Across East Anglia we awoke to a very windy day with torrential and relentless rain on Tuesday.
We still journeyed to Walsingham for our annual children’s pilgrimage but, for the first time in our many years, the procession from the village to the shrine had to be cancelled, for mainly safety reasons. Most pilgrims were taken to the Shrine.
One brave group from Costessey parish did choose to walk the mile anyway and arrived very wet but very cheerful for Mass!
Fr Pat Cleary led an indoor procession around the Chapel of Reconciliation before the 12 noon Mass.
He invited the children to pray and sing, pausing at special points (eg the altar and tabernacle) for some extra interest and instruction.
They thanked God for the rain! Fr Pat mentioned how the water feeds us and provides for us, helping us to live and grow. It makes our countryside look beautiful and is a real gift from God, even if we would have preferred it a different day.
The chapel was filled with happy people for the Noon Mass, despite the weather.
Shrine Rector, Mgr John Armitage spoke to us about Mercy and how we are to practise it in our lives with small acts performed with great Love, to make our world a better place.
We were also celebrating the feast of the Visitation and Fr John referred to Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, involving travel and discomfort, but done out of great love. Similarly, our journey on this day.
He also mentioned our colourful altar front artwork declaring Mary Mother of Mercy, the shrine theme this year.
Bishop Alan then introduced the Holy Door theme and Pope Francis’ wish for them to be used in our cathedrals and shrines.
We had our own Holy door erected in the sanctuary, created by Jo Graham from the Cathedral parish and including beautiful stained windows by her daughter Emily (11).
Four large hearts were attached, bearing messages of Mercy (Hope, Love, Comfort and Forgiveness).
Each child was given a smaller heart to hold, corresponding with the colour and message of the larger hearts.
Bishop Alan invited the children to bring their hearts to the altar, to walk through the Holy Door and place them into waiting baskets as their gifts of hope, love, forgiveness and comfort.
He encouraged them to practise these things on their return home, saying: “Do something good for God and something good for someone else today.”
He also pointed out that those who enthusiastically brought more than one message, had extra work to do!
Children read our first reading and the Prayers of the Faithful and also brought up the offertory gifts during Mass.
Mass concluded with Ave Maria gratis plena.
With the Rector’s permission, we remained in the chapel to enjoy lunch, in a joyous and friendly atmosphere. Bishop Alan mingled and chatted with his people and the shrine staff were all very helpful and caring – small acts done with great love!
Some visited the Slipper Chapel and the actual Holy Ddoor before returning home.
Sadly, no beach on this occasion.
You can see a video of the Mass below