Six hundred years before Jesus was born, the Jewish people were driven from their beloved temple in Jerusalem and sent away in exile to Babylon.  It was a time of bitterness, pain and grief, described so powerfully in Psalm 137: ‘By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion’.

That is surely how most of us feel now that we have been separated for a while from our beloved Shrine at Walsingham.  For all of us it is a place of such life and joy and healing that to be unable to make the pilgrimage seems unbearable.  It is like an exile to us.  And of course that pain comes against a back drop of fear and anxiety in our nation as ever more extreme measures are taken to keep us safe against the pandemic.

So please, in this time of grief, remember three things:

First, remember at Walsingham the praying never stops.  The Mass is being offered privately and each night at 6pm a lone person will offer Shrine Prayers in the Holy House.  That praying is for you.  Walsingham is precious to us because it is a place where prayer is offered and answered and the praying will always continue.  So why not, at 6pm each night, offer a Decade of the Rosary and make a pilgrimage to the Holy House in your heart?  Or even better, watch the Shrine Prayers as it is live streamed on the Shrine website.

Second, remember that the truth to which Walsingham bears witness is unchanging.  Because of Mary’s bold and daring obedience, God is with us in Jesus.  And having come to be with us, he has no intention of leaving.  No matter what may befall our nation or what you personally may have to endure, Jesus is with you.  He who bore pain on the cross bears also the pain of all who will suffer from this virus.  He who rose again in glory guarantees that hope and love will always triumph over fear and darkness.  Nothing can ever undermine that truth.

And third, remember, this will not last.  By being separated for a while from England’s Nazareth, we will come to love it even more.  And one day we will return to Mary’s home and join in with her intercession, a band of pilgrims united by our unfailing hope in the Word made Flesh.

So keep praying!  Pray for our nation, pray for our Shrine, pray for your loved ones and pray for that day when we can go to Walsingham once more.

With my love and prayers,

Bishop Philip

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