It is sobering to recognize that powerful groups within the medical profession and outside, continue to campaign for our abortion laws and end of life rulings to be made even more liberal than they are at present.
But it was not in a spirit of dejection that nearly 1,000 pilgrims descended on Walsingham to pray and make reparation for this situation. They came from the dioceses of Northampton, Leeds, Brentwood, Westminster, East Anglia and Southwark in hope, in joy and in expectation to this England's Nazareth to ask Our Lady for her help and intercession. The pilgrimage was blessed by the Miraculous Image of the pregnant "Our Lady of Guadalupe" and queues of people were visible throughout the day waiting to make their veneration.
Bishop Robert Byrne, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham led the pilgrimage and spoke encouragingly of our coming to Walsingham in a spirit of optimism, knowing that our witness can be a powerful sign. He added that maybe people are not yet ready to listen to us, but that one day they will see that God's way is the only way. God alone knows how to deal with the attacks on family life which have led to the chaos of our broken society and the destruction of his order.
He said that Christ has given us two commands ' one is to love and the other is to forgive, and that love and forgiveness are what makes life precious. They enable us to become the people he wants us to be. He spoke of Our Lady as our guide and protection. Hers is a life lived for God to its full potential and through her we can enjoy that source of life and grace in Christ which is there for every human being.
At the end of the Mass, Shrine Rector Mgr Armitage spoke of the decision by the Bishop's Conference to re-dedicate England as the Dowry of Mary on the Solemnity of the Annunciation 2020. He referred to the recently published Novena in Honour of Our Lady of Walsingham to be used as preparation for that event. The intention on Day 3 of the novena is "for the protection of all life from the moment of conception to natural death" and "that a culture respecting the sanctity of life, marriage and family may once again prevail in our country and communities."
The pilgrimage offered intercessions for life during the Stations of the Cross and prayed the Litany of Life during Eucharistic Adoration. A feature of the pilgrimage is the Silent Walk into the village spiritually carrying the Cross with Christ in reparation for sins against life. Our final destination was the Priory grounds where the original Holy House stood and here we completed the Sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary and prayed the Prayer for England.
The pilgrimage this year was supported by the Friars of the Renewal, also Lord David Alton with his wife, and Ann Widecombe.
The pilgrimage next year takes place on October 7 (Our Lady of the Rosary) 2018 and will be led by the Most Reverend Kevin McDonald, Archbishop Emeritus of Southwark.
See www.prolifepilgrimage.org for further information and contact details.