sit for any length of time in the shrine church. It’s also a place that very few tourists visit — not that there were many around anyway. Another place I spent a great deal of time, was in the Chantry Chapel of the Guild of All Souls (pictured bottom). Again, it was somewhere to find peace and solitude. It was wonderful to just sit and ‘be’ with God; not worrying about what words to use, or that I should be somewhere else.
When I went away, I knew I had a lot to think and pray about, especially around my future ministry. I did spend some time thinking and praying those things; but mostly I just spent time ‘being’ with God, and just let my thoughts and prayers wander wherever they would. I don’t think there’s any coincidence in the two places I felt most drawn to, and spent the most time in. And, I think, I have a clearer understanding of some changes that could be made — more about that later perhaps: there is still much to assimilate, and conversations to be had.
One thing I am sure of, this blog has an important role in my future. The blog holiday was necessary because of the really bad patch I had with my health. The blog may change and evolve a little, but don’t we all as we journey through life. But I’m determined that it will still be here.
I learned a lot about myself last week in Walsingham, and think I fell in love with the place a little more. As much as I love to go in pilgrimage season, and join in all the activities, I suspect an out-of-season-Walsingham will be a destination again in the future — funds permitting.