After Pontifical High Mass at ‘The Martyrs’, Preston – off to Walsingham

Dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome this week’s post of the Bishop’s Blog!

It was a heart-lifting experience last Sunday morning to see the beautiful Preston church of Saint Thomas of Canterbury and the English Martyrs filled to capacity, when a Pontifical Mass was celebrated in the extraordinary form to mark a new chapter in the particular history of this church.

It seemed to me as if this venerable place of worship was once more breathing fully in both lungs, and through its splendid liturgy praise and worship were offered to Almighty God.

While Sunday Mass in the ordinary form will continue to be celebrated weekly for now, the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest will now take care of this lovely church and ensure that there is Mass each day in the extraordinary form, that the sacraments will be administered, and a regular pattern of prayer and devotional life be available to all who come to English Martyrs, and for which it was built.

We give thanks to God for the hope generated for the future, and for the consolation and inspiration given to us by those wonderful liturgical moments that we were privileged to be part of last weekend in St. Thomas of Canterbury and the English Martyrs church, Preston. To God be the glory!

The National Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, the village itself, and the rural Norfolk surroundings offer much peace and tranquility to the pilgrims who make the journey there. I spent the last five days in Walsingham with thirty-four others from the Diocese of Lancaster, and all were unanimous how enriched we felt as a consequence.

Only the small Slipper Chapel remains of this ancient Catholic shrine, but the hallowed atmosphere of the site is suggestive of the presence of Our Lady and of the prayers recited there by countless generations of devout pilgrims, coming here since the eleventh century.

Since the official pilgrim season was almost at an end, our little group had the shrine more or less to ourselves. We had Mass each day and walked the pilgrim mile, reciting the rosary. Apart from the last day, the weather was kind and we enjoyed pleasant autumn days. We were encouraged and uplifted by one another’s company, always aware that that we were in a special place.

Walsingham offers a precious space away from the noise and bustle of modern life, a place where we can get in touch with the deeper rhythms within ourselves, and commune quietly with Our Lady and her Blessed Son. We had many intentions, including those of the Diocese of Lancaster, so all were remembered and placed confidently into the hands of Our Lady of Walsingham.

During this short pilgrimage we had a memorable visit to Oxburgh Hall, a forty minute drive from Walsingham, the seat of the Catholic Bedingfeld family since the thirteenth century. A notable feature of this striking, moat-surrounded, building was the presence of a priest’s hiding hole (said to have been built by St Nicholas Owen) where priests would take cover as they went about ministering in time of persecution, at risk to their lives.

The present heir, Sir Henry Bedingfeld, with his wife, Lady Mary, welcomed us warmly and spoke of the family’s long history and loyal adherence to the Catholic faith, in good times and bad. We had the privilege of having Mass in their chapel on the estate, at a fifteenth century richly adorned Belgian altar.

We came away from Oxburgh Hall made just a little more conscious of the debt we present day Catholics owe to families like the Bedingfelds who steadfastly refused to abandon their Catholic heritage.

We left Walsingham feeling much the better for having been at Our Lady’s shrine, with many of our pilgrims determined to make the long journey again next year!

Until next week,

May God bless you all,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster