Saturday, 15 July 2006

A Day at the Shrine

Readers will know by now that (until 4th September) I’m the assistant priest at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Willesden in North London. Pilgrimages to Willesden date back to the fifteenth century and pilgrims have included two saints, SS Thomas More and Josemaria Escriva. However, it’s an uphill struggle to promote pilgrimages here because we’re situated in a rather ugly, busy, nondescript suburb and lack facilities like a car park, tea shop and (most crucially) an extensive ‘tat’ shop selling candles, books, images, holy trinkets, rosaries in every shape and form, luminous statues, images of Our Lord with opening and closing eyes, etc.

However, today was one of those days when our shrine felt like a shrine. At 9.30am I gave a talk on Our Lady Of Willesden to 30 recently confirmed people from the parish of Wood Green, who stayed for our morning Mass in honour of St Bonaventure at 10am before continuing their ‘pilgrimage’ at Thorpe Park (a theme park near London).

Then, after spending an hour in the confessional box, it was time for the Day of Pilgrimage of Reparation for Sins against Human Life, which was also being held at other British shrines (including Walsingham and West Grinstead). The day involved a Procession, Solemn Mass (in honour of Our Lady, the New Eve – the Marian supplement to the Missal has some beautiful Masses), Talk (courtesy of the Good Counsel Network), Rosary, Prayer of Papal Entrustment, Exposition and Benediction.

This ties in with the diocese’s Open the Doors Festival of Faith this weekend – when ‘everyone in the Diocese is invited to share the life of our parishes, schools and communities with the wider community.’ Some parishes have been very creative, organising a Mystery Play (Barnet), a Fair at Westminster Cathedral (complete with Morris Dancers and a performance by the wonderful Cathedral choir) and a Forty Hours Devotion in the Central London churches. As well as our Pilgrimage of Reparation and Consecration, Willesden is holding an 'International Mass' (!) tomorrow (eg with bidding prayers in languages I've never heard of, like Tagalog and Akan), followed by a parish festa.

I'll certainly miss the Shrine when I leave!



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