The message and Image of Walsingham is coming to the south-east, writes Bishop Lindsay Urwin

It is said that Fr Hope Patten once returned from a time away only to discover that in his absence a helpful nun had decided to give the image in the Holy House a good clean. The horrified Administrator apparently spent hours holding a candle to the face of the Blessed Mother in order to return her to an appropriately venerable condition!

There are many copies of the image of Our Lady of Walsingham in parish churches in Britain and in other parts of the world, and I always find it moving to see them and to be reminded that pilgrims so love this place that they want that visual reminder close to home, using it as a focus for their prayer and intercession.

But there is something about the original…or rather this copy of the original, not least when you recall that it was the first carving in the likeness of the image on the priory seal since the burning in 1538. That wooden statue has ‘witnessed’ countless prayers and wonderings and tears these past ninety or so years, reminding and reassuring the pilgrim that the truly living Mother of God is praying for him or her now, and will do so even at the hour of their death.

It has seemed appropriate for the village of Walsingham to suffer the temporary loss of the image’s presence on a number, though not many, occasions through the years. There was a series of visitations during the Millennium year and then during Fr North’s time as Administrator; then Our Lady ‘hit the road’ during the 950th anniversary celebrations.

On Saturday 22 February we will take the Image and the message of Walsingham to the south-east for a day of celebration in Guildford Cathedral. The image will be welcomed at 11.50 and then following Mary’s advice at Cana, we will begin by doing what Jesus tells us to do and celebrate the Eucharist. In the afternoon there will be opportunities for the ministries of healing that are so much a part of the pilgrimage experience, including of course the liturgy of Sprinkling. Concluding with Benediction at 3.30 pm, it will be nothing less than a Catholic Revival Meeting!

How good it is that the Cathedral authorities are so keen to welcome us. It is a great opportunity not just for those who love this Shrine, but an excellent ‘taster’ for those who have not yet found their way to Walsingham. It is a day for the committed and for the curious.

For further details, in particular about car parking and catering, contact Richard North.

His email is . ND