Walsingham Review no. 106
Sermon preached by Father Rear at the Mass of Welcome in S Mary's on the
eve of the Diamond Jubilee, 11 October 1991
Kings 8. 29 Day and night let your eyes watch over this house, over this
place of which you have said, 'My Name shall be there'. Listen to the
prayer that your servant will offer in this place.
"We have a very sad piece of news to report to the brothers and sisters
of Our Lady of Walsingham. We have come to the decision that
it is imperative to move the Shrine of Our Lady from the parish church.
The Bishop of the Diocese has demanded that the image should be taken
startling words the readers of Our Lady's Mirror in Spring 1931 were informed
of the decision to rebuild the Holy House of Our Lady of Walsingham. By
October, six months later, the new Shrine was consecrated. This tells
us two things about Fr Patten: one, that he was a man in a hurry: two.
that he was a man who believed and obeyed.
Not only was Fr Patten a man in a hurry, but he made everyone else hurry
too! The letter from which I quoted ends. "He who hesitates is lost,
so do not hesitate but send your £1 or more at once. by the next
post". And they responded!
we not heard those words 'at once' before? Again and again they appear
in the Gospels. "'Come follow me". said Jesus, and they followed
him at once'. 'At once. leaving the boat and their father with the men
he employed, they followed him'. 'They left their nets at once and followed
him'. He said to Matthew, "Follow me", and he got up at once
and followed him'.
is always a moment when Jesus speaks, directly or through someone else,
for the first time to the heart of every man and woman or sometimes a
child, "Follow me". And some of us have hesitated, waited year
after year. They keep saying, "I ought to, I should do, I will do".
There may be someone here in this congregation tonight, and the Lord has
spoken to your heart, perhaps a long time ago, "Follow me".
God never pushes. he doesn't compel. But he speaks to your heart, something
you must do. And he waits for you to say, "I will".
there was Peter. He had followed him for a few years. then stopped. Things
became difficult. It can happen in life very easily, when you are working
hard, bringing up a family. Someone may hurt us, a priest may offend us.
We can all make excuses, but it isn't always easy to follow when things
get tough. It happened to Peter. So what did Jesus do? He understood.
One night, the night before he died on the cross, he just looked at Peter.
Not a word. And Peter, that man's eyes filled with tears. But that look,
not of anger, but understanding, told him he could come back. No recrimination.
Next time Jesus saw him he simply repeated, "Follow me". "Do
you love me?"
of us who have been a long time in the Church know that from time to time
we need to hear again those words "Follow me". It may be a matter
of repentance and confession. Pilgrimage is always associated with repentance.
Jesus began his preaching with the words, "The time has come . .
. repent". There comes a moment for a new beginning. Tonight, this
special night, is such a time. Our Lady of Walsingham has come back home.
her first home in this village. She has come out to us, as it were, to
meet us. Just like the Incarnation when God came down to us, just like
the vision here and in other places, Mary has come down here to the village
this special night for us to follow Jesus.
you Fr Patten was a man in a hurry who taught the importance of delaying
no longer. Secondly I told you he was a man who believed and obeyed. In
this respect he was like Blessed Mary whose Shrine he restored. Just as
God called Mary and she believed and obeyed, thereby enabling Christ to
be born; so God called Fr Patten and he believed and obeyed, thereby enabling
this Shrine to be born, reborn after long centuries of sleep. Little did
he know, how could he have guessed, that people in their millions now,
priests beyond count, bishops, Archbishops of Canterbury, all would come
to our village, to humbly kneel and pray in the Holy House. And through
the work of Fr Patten, which inspired Roman Catholics too, great cardinals
would come and go down on their knees before her Shrine.
began in such a small way, placing a statue there in this church, convinced
that God had called him to Walsingham to restore the Shrine; he believed
and obeyed. Yet I wonder. I think perhaps he did have a real prophetic
vision seeing far into the future. Fr Patten wrote many beautiful words,
words of great faith, including these sixty years ago: '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 and they will implore the aid
of Our Lady. And God and Our Lady will look to us too to aid these petitions.
