Our Lady's Mirror

Autumn 1931

The return of the Holy House to Walsingham is an accomplished fact. It stands once again, in its severe simplicity, enclosed in the outer Chapel of Mary in the Vale of the Stiffkey, close to - if not upon - the original site. It can again be said that England possesses a Shrine in honour of the Mystery of the Incarnation and the Mother of God, which is being used for its proper and original purpose. It is, too, as far as we know, the first Chapel built by English Catholics from all over the country since the Dissolution for the express purpose of raising a Sanctuary for the housing of a Shrine, in the real sense of the word. In ancient days it was the foremost Holy place in England; the National Shrine. It is fitting in the steady course of Catholic revival in this land that it should be the first re-erected. The ceremonies attendant upon the opening commenced on Saturday, October 10th, when our good friend, Bishop O'Rorke, came and blessed and baptised the peal of bells attached to the Sanctuary. It was an unusual scene in religious life of today as the Bishop, anointing each bell outside with the Oil of the Sick and within with Holy Chrysom, passed from one to the other. They were dedicated in honour of S. George, S. Andrew, S. Patrick, S. Peter, S. Alban, S. Benedict, S. Hugh, S. Francis of Assisi and Our Lady. On Thursday, October 15th, at 7 o'clock, a few parishioners and others assembled outside the Chapel and assisted at the blessing while the priest passed around the outside of the building and aspersed it. Entering to the words of the Litany, the circuit of the Chapel was made within, and later aspersed, first on the Epistle side and then the Gospel. At the conclusion of the blessing a votive Mass (with Gloria and Creed) was said of the Annunciation, being the fitting Mass on such an occasion as the opening of the Holy House - England's Nazareth. The Mass proceeded in the ordinary way until the offertory, when just before the oblations were brought to the altar, Sir William Milner, who gave the site on which the Sanctuary has been built, came forward and presented the deed of conveyance to the Celebrant, who laid it on the altar, where it remained until the lavabo, when he gave it into the custody of Fr Fynes- Clinton, who held it on behalf of the other trustees during the Mass. Sir William then served the lavabo, an ancient privilege accorded to the donor of lands on which a chapel or church or monastery was founded. People began to arrive before 10 o'clock before the Pontifical High Mass at 11.30 a.m. The special train from London was over half an hour late, and it seemed impossible that this extra contingent could possibly find places. Every available space was however occupied and the crowds extended outside the church by the time the Bishop actually came to the altar. Father Underhill, late of Liverpool, gave a wonderful address, a résumé of which we hope to give at a later date. At 2.30 p.m. the Parish Church was also thronged to its utmost limit; indeed, the Bishop's procession had to push its way through. Father Alban Baverstock gave a very remarkable and stirring oration, which was followed by Benediction. We suppose the culminating event must be considered the procession and setting up of the image in the Holy House. Picture then a perfect autumn day, with scarcely a breath of air stirring, the trees clothed in glorious tints and in their setting of old Tudor houses and low red-roofed ancient cottages, a procession with over a thousand people walking, each bearing his or her lighted taper; many women in blue veils, little children in white casting their flowers; dark-habited religious nuns and monks; over a hundred priests in cassock and cotta; the mitred Abbot of Pershore, and Bishop O'Rorke. Behind streamed the many hundreds of other people, all singing the glories of Mary, and in the midst of this throng, high and lifted up upon the shoulders of four clergy in dalmatics, and under a blue and gold canopy fixed to the feretory, sat the venerated figure of Our Lady, crowned with the silver Oxford Crown, and robed in a mantle of cloth of gold. Around the feretory walked men carrying torches; in front the lay guardians of the Shrine who were able to be present; and behind five of the priest guardians, and immediately following them a group of banners from various parishes, and pilgrim banners. The procession passed between streets hung with flags and wreaths of flowers and evergreens, accompanied by singing and the chiming of the bells of the ancient parish church. When the head of the procession, which was over half a mile long, arrived at the Court before the Sanctuary, the bells of Our Lady's chimes rang out. The processionists formed up in semi-circular rows on either side of the Porch - first the women in veils, then the nuns, then the monks and the clergy. Finally the Abbot and Bishop reached the entrance to the church, before which rested the image of Mary surrounded by torches and her attendants. The prelate intoned the Magnificat and incensed the Blessed Virgin, at the conclusion of which the feretory was again lifted, and to the strains of the Salve Regina, passed into the Chapel and the Holy House. Here it was enthroned in the niche prepared above the altar. The relic of the tomb of Our Lady was then placed on the altar, as well as the casket containing the golden book, which had been carried in procession by two girls veiled in white. Two deacons then came to the Bishop for a blessing. One remained in the Holy House, while the other went to the entrance of the church, and in both places the Gospel for the Feast of the Annunciation was sung simultaneously. The function concluded with a solemn Te Deum sung by all within and around the Shrine and those standing in the road outside. It took three quarters of an hour for the pilgrims and visitors to pass in quick succession through the Shrine without pausing. At six o'clock the first of the nightly devotions - to be said regularly at that hour - was commenced. It is to consist always of the Rosary and the Anthem for the season, and some other short devotion - a litany or a hymn, or some special prayers. Arrangements are being made to have someone always at the Shrine during the day hours, to offer the intercessions there. This will be very difficult to maintain in such a small community as the village of Walsingham, as the regular watch before the Holy Sacrament will still have to be maintained; but we hope many visitors will come and stay at the Hospice, and help us during their visits in this way. The Sanctuary has been placed in charge of Trustees and a body of guardians, which is to number, when the ranks are complete, twenty-four men - twelve of each order, lay and cleric. After the trustees had accepted the invitation to act, the present guardians were nominated by them all, and others will be added to the number upon election of the whole body. At present they consist of [names of those who are also Trustees in bold]:
Bishop O'Rorke The Duke of Argyll The Abbot of Nashdom Lord Halifax Fr A H Baverstock Sir William Milner Fr Fynes-Clinton Sir John Shaw Fr Kingdon Mr Derrick Lingwood Fr Elton Lury Mr George Long Fr Hope Patten Mr Jack Banson Fr Humphrey Whitby Mr Eric McDyles [Maclagan] Fr Roger Wodehouse
It is intended to form a body of Priest Associates of the Holy House of Our Lady, who shall undertake to say mass once a month for the Shrine and all who visit it, and who will in return participate in the prayers and masses offered there, or at the altar representing it for the time being. The Shrine is a place of prayer; a place where people will come to seek help in all and every need. They will call upon God; they will implore the aid of Our Lady. And God and Our Lady will look to us too to aid these petitioners. Let us therefore surround the Holy House at Walsingham with a flood of prayer; wherever we are let us pray for those who come to this place that they may be blessed and find God. The first of the series of six windows by Mr Ninian Comper is in situ. They are to form an historic record in that each depicts some person intimately connected with Walsingham - Richeldis; Ralph the first Prior; Edward I; Katherine of Aragon; Nicholas Myleham, burnt at the stake for resisting the destruction of the Shrine here. Members of the Society who have not yet sent a donation to the Building Fund are asked to do so as soon as possible; and all are requested to make it known among Catholics that there is still £1,000 to be paid to clear the Sanctuary from debt. The Golden Book will not be sealed in the altar until this amount is collected, and each contributor's name will be inscribed therein; and he or she will be prayed for daily at the 6 o'clock devotion. Just published: The Little Guide to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Walsingham (England's Nazareth), price 4d [1.06p]. Also photographic postcards of the Chapel, and the Holy House and the Shrine, and the Opening of the Sanctuary on October 15th, and the Ministers of the Mass (October 15th), price 3d [1.25p] each. photograph: The procession from the parish church to the new Shrine, 15th October 1931 [above] Click here to see the invitation card for the opening of the shrine on 15 October 1931