Saturday, January 09, 2016

Just under a thousand years ago...

...in the 10th century, when militant Islam was on the march in the Middle East, and pilgrims found it difficult to reach the Holy Land in safety, something happened in a small village six miles from England's Eastern coast. In the year 1061, the Saxon lady of the manor of Walsingham had a vision of Mary, Christ's own mother, who told her to build a replica of the holy house at Nazareth, where people could visit and pray.

And she did, and for centuries pilgrims came by the thousand.

And now, in the 21st century, with pilgrims still arriving, the Pope has declared Walsingham to be a Minor Basilica, opening up a new chapter for this most fascinating of holy places. You can watch and hear the Bishop reading the powerful announcement in all its English-accented Latin glory, here...

There is much rejoiicing at Walsingham, and this will be an exciting year: there are many plans to enlarge and develop the shrine...and meanwhile the number of pilgrims will grow and grow. Coincidentally, just a few days ago I had a phone call about the big "New Dawn in the Church" gathering at Walsingham this August in which I have again been invited to take part...

One of the things that fascinates me about Walsingham is its name. The "ham" part, of course, simply indicates a small town or village - as in Caterham, Birmingham (yes, it was small once!), Woldingham, Cheltenham, Nottingham...

But the "wal" bit might indicate that this was a settlement where the ancient British people lived. The Angles,Saxons and Jutes  gradually invaded Britain from - well - Saxony and Jutland and so on, as the Roman empire disintegrated,  settling first naturally enough on our eastern coasts. Over the years, the English language - its roots are of course the same as German - developed. The Saxon word for a stranger is "Welsh" oir "Walsh": so settlements of old Britons tended to have this as the prefix: hence, for example Wallington in Surrey or Wallingford in Berkshire...and, of course, Wales.

The Britons had received the Christian faith during the Roman era - the invading Anglo-Saxons were of course pagan (we still commemorate their gods in the days of the week, Mars, Tui, Woden...). But they were converted in their turn (St Augustine, 597 AD etc).

And so we come to the Saxon lady of the manor, Richeldis, in Walsingham in the 11th century. The manor was held by the Royal family - she seems to have been a relative, perhaps by marriage, of the Saxon King Harold. The year was 1061. And in 1066 came the Norman invasion...

Thus there may well be, at Walsingham, an unbroken Christian link going right the way back to the first arrival of the Faith, in Roman times...and continuing through to the present. The only break came under Henry VIII, but the link was revived again in the 20th century and today the shrine attracts pilgrims as of old...




5 comments:

Unknown said...

I admire your work and am interested in finding your books. I am a former devoted Anglican and my wife and I were confirmed Oct 28 one year ago in the Ordinariate of St. Gregory the Great in Mobile, Al. though we live in Pascagoula, Ms. We are still restoring our lives from the storm katrina and Love Pope Benedict for the chance to make the move easy to we Catholic minded lovers of Jesus and his Church. We are praying for a way and saving our pennies for a trip to Rome before I get too old!

Joanna Bogle said...

Welcome! You can find out more about my books at Gracewing Publishing...and if you'dlike a copy of FAITH magazine, just send an email to this blog, with a postal address (which I will not print) and I will send you one.

with best wishes

Joanna

Malcolm said...

There's a big article today in the Telegraph about the possible collapse of the Anglican communion. One feels for the many Anglicans caught up in this, not knowing which way to turn. Whilst Catholics have the satisfaction of saying "told you so", really it's pretty hollow. ARCIC was totally mishandled, not because of any real ill will, simply because neither side saw it as a real priority, we paid lip-service to unity whilst being content to leave the schism intact. Now it seems the price will be real social damage.

CatholicTravelBlog.com said...

Thanks for that interesting article. Will you be writing about the first service according to the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church to be celebrated since the 1550s at Hampton Court Palace’s Chapel Royal? Sounds very interesting

Joanna Bogle said...

Yes, I have written about this for the National Catholic Register: the feature will appear shortly. Such ecumenical events are not now so unusual, and we can expect some lovely music, and a friendly dialogue between the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster and the (Anglican) Bishop of London. Sadly, however, possibilities for unity were smashed by the 1992 CofE Synod decision to ordain women. I think that, realistically, the future for unity lies through the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Beyond that, it is good to pray together when we can and to give common witness to the truth and moral teachings of the Christian faith...