Weep ,weep oh Walsingham
Whose days are nights
Blessings turned to blasphemies,
Holy deeds to despites.
Sin is where Our Lady sat,
Heaven turned into hell.
Satan sits where Our Lord did sway,
Walsingham oh farewell.
(The Walsingham Lament)
I have to admit that when visiting ancient ruined abbeys,it is always the sense of desecration that fills my mind.My first thought is never, how wonderful it must have been ,but, what awful thing happened here.!So it was when I first visited Walsingham.I remember sitting in the Abbey grounds and being enveloped in a kind of sorrow ,a sadness that seemed to be reflected in the little stretch of turf that lay in front of me.
It was, of course, the site of the original Holy House .Roughly twenty three foot by thirteen ,and slightly raised ,the outline clearly visible.I have since read ,that when it was excavated in 1961,a layer of ash was found beneath the turf,evidence of the fire that burned it to the ground.I did not know of it then,I hardly knew about Walsingham .On a visit because there were a couple of spare seats on the coach,and after all ,it was a couple of days away from the daily grind! I was catholic in name only then,but even so I had tried to do all the things a good catholic might do on a pilgrimage.I walked barefoot the Holy Mile,trying to mumble the Rosary,but could not remember the mysteries.I went to Mass because it would have been an embarrasment not to.I joined in the prayers and added my own for a little girl who had been snatched in Portugal.In fact she was the only person I prayed for on that first visit.Sometimes I think I rabbit on and on in my prayers,and do not take the time to listen.The only time that I was silent in my mind,was in the Abbey Grounds, and in front of that beautiful statue in the slipper chapel, the sight of which took my breath away.
I read the story of Walsingham while I was there.The Holy House built by Angels even before Loreto.Richeldis and her love of Our Lady.Charlotte Boyd who saved the Slipper chapel,and of course,Alfred Hope Patten the Anglican minister who built the Anglican shrine.I did not want to come home.I did not want to leave.I wanted to rebuild Our Lady's House in the place that she had wanted it,the place she was so insistent upon,and that was now, nothing but a piece of turf.I did not know it then, but Walsingham had somehow opened up some place in my mind that had been closed for many years.
I came home from Walsingham,and a few weeks afterwards, my return to the church began.
I know now that that that little village in Norfolk is Holy ground.That Our Lady's love for England and us is somehow concentrated( for want of a better word)there.That anyone who visits Her there ,and implores her help will be answered.In fact,even someone like me ,who visited Her in ignorance ,even such as me who had no thought of conversion ,Our Lady stretches out her hand.
Oh Gracious Lady,Glory of Jerusalem
Cypress of Zion and joy of Israel,
Rose of Jericho and Star of Bethlehem.
Oh Glorious Lady,our asking not repel.
In mercy all women ever thou dost excel,
Therefore Blessed Lady,grant thou thy great grace,
To all that thee devoutly visit this place.Amen
(Ballad of Walsingham).