Sunday, March 19, 2006

Pilgrimage to Walsingham

Father Peter was downstairs by the office with the list of those that were going to Walsingham. Where is Vito? We don’t know. OK, let’s go…

The bus was waiting on the other side of the street. Half the bus was full of students from a place called Notre Dame, a Catholic university in the mid-West of America, a land that became a dream thanks to those immigrants who had the faith and courage to cross the ocean to build a new Christian life. Somehow, their sons were in the bus waiting for us students. We, the ones from Newman House, were different. All of us were from Old Europe. Benedikte and Vito were from the romantic and renaissance land of Italy, always singing even when the music is off; Ian Mannon (the supreme senior of the seniors and the supreme servant of the servants of Father Peter) was from the ex-empire called, Great Britain (I always asked myself why “Great”…) [It may be an ex-empire, but it was still bigger than yours. Ed.]; Stephan, alias “Mustafá”, a walking Russia when you see him; Alister got a new motto at the end of the trip… “Mafia” from Great Britain too (I’ll explain it another time); Simon, a another Briton, got a new shoes for the trip (we were impressed); and myself, another pilgrim looking for water in the middle of the desert. Spain was the country that gave me the opportunity to feel the toasted sand of the Christians, I thought: “I’m lucky to be with this people”.

But, we were not alone in this trip to Walsihgam. Four people touched by Christ were with us. Two amazing Irish souls were protecting our trip, two powerful smiles were there to take care, like mothers, of our necessities during the three days: Sister Brid and Sister Mary. They were the chilli of the trip without any doubt.

Lastly with the Newman House group and the Notre Dame group, two special people were with us, watching our Christian steps and faith. Father Brian and Father Peter. Father Peter was Father Peter but ten times more…we noticed from Newman House group how impressed the students from Notre Dame were. Asking about him…we, proud of him, were saying that he is like our Father in the house. They were silent in awe…

The feeling in the bus was incredible, especially when we saw Vito with seven Tesco bags full of food and saying to all of us: “Guys, Father Peter told me that we have to bring our food, otherwise we won’t eat during the weekend!”

When we got to Walsingham it was night and freezing, and we got to the Anglican hostel where we were staying for the weekend. The place is something similar, perhaps, to those places where the only feeling that comes to our minds is peace. There was a replica of Calvary…and there were many corners to pray and be in silence and in touch with God, especially during the night when the lights of the sacred place were making everything more special.

After a while we got our single rooms. Father Peter prepared our dinner in the main hall. I have never seen something more British then bread, cheese, chicken, chips and tea. Sister Brid and Sister Mary were happy. Vito, shocked, ran away to make his Italian panino. We had a good time eating all together. And after we broke the coffee pot to make sure that Newman House was in the Anglican place and after washing everything up, with Sister Brid watching behind, we went to the church to our first Mass in Walsingham. Father Peter and Father Brian concelebrated the Mass. It was a tiny place where old people were there to meet up our young souls. For the first time we saw the priest of Walsingham. Personally, it touched me when we read the Our Father and the Latin readings…and meanwhile his sick hand was shaking…I thought of John Paul II.

Afterwards we came home and we met the Notre Dame students to introduce ourselves in a big circle. It was an important time to get to meet everyone. However, the pub was waiting for all of us…a better place to know people and have a good laugh.

Next day was the big day. We wake up in the freezing morning, then said some prayers to give thanks to God, especially for the sunny days that we were having over the weekend, and then a big breakfast was waiting for us: beans, eggs, croissants, fruit, coffee, tea…we weren’t missing Newman House breakfast at all!

We were ready to walk and make Pilgrimage from Walsingham to the Shrine. Before we were ready to take the statue of Mary in our shoulders we all met in the main hall of the Anglican hostel, a place where you might even see Ian talking with two sisters.

Later on there was silence in the main hall and personal reflections to understand and feel the message of God.

Later on we walked down to the city to do the pilgrimage. We were all told that it is a tradition to walk the mile to the shrine without shoes. We thought that Simon would be happy about that. Also it was very important to walk the mile in silence. The feelings and thoughts that one can have when you see a landscape so beautiful as this are incredible.

We said some prayers during the mile’s walk and finally we got to the shrine at a small place in the middle of the British countryside

It was so cold and after we got to the place and before Mass we went to have a tea and scone in the bar. Sister Brid and Sister Mary were always laughing and making everybody happy.

After Confessions in the main church close to the shrine we had lunch and some free time. Time for a siesta and to read some books.

Later on we had the Rosary evening in the chapel of the Anglican hostel. After Father Brian’s explanation of what is understood by the Rosary and its significance and importance we prayed the Rosary. Finally for the foreigners it was the opportunity to learn by heart in English “Ave Maria” (Glory Maria?). It was a special moment, with everybody, Notre Dame and Newman House together, mixed. Father Brian reminded us that the prayer of the Rosary can be done anytime and anywhere…it brings peace.

Later on we went to the Pub in the village to have dinner. We waited more then 40 minutes before we had a table, and probably some other 15 minutes for the first bite.

Next day we went to the North Sea. It was freezing but the place was magic and peaceful. Afterwards we had Mass in the same place which is close to the shrine.

Finally we were on our way back to London. Our souls were clean and our faces had a smile of peace. It was Sunday and we were having chocolates and biscuits and sharing everything that we had; perhaps we were so happy to feel that we were from the same family. A Christian family.

Father Peter invited the Notre Dame students to come (watch this space) for a Sunday mass and afterwards a pizza (a speciality of the House).

Thank you!

Denis Criado