Let us therefore surround the Holy House and Well with a flood of prayer;
and wherever we are, let us pray for those who come to this place that
they may be blessed and find God'.Thus, he asked the people of this village
to pray for those who come seeking aid, and to pray they may all find
the Shrine was not built only for pilgrims. It was a partnership between
village and pilgrims. It was village people who laboured to build it,
village people who first prayed in the Holy House. It was village people
who made the first pilgrimage, opening their homes to welcome and accommodate
pilgrims, as they still do today. Village people who served at the altar
and prayed there each day. In the dark winter days, when there is no pilgrim
in sight, they come from the village and gather for Mass, for the Prayers
of the Church, for the Rosary and Intercessions.
And still the requests come in: for a child with leukaemia; for John whose
wife has left him; that Richard may be able to find work; that a surgeon
may regain the use of his hands.
Fr Patten prophesied, the Shrine is a place of prayer where people will
come to seek help in every kind of need, to be blessed and find God. And
he still says to all of us who live in this village, and all the other
pilgrims who come because they like coming, pray for those who come here
in real and great need. Pray they all may be blessed and find God. Pray
that people may come here and respond to Christ when he calls, "Follow
me", for repentance, and that we all may believe and obey. Walsingham
is a place where people are drawn to a decision to serve God in this life
and be happy with him for ever in the next, where Blessed Mary and all
the saints and angels celebrate the eternal Eucharist which we are so
privileged to offer before Our Lady's Shrine in this church tonight. Day
and night let your eyes watch over this house, over this place of which
you have said, 'My name shall be there'.
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from Walsingham Review no. 105
DIAMOND JUBILEE OF THE SHRINE OF OUR LADY OF WALSINGHAM
Sermon preached by the Rt Revd John Klyberg, Bishop of Fulham, on Saturday
12 October 1991
9:25 Jesus said "Everything is possible for one who has faith".
places play an important part in life. Each of us has special memories
of special places; maybe it is of the home where we grew up or
the church in which we worshipped or a holiday place which means a great
deal to us. As Christians we are the inheritors of a great tradition of
special places. Remember the special places in the Old Testament —
Schechem, for instance —Abraham's first stop in Canaan (Gen 12:
6-8) which also figures prominently in the story of Jacob (Gen 33: 18-20).
BETHEL (Gen 28) associated particularly with Jacob's dream of the ladder.
There are so many special Holy Places mentioned in the Old Testament —
MAMRE, BEERSHEBA, GIGAL, SHILOH, MIZPAH, and so on — right down
to the Temple in Jerusalem which was a very special place for Our Lord
Himself. We remember how angry He was with the traders who were desecrating
it. God favours particular times, particular places, particular people.
Indeed, He Himself came at a particular time, place and as a particular
person. He had to be somewhere to show He was everywhere. Today we give
thanks that we are able to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of the restoration
of the Shrine of Our Lady here in Walsingham. If ever there was a case
of God choosing a time, a place and a person, this is it. To read the
story of Fr Hope Patten's labours is to appreciate the hostility he faced
from a church which had forgotten an important element of the catholic
faith. To see what happens now with thousands and thousands coming here
to renew their faith is indeed something to marvel at — a miracle.
Fr Hope Patten certainly proved the truth of those words of Our Lord which
I used as my text "Everything is possible for one who has faith-.
What has happened in this place would seem totally unlikely back in the
fact is that miracles tend to occur where holiness, faith, and need converge.
It is clear that Fr Hope Patten gave himself totally to the great work
given him by God, and holiness comes about in those who surrender themselves
to God. What has been done has been done because God had a servant full
of faith — trust —and what has been achieved would not have
been if there had not been the need.So much for the past. What about the
present and the future? We can show our gratitude best by realising that
the need remains for the Church of England to give the honour due to the
Mother of Our Saviour. It is true that ever since the reformation, there
have always been some who called Mary Blessed — notably, of course,
Thomas Ken, the C.17th Bishop of Bath and Wells in those words on the
Assumption which many of you will know:—Blessed with transcendent
joysher entrance graced,Next to His throne her Sonhis Mother placed;and
here below, now she'sof heaven possessed.all generations are to call herblessed.But
even today those who give honour where honour is due are relatively few
because of various historical hang-ups and the disadvantages of being
a nationalised and rather tribal church. There is stil much work to be
done in getting across to our brothers and sisters in Christ that the
Blessed Virgin Mary is not an optional extra in Christian doctrine and
devotion; not an exotic growth, a hobby for high church people —
not at all. Blessed Mary played a crucial part in the history of our salvation
and she has been through the ages and is now an enormous help to those
who are trying to follow her Son. She is greatly honoured in the life
of the universal church with the title Mother of God — that is why
her shrines from here to Loretto are crowded with Christians who honour
her. It needs to be said quite frankly that to call Our Lady 'blessed'
is normal and to ignore her is abnormal. To see this in universal terms
rather than parochially is to understand that this shrine at Walsingham
is both important and normal.There is no doubt so far as I am concerned
that this shrine, this village, has a very special atmosphere. Christianity
can so easily be a masculine religion which allows no metaphysical representation
of woman. For the church to be a real spiritual home for believers —
a place of love. of happiness, of refreshment, it is essential that the
Marian, Motherly element, Mother Church should hold sway in the powerful
hidden feminine way, otherwise we are left with an imcomplete experience.
