Dowry of Mary Pilgrimage returns in a riot of colour

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Dowry of Mary Pilgrimage returns in a riot of colour

Nearly 3,000 pilgrims representing the worldwide Catholic Church gathered in the National Catholic Shrine at Walsingham for the colourful Dowry of Mary Pilgrimage.

It was the first time which the pilgrimage had taken place since 2019, the two-year gap being caused by the Covid pandemic. Bishop Alan Hopes and Archbishop Emeritus George Stack of Cardiff presided over the renewed event, which took place on Sunday September 4.

The pilgrimage was a celebration by many nations in many languages, with flags and banners representing diverse communities and many pilgrims dressed in traditional costume. India, China and Africa were all well represented, and a large contingent of Congolese stood out with their matching clothes, dancing, drumming and waving of handkerchiefs.

The event began with a presentation of banners to Bishop Alan, including ones from the Keralan, Zambian, Chinese, Congolese and Ethiopian chaplaincies, along with Filipino and Sri Lankan parish groups. The Shine Director, Fr Philip Moger, invited the groups to say the Hail Mary in their own languages, which came from many corners of Asia and Africa, with a German-speaking pilgrim representing the smattering of westerners.

In his welcome, Bishop Alan said how wonderful it was to see people gathered from so many nations to make Jesus Christ and His Blessed Mother known. He remembered Christians around the world who suffer persecution and prayed for peace and reconciliation, remembering especially those who have suffered and died in Ukraine or become war refugees. 

He then celebrated Mass in the Church of Reconciliation, opened at the front to include an outdoor overflow which itself overflowed all the way to the café and the Slipper Chapel behind.

Following the reading of the Gospel in English and Cantonese, Archbishop Emeritus George Stack gave a homily which took the pilgrims on a journey through the life of Mary and the doctrines which the Church teaches about her. He lingered on the words of Mary at the Feast of Cana, “Do whatever He tells you” and how she not just spoke the words but personified the obedience they call for.

The approaching visit to England of the relics of St Bernadette gave him an opportunity to speak about the Immaculate Conception, which made Mary the symbol of everything the human race could be and the paradisal freedom this brings.

“Throughout my life,” he concluded, “God has wanted the best for me, but so often I choose something so much less. Woman of obedience, keep us in mind, woman who listened, remember us to God, Mother of God, be our Mother also, Amen.”

The end of Mass was interrupted by sirens and milling police, and pilgrims evacuated calmly to a field opposite the Shrine. Bishop Alan afterwards thanked them for the exemplary way they had responded to an emergency which turned out to be not such an emergency after all.

After a delayed picnic lunch, the pilgrims processed, many singing and dancing, along the Holy Mile between the Catholic Shrine and the ruins of Walsingham Priory. Archbishop Stack placed the Blessed Sacrament under a marquee by the western arch of the priory, on an altar embroidered with the words ‘Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus.’ A reading from chapter six of John’s Gospel about the Bread of Life was followed by a long silence in the evening sunshine.

Bishop Alan then called the pilgrims over to the site of the original holy house which had been destroyed along with the priory at the Reformation and led a prayer for the conversion of English, followed by a sung Salve Regina.

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.

Pictured above are pilgrims presenting gifts to Bishop Alan. You can view a Flickr gallery of the Dowry of Mary Pilgrimage by clicking on the link or the picture below.

Dowry of Mary Pilgrimage