Walsingham, here we come!

Walsingham, here we come!

An Experience of Pilgrimage


The appeal, the yearning, the offer of mercy continues! Great experiences! The annual pilgrimage to the Shrine of our Lady of Walsingham by families (Travellers) and the young people (Youth 2000) every last weekend of August is, as they say in Cameroon, “one in town”. What an experience!

I joined the bus from London Euston and arrived a day late, missing the first day and the opening ceremony. We registered, received wrist bands and made our way to our respective tents. It had the tinge, the flavour, the vigour, the ardour, the fragrance of Medjugorje, of the World Youth Days, of Youth camps or Rallies in Cameroon or South Africa.

The atmosphere was electric, to say the least – the comradery, the deep faith, the angelic singing, the guitars, drums, band, keyboard, smashing! Three bishops and over twenty priests, a hundred families and one thousand five hundred youth. The logistical organisation was superb – the typical square-peg-square-hole planning and execution common in Europe and rare back home, for I grew, lived and loved chaos and lateness.

The chaplain’s homily, “ncwa”!, the team duties, the complimentary MCing, the presentation and facilitation of sessions (like life stories: cenacolo community, theology of the body, role of beauty in evangelization, question of suffering, prayer and journaling, Walsingham, ProLife missionaries, sexuality, marriage and family in Scripture, brotherhood and discipleship, the Bible to me, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Lectio Divina, sisterhood and discipleship, Mary’s Meals, Vocations, Gap year and discipleship, Mother Teresa’s footsteps, Evangelisation, Holy Spirit, Christ the Saviour, Reconcilation, Prayer, Faith and healing…) – they knew what they were doing/saying!

The adoration (twenty-four hours exposition on a tower with ninety nine candles at the centre of the tent), the praise and worship, the catering, quality food and reasonable left-overs!

At the end, they acknowledged, thanked and encouraged various groups – families, newly wedded couples, newly ordained, all the youth and those discerning vocations. I sat there in silence, prayed and learned a lot from the praise and worship, homilies and planning. I came away with insights ringing in my mind like: called to love, not so much as a feeling as a virtue; there are things in life that may be hard to see or believe but they are true all the same; a famous joke that the problem with pornography is that it does not show enough (the heart, the family, love, problems, pain, history of the person/s exposed/used). I entered the Holy Door of Mercy, listened, assisted and cherished the tremendous hospitality. These two songs kept ringing in my mind as I came away:

let every other love just fade away, until it’s only you O Lord; Let it rain, open the floods gates of heaven, let it rain.

The quality of what was served, said, sung, played, focused or felt was unmistakable; kudos and thanks to the humble, passionate, compassionate and great chaplain, the organisers, facilitators, team and volunteers from different dioceses and evidently from Westminster, Ireland and Glasgow.

The Mother of Mercy was hailed, the Shrine of Mercy throve and thrives! Long live our Lady’s Dowry, England’s Nazareth; long live the Catholic church and the Youth Ministry; long live the Irish Travellers who graced the occasion with lively faith and passionate devotions. A TENT around their tents in the camp was a sanctuary of beauteous devotions and sentimental faith. Long live the pilgrim fellowship of love and faith; long live the diversity of cultures, colours, ages, gender and races. Long live the Shrine of our Lady of Walsingham – Happy feast!

Emmanuel Mbeh mhm, 26th-29th August 2016

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