we give thanks to God for His servant and priest Alfred Hope Patten, for
the great work he began and we ask His blessing and the prayers of Our
Lady on this holy shrine now and in the future.
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Walsingham Review no. 105
ANNIVERSARY OF TRANSLATION OF STATUE
Sermon preached by Father Peter Allen, SM, Director of the Roman Catholic
at the Parish Mass in St Mary's Church, on Sunday 13 October 1991
7:8 I preferred her to sceptres and thrones, and I accounted
wealth as nothing in comparison with her.
the Mother of the Lord, who has no other desire than to gather all God's
children into the unity of his Kingdom. This is our theme today
as it was the theme of Fr. Hope Patten in 1931 when he built the Shrine
Church and Holy House dedicated to the Mother of God. It is the theme
of this Shrine village of Walsingham. For Alfred Hope Patten to choose
the living of Walsingham with a view to restoring a medieval Marian shrine
in the Church of England, was, at that time in 1931, the death knell to
any advancement in the Church. It was not a rich parish either. Whatever
glories Walsingham has acquired since, whatever significance in our own
times, in those days it was a backwater. But Fr. Hope Patten did not choose
it for a career, he chose it for reasons of faith . . . in answer to a
clear call of faith within himself and in order to build a richer and
fuller faith for others.
journey of faith which brought him here was not an easy one. First he
had to struggle to find his vocation in the Anglican Church. His hopes
of joining a monastic community came to nought and then, when he began
his training for ordination, he had to endure the further anguish of becoming
physically ill whenever he faced an examination. It must have seemed to
him that God was putting every
obstacle in his way. Out of his weakness God called him and prepared him
for the task which would take up most of his life.
retrospect I think we can confidently say that he was chosen by God for
this special task and by Mary too. The Lord chooses the weak and makes
them strong in bearing witness to him. Fr. Hope Patten's single minded
determination to succeed was the quality the Lord formed in him from the
It was the quality that he would use to great effect for the life of the
Church in this small but important Norfolk village.
is a remarkable thing on this anniversary of Hope Patten's translation
of the statue of our Blessed lady from his church, this church of St.
Mary, to the newly built Shrine Church of the Annunciation, that the Director
of the Catholic Shrine should be asked to preach. Now I use the word Catholic
advisedly, because it is on this word that so much of our divisions have
focused and yet it is also on this word and what it means that our unity
must be founded, not only the unity we seek in the future, but the unity
we already share and in which, by the will of God, we are growing daily.
is a word which reminds us that our faith is one which points us beyond
national interests and exclusiveness towards that condition where all
people and all things, without exception, are one in Jesus Christ. That
is what the word catholic means — wholeness and fullness, not partial
nor sectarian. It refers to a fullness of faith which embraces all people
and nations and indeed the whole of creation. And Jesus Christ is that
fullness. It is to Him and to him alone that we must direct our gaze unflinchingly,
for "in him all things hold together." (Col. 1:17) And when
our work for unity is prevented and our future union seems threatened,
then more than ever must we look beyond present difficulties and overcome
them by centring ourselves more firmly on Christ. I am reminded of the
wise advice of St. Benedict to the monk. "When the wicked devil makes
any suggestion to him, he casts him with loathing out of his heart's sight
.. . then seizing the thoughts in their infancy he dashes them on Christ."
is the wish of Mary of Walsingham. The statue of our Lady of Walsingham
holds out the Christ child to us unceasingly saying as she said to the
servants at Cana. "Do whatever he tells you!" As it was her
role in the beginning so it is her rolein these latter days; to remind
us of our greatest joy, to hear the Word of God and be obedient to Him.
"Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according
to your word."
To hear and keep the word of God is to love one another as he has loved
us. There is no other obedience. Christ intends us to work together in
building up the Catholic faith in England, not to frustrate each other's
efforts. For, as S. Paul says: "there is . . . one Lord, one faith,
one baptism". (Eph. 4:5)
to us to restore England to the fullness of its ancient faith, the faith
brought to us by Roman soldiers and Celtic monks as far back as the third
century and later by Augustine of Rome, that son of St. Benedict sent
by Gregory the Great, bishop of Rome. Yes, England's faith has ever had
a special relationship with that Holy See of Peter and this understanding
was essential to the faith of Fr. Hope Patten. He did not see clearly
how this relationship could berestored, just as we cannot yet see, but
he never doubted that it should be restored and he lived in hope of it.
Our faith has matured from those early times and is maturing and growing
still in wisdom and understanding towards that greater fullness, when
Christ will be all in all things. It is not on the past therefore, but
on the future that our eyes must be fixed. On the One who is to come.
is a kind of parable of all this. Solomon in this same Book of Wisdom
from which the first reading of today's liturgy is taken and which I have
used for my text, goes on to say:"When I enter my house, I shall
find rest with her, for companionship with her has no bitterness and life
with her has no pain, but gladness and joy".When Hope Patten entered
into this house of Walsingham it was so for him I am sure. That is not
to say that he had no problems from that day forward, nor human anguish
and pain, but that spiritually he knew he was home and that joy no-one
could take from him. I think many of us would wish to use this scriptural
passage in the same way, as referring to Walsingham and the most Blessed
and ever Glorious Mother of God."I shall find rest with her, for
companionship with her has no bitterness and life with her has no pain
but gladness and joy."This gift we receive from Mary in Walsingham
of *peace and companionship, where all bitterness and the pain of disunity
is put aside, must be given flesh in our daily living and in our relating
to each other. This word of scripture must become flesh in us, or we have
failed to understand the meaning of Walsingham and what is the work of
Mary in this place.
it is her work in service of her Son, to bring all people to unity and
peace in Him. It is not a work which we have made or begun.
In the beginning of its foundation we are told that Richeldis' workmen
could not build the shrine on the place she had chosen, no matter how
hard they tried, but that Our Lady herself was the chief artificer who,
"with heavenly ministers", built the house some distance away.
our own times, the Shrine has been restored in the Anglican Church and
the Roman Catholic Church. I believe the way in which this has happened,
too, is to remind us that this is not our work but that of the Mother
of God. Neither of us can claim the whole achievement. Each of us has
contributed richly to this place, but she and she alone, who founded this
Shrine, is the same who has restored it.
Patten had a strong interior sense of that I am sure, for already as a
young curate seeking out a living in S. London, we are told that he prayed
to our Lady. "I want the care of one of your churches."
We, like him and along with him have all been called to do the work of
Mary in this place which she has founded and restored. And we are called
on to do it . . . together.
what is that work of hers? Of course it is nothing else but to continue
what she has done from the beginning . . . the will of God. "Behold
I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your
word." She restored this Shrine to fulfil the same purpose for which
she founded it: to be a perpetual memorial of the great joy of her salutation,
the great moment of the Incarnation of the Lord, the beginning of mankind's
gracious redemption, the first of her joys and the source of all our joy.
And so she sits, as she has from the beginning, in the midst of the Church
of Christ, pointing all people to him and saying: "Do whatever he
house and Shrine of Walsingham is this house and shrine of the Annunciation.
(Not, incidentally, the house of the Holy family, but the house of the
Annunciation, presumably the house of her parents Joachim and Anna, where
she had been brought up and before Joseph took her to his own home.) It
is the house where she heard and received the Word of God and where the
Word became flesh of her flesh and dwelt in her midst and who dwells now
in our midst too. It is the house where she first conceived the Lord through
faith before she conceived him in her womb. And blessed are we if we put
this task before all other concerns of our life . . . "that imitating
her most holy manners we also, by the grace of the holy Spirit, may deserve
to conceive the Lord Jesus spiritually in our inmost soul and once conceived
never to lose him. Amen."
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