This recent Catholic News Agency (CNA) story comments upon the continuing popularity of the shrine of Our Lady of Walshingham, which is a Memorial today in the dioceses of England, noting that it was the first pilgrimage shrine to Mary, the Mother of God in Christendom, with its origins in 1061:
“From that time, through till the reformation, in 1538, Walsingham was one of the great shrines of Christendom,” and the only shrine dedicated to Our Lady, Msgr. Armitage said.
It is a great source of pride that Walsingham is the site of the oldest Marian shrine in the world, he said.
“Indeed, if you go to Nazareth, and you stand in front of the Holy House in Nazareth, if you look up, you’ll see all the different images of the Shrines to Our Lady around the world. And the first one that is displayed there is the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.”
Although the shrine itself was destroyed in 1538, a small nearby chapel where pilgrims en route to Walsingham would stop remained. “It’s where the pilgrims would come and before they entered the shrine ground, they would go to confession and then they would take their shoes off, and leave them at the slipper chapel – hence its name – and would walk barefoot into the shrine in the village.”
This tradition continues to this day, the rector added. “Once (the pilgrims) have finished their devotion at the slipper chapel shrine, they then walk along what’s called the Holy Mile into the village.”
After the shrine was rebuilt in the 20th century, the site began to see a resurgence of pilgrims which continues to this day.
“Walsingham is a great crossroads of Catholics in England,” Msgr. Armitage said, and many consider it to be the “spiritual heart” of the country.
CNA also provides this prayer to Our Lady of Walsingham:
O Mary, recall the solemn moment when Jesus, your divine son, dying on the cross, confided us to your maternal care. You are our mother, we desire ever to remain your devout children. let us therefore feel the effects of your powerful intercession with Jesus Christ. make your name again glorious in the shrine once renowned throughout England by your visits, favours, and many miracles.
Pray, O holy mother of God, for the conversion of England, restoration of the sick, consolation for the afflicted, repentance of sinners, peace to the departed.
O blessed Mary, mother of God, our Lady of Walsingham, intercede for us. Amen.