75th cross-carrying pilgrimage anniversary honoured

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75th cross-carrying pilgrimage anniversary honoured

On Sunday July 16, the 75th anniversary of the historic cross-carrying pilgrimage of 1948, which saw 14 heavy crosses traverse 220 miles from various towns across England and Wales and signified a quest for global peace following WWII, will be commemorated at Walsingham’s Slipper Chapel. Tim McDonald reports.

Sunday July 16 marks the 75th anniversary of the significant cross-bearing pilgrimage of 1948. Within the Shrine grounds, the Stations of the Cross will be prayed at these crosses. After the 12 noon mass, a few words will be shared about this pilgrimage by Tim McDonald, whereafter, he will present an exhibition on the pilgrimage at the Shrine’s welcome centre, which all are welcome to.

In July 1948, 14 crosses, each weighing 90 lbs, were carried from 14 different towns around England and Wales over 14 days, covering on average about 220 miles each. These crosses form the Stations of the Cross in the grounds of the Slipper Chapel.

Upon arrival near Walsingham, each group held an all-night vigil with their cross, before leaving at dawn on July 16 for a Mass at the Slipper Chapel. Later in the morning, there was a Pontifical Solemn Mass at which 12,000 people were present. This was followed by a barefoot procession from the Slipper Chapel to The Priory Grounds, where Cardinal Griffin was present for the Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament. In the evening, the Crosses made one last journey back to the Slipper Chapel Meadow where they were set up to form the Stations of the Cross as we know them today.

The photography and commentary, spoken by the Very Rev. Fr. Hilary Carpenter, OP, provide a clear and factual account of the purpose and fulfilment of the pilgrimage, culminating in the bustling ceremony in the Abbey Grounds, Walsingham, of the great Act of Consecration of England and Wales by His Eminence Bernard Cardinal Griffin on July 16 1948, the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.

The pilgrimage was motivated by a plea from Pope Pius XII to all Christians to make acts of penance and reparation following the tragedy and evils of World War II. The Cross Carrying Pilgrimage was dedicated to the future peace of the world, and for peace in the homes of families in Britain. Men started out from 14 different destinations across England and Wales, carrying the crosses which would eventually create the Stations of the Cross at Our Lady’s Shrine in Walsingham. The great UCM – Union of Catholic Mothers group, along with thousands from the parishes and places they journeyed through, supported the walkers throughout.

One of the Cross Carriers, Joseph Blain said: “At 11:30am, we attended the Pontifical High Mass celebrated by Bishop Parker of Northampton. This was followed by the veneration of the Statue of Our Lady of Walsingham. After dinner, the day pilgrims lined the route to the Abbey Grounds along the Holy Mile. The Cross-Bearing Pilgrims, preceded by the Processional Cross and Acolytes, the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham, and the statue of Our Lady of Boulogne, then walked the Holy Mile barefooted, each carrying the Cross for two minutes on his own. Each and every one of the Foot-Pilgrims, no matter the state of his feet, completed the Holy Mile barefooted, entering the Abbey Grounds at 2:30pm. The local council had very kindly relayed about a ¼ mile with tar and granite chippings, which caused considerable pain to those with sore feet…

When things were cleared, the groups assembled and took up their crosses and returned in procession to the Slipper Chapel Meadow, where they will remain, forming the Stations of the Cross around the High Altar in the meadow.

[The next day] we made our way to the railway station. My private thoughts were that there were very many heavy hearts at the thought of our task being at an end. At 10:17am, our train steamed out of Walsingham Station – the compartments were quiet until we passed the meadow where the 14 Crosses stood like signposts, showing the way to peace – peace through God and the Cross on which He died for the salvation of mankind, that they may all live as brothers.”