Pilgrims to walk 59 miles to England’s Our Lady of Walsingham shrine this summer 

olo walshingham behold202 Our Lady of Walsingham. | Behold2020.

“Record-breaking attendance” is expected for the upcoming annual pilgrimage to England’s famous Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, according to the Latin Mass Society (LMS) of England and Wales, which is organizing the summer event.

Known as “England’s Nazareth,” the popular shrine is located on the north coast of East Anglia and was established around 1061.

Inspired by the famous walking pilgrimage from Paris to Chartres, pilgrims will meet in Ely, East Cambridgeshire, on Thursday, Aug. 24, and walk roughly 59 miles to Walsingham, where their journey will conclude with Mass in Walsingham’s Chapel of Reconciliation followed by devotions on Sunday, Aug. 27.

In an email exchange with CNA on June 13, Joseph Shaw, chairman of the Latin Mass Society, said: “Last year we had 160 pilgrims, including the volunteers; this was a big jump from the previous year, which itself was a big increase on the pre-COVID level … Early indications are that we will have another record-breaking year this year, as they had on the Chartres pilgrimage.”

During the course of the pilgrimage there will be singing, praying of the rosary, daily sung Mass, and confession on the road.

When asked what made the LMS pilgrimage different to other pilgrimages to Walsingham, Shaw said: “Lots of pilgrims arrive in Walsingham each year, some walking, some in groups. What is special about ours is that it is open to everyone — unlike, say, a parish outing — and the spirit of the pilgrimage, which is inspired by Chartres: singing, praying the rosary, daily sung Mass, confession on the road, increasingly large scale, and physically demanding.

“We are much, much smaller than Chartres, but walking in chapters of 20-30 the experience is quite similar. The daily walk is a bit shorter, and we try to make the best of our small size by having a freshly-cooked evening meal for the pilgrims: The food on the Chartres pilgrimage is very basic! We also have a cantor in each chapter to lead the singing.”

The Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham is known as “England’s Nazareth,” situated on the North coast of East Anglia and was established around 1061. A devout English Catholic noblewoman — Richeldis de Faverches — prayed that she might undertake some special work in honor of Our Lady. Through her prayers, Mary showed her the House of the Annunciation in Nazareth and asked her to build a replica in Walsingham as a lasting memorial of the Annunciation. 

Shaw told CNA that the pilgrims who have attended so far were a diverse group but that the average age leans toward the younger side, thanks to the presence of students, young professionals, and children. 

Shaw also said that the hardship involved with walking pilgrimages also gave them extra appeal. 

“If you look at the statistics for the Camino you’ll see how it went through a very lean patch in the 1980s,” he said. “In the aftermath of Vatican II, I think a lot of people couldn’t see the point of a devotion that involves real hardship. Things have changed, and now it attracts vast numbers, including many non-Catholics.”

For more information about the LMS pilgrimage from Ely to Walsingham, visit this site.

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