Welcomed by the Rector, Mgr John Armitage, the main celebrant at the Midday Pilgrim Mass was Archbishop Kevin McDonald, with 16 other priests concelebrating. The pilgrimage was also honoured by the presence of the Relic Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe beside the Chapel of Reconciliation throughout the day and pilgrims queued to venerate the image.
In his homily, Archbishop Kevin said that we gathered at a time of great need for prayer for the world, for our country and for the Church. He went on to say: “Today’s readings from the Book of Genesis and from St Mark’s Gospel reveal to us God’s purposes in creation and especially in the creation of man and woman. We have heard about the givenness of the created order. Man and woman are a gift to one another – a gift that is received in freedom.
“The idea of gift is central in the Scriptures and belief in life as a gift of God shapes the Christian understanding of true freedom. This freedom is not about personal choice and entitlement. Rather, faith in God is an acknowledgment that we have been chosen – chosen and called to a unique role within the purposes and the providence of God. Our Lady did not choose to be the Mother of God. She simply accepted what she was called to do and to be. The apostles did not choose to follow Christ. They responded in faith to Christ’s call and found life in that response.
“In the culture in which we live personal choice and entitlement seem to have become the wisdom of our age, either as a reality or an aspiration. This creates a situation in which the message of the Pro Life movement is difficult for many people to accept or even understand. The wisdom of the scriptures is all about gift and call. It recognises that there is a bigger picture than the one that is shaped by my own needs, fears, desires and ambitions,” said the archbishop.
He went on to point out that God’s wisdom, far removed from human wisdom, is revealed in the Cross, and how the second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews places suffering as a part of everyone’s story of salvation and the salvation of the world. He concluded by saying that the message of the Gospel is a message about life. It takes us beyond our present limited understanding and invites us to live in faith and hope for ever deeper wisdom and ever more abundant life.
After a lunch break enjoyed in ever stronger sunshine, and with much friendly conversation among pilgrims, the Stations of the Cross were led by the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal – always a very moving part of the pilgrimage.
Pilgrims then gathered again in the Chapel of Reconciliation for Eucharistic Adoration led by Mgr Armitage before moving outside once more to meet the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham and pray the first three Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary.
As always we commenced the Holy Mile walk in silence and in a spirit of walking with Christ to Calvary, to join Mary at the foot of the Cross. Once at the site of the Holy House in the Priory grounds, the final Sorrowful Mysteries were prayed, followed by the Prayer for England and the Salve Regina.
Pilgrims then departed to complete the programme on the journey home with the Glorious Mysteries and the final hymn, ‘Blow Thou Cleansing Wind from Heaven’ taking place on their coaches.
Although the purpose of the pilgrimage is to acknowledge before God the terrible wrong done to vast numbers of unborn and vulnerable people around the world, there is also great joy in the gathering of so many pro-life friends. There would be few among them who are not inspired by the Mass, the homily, by the solemn silence of the walk along the Holy Mile, the day of prayer, and by being gathered at England’s Nazareth with Our Lady,
The Pilgrimage will take place next year on Sunday October 6 and will be led by the Bishop of Plymouth, Rt Rev Mark O’Toole.
Details on www.prolifepilgrimage.org
Pictured: Our Lady of Walsingham, carried by Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, approaches the Priory.