Saturday, 24 September 2011

Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham. Earlier this year, to celebrate to 950th anniversary of the foundation of the Shrine, we published Fr Michael Rear's book

Fr Rear’s meticulous research, fluent style of writing and choice of illustrations have combined to produce what will certainly become the standard work on pilgrims and pilgrimage to the Holy Land of Walsingham. This comprehensive work begins with the pre-Christian era and is brought through triumph and tragedy right up to the present day.

Reproduced below is part of Fr Rear's Introduction to the book.

"Ever since my parents took me on pilgrimage to Walsingham when I was seven years old I have been drawn back there, as many others are, again and again. Mary, under her title, Our Lady of Walsingham, has always been there in my life. Far from being an unnecessary distraction as some have suggested, still less a detraction from the honour we pay to her Son, I have always thought of the Mother and Son together, as they were in their home at Nazareth, and at the foot of the cross, and as they are in the statue that is revered in Walsingham.

Little did I imagine that one day I might have the privilege of living and working in Walsingham, yet this is what I did for nearly twenty years. During that time my interest in the spirituality and history of the Shrine, from its origins until its destruction at the Reformation, grew. I learned a good deal about its restoration by Roman Catholics at the Pontifical Shrine in King’s Lynn and in the Slipper Chapel, and by Anglicans at the Shrine and Holy House in the village, and the reason why thousands upon thousands of pilgrims and visitors consequently come to this beautiful small Norfolk village.

The medieval village was built for pilgrims, and its history has come full circle. In their literature each Shrine naturally focuses on its own history, while invariably mentioning the other, but in lesser detail, yet the restoration of them both actually has a common source and a history that is entwined. In earlier days there was great rivalry and misunderstanding, which has given way to a deepening unity and cooperation, which, as everyone says, is how it should be.

There is only one Holy Mother of God, even though there are two centres of devotion to her at Walsingham. As I realised how much they have in common, and in the light of this growing unity, it seemed to me there was room for a new book which describes the restoration of both Shrines, including some details that have not been written up before, as well as including what is known of the religious history of Walsingham before and after Richeldis built the Holy House in 1061.

Few Roman Catholics know much about the restoration of the Anglican Shrine, and many Anglicans know little about the restoration of the Catholic Shrine, and I hope this book will contribute to a fuller understanding. It is not a history book only, but one which I hope conveys something of the spirituality and prayer of the place, which is what brings pilgrims to Walsingham, and takes us back there time and time again."

“Walsingham finds a worthy historian in Michael Rear, whose own experiences of the shrine and whose scholarly abilities make him ideally suited to the task that he set himself in writing this book.”
From her Foreword to the book, Dr Sarah Jane Boss, Senior Lecturer in Theology and Religious Studies, Roehampton University

"Michael Rear loves this place, and is uniquely equipped to tell its story. We thank him and have much pleasure in commending 'Walsingham: Pilgrims and Pilgrimage'."
From their Preface, Bishop Lindsay Urwin O.G.S. Administrator, Anglican Shrine and Fr Alan Williams S.M. Director, National Catholic Shrine.