Today we commemorate Our Lady of Walsingham, which marks one of the earliest apparitions of the Blessed Mary.
The apparitions appeared to Richeldis de Faverches, an English noblewoman in 1061. She believed the Blessed Mother transported her soul to the Holy Land, and showed her the home of the Holy Family. And she felt called to establish a shrine to the Holy Family in England.
She did, by building the Holy House, which became a shrine. In time, it became as popular a spot for pilgrims as Glastonbury and Canterbury, who couldn’t travel to Rome or Compostela because of civil unrest. The shrine became known as England’s Nazareth. In the 1300’s, a devout abbot built a shrine called the Slipper House, where pilgrims could leave their shoes to walk the last mile to the shrine barefoot.
Despite the fact that Henry VIII was one of eight monarchs who worshiped at the shrine, it did not escape his Reformation (in which he seized all religious property in England after he declared himself the sole authority in England). The shrine was destroyed in 1538.
But faith couldn’t be destroyed or suppressed forever. Pilgrimages began again in 1897, and the chapel was restored that year.
Today, there are shrines to Our Lady in Sheboygan, Wisconsin; Williamsburg, Virginia; Houston, Texas and other locations around the U.S. (including an altar to Our Lady of Walsingham at St. Paul’s K Street). Prayers at the shrine are offered for the Church, the world, the sick, all in need and the departed. At the website for the Anglican Shrine of our Lady in Walsingham – www.walsinghamanglican.org – prayer requests may be submitted on-line.
The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington