From Cardiff to Walsingham and Back Again – Bringing Blessings Home

Our pilgrimage to Walsingham has flown by, and the days and evenings have certainly been full and busy, with as much as possible crammed in.

We were so happy to introduce four of our pilgrims to Walsingham for the first time, with much for them to discover, and I am glad that all wish to return for our next Walsingham parish pilgrimage.

Monday’s arrival saw Mother Melangell rather surprised by the unexpected number around the tea-table at the skete, though she remained unfazed and received everyone graciously.

After supper, despite the joyful volume of singing rising from the shrine church, we nevertheless prayed compline in the chapel of the Life-Giving Spring.

Tuesday was centred on our celebration of the Divine Liturgy in the little upstairs chapel, followed by social time over refreshments in the Norton Room. We were very happy to have the company of Father Mark-Tuttum Smith, matushka Katy-Elizabeth, George and Mary in the afternoon, and for our pilgrims to join us and Mother Melangell in silent prayer in the chapel of St Seraphim in the old railway station.

Then, whilst I heard confessions, our Cardiff pilgrims had dinner and a few people joined Mother Melangell for a late vespers in her skete. Those of us who retired to the sitting room in St Anne’s were entertained by Aldhelm playing the melodion he brought with him on the pilgrimage-coach.

On Wednesday, several of our sisters joined Mother for matins at 5:30 in her skete, and after breakfast and time for prayer and reading, a few of us walked to the medieval Slipper Chapel at the Roman Catholic shrine, praying silently on our walk along the route of the old railway line, the embankments thick with summer flowers, with bees and butterflies busily collecting nectar from the swathes of Scabious and Wild Marjoram.

After the ongoing struggle to pray against the background noise of the organ and singing in the Anglican shrine, the peace and silence of the Slipper Chapel at Houghton St. Giles was a great blessing, and we valued the time we had for silent prayer, as well as the warm welcome in the tea-room, where we enjoyed spiritual conversation, before heading across the ford to the lovely medieval parish church across the meadows, with it screen decorated with images of the saints, sadly defaced, but surviving the iconoclasm of the reformation and the desecration of Walsingham’s Holy House, religious houses and churches.

The afternoon saw a lovely trip to the seaside at Wells, with wonderful views of the countryside from the top of the double-decker bus that conveniently stopped at the church gates at Houghton St. Giles.

Our pilgrims met at the quay and enjoyed lunch from the fish and chip shop, before most of us travelled back to Walsingham on the charming narrow-gauge steam railway.

On our return, after supper, I was very happy that a number our pilgrims took advantage of the Orthodox Chapel, going upstairs to pray, whilst I heard confessions.

Today started with an early panikhida for the newly-departed servant of God, the Archpriest Raphael, after his unexpected repose on Wednesday.

Having taken over the role of ‘caretaker’ of the chapel of the Life-Giving Spring from Archpriest Philip Steer, Father Raphael was a great support for the little band of local Orthodox who remain faithful to our patriarchate.

The local faithful will greatly miss his ministry, support and  pastoral care. May his memory be eternal!

After breakfast, a last visit to the Holy House and goodbyes, it was already time to travel west to our more familiar surroundings, endeavouring to hold onto and preserve the blessings of the Mother of God and ‘England’s Nazareth’.

Posted in Pilgrimage.