By: Keith Morris
Around 3,000 pilgrims, representing the universal Catholic Church, gathered at the National Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham on Sunday September 10 for the annual Dowry of Mary Pilgrimage.
Led by the Rt Rev Alan Hopes, Bishop of East Anglia, the day of pilgrimage began with a colourful parading and reception of national flags and banners including from Sri Lanka, Trinidad, Ghana, India, Ethiopia, Latvia, Philippines, China, Congo, Ireland, Nigeria, Vietnam and across England and the Hail Mary was said in around 20 different languages.
Welcoming all pilgrims, Bishop Alan Hopes said: “It is good to see so many different countries represented here today. We are truly the universal Catholic Church here in Walsingham. We think particularly of those people who are being caught in the storms and hurricanes in the Caribbean, Cuba and the United States.”
The Bishop of Brentwood, the Rt Rev Alan Williams, gave the homily. He said: "When God asked her to be the mother of his son, Our Lady Mary lived in an anxious, troubled and unsure world. We also live in an anxious, troubled and unsure world ourselves.
“Mary said yes to God ‘let it be as you have said’. Those who say ‘yes’ to God are filled with the grace of God and the joys of God and Mary is full of grace and is full of joy.
“’Remain in my love,’ said Jesus. For those who remain in the love of Jesus, great things are possible, they have all that they need,” said Bishop Alan.
“We are in a safe place here in the home of Mary in the Nazareth of England. One thing that you can be sure of is that when you go to Mary’s house you are very welcome indeed, no matter where you have come from. Here we are Mary’s guests, Mary’s children. We follow Jesus by following Mary.”
A solemn Mass of Our Lady was then presided over by Bishop Alan in the open air Chapel of Reconciliation.
After picnic lunches, pilgrims processed, many singing and dancing, along the Holy Mile between the Catholic Shrine and Walsingham Abbey where the bishops conducted a Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and said prayers at the original shrine site in the Abbey grounds.
This pilgrimage is the only time during the year that Catholics are able to conduct a service in the Abbey grounds. The pilgrimage is named after the 14th century convention of England being known as the 'Dowry of Mary' and is the principal pilgrimage in honour of Mary.