Since we pass through this world
merely as pilgrims
let us keep our sights fixed on the end of the road,
where our real home lies.
Let us strive to please God
who is everywhere present,
so that we can happily pass along the road
to the home of our heavenly Father.
At the end of a pilgrimage to Saint Edmundsbury is this processional cross. Around the base of the cross are the arrows with which King Edmund was martyred, The cross itself shines as the sun, drawing our eyes up to the crown of thorns – or is it a star? – that calls us to the end of the road that leads us past this little, earthly, devotional pilgrimage to that which Columban evokes: the road to the home of our heavenly Father.
Francis trusted his brethren to ‘take charge of the government of the Order’; this was also an expression of his trust in God to care for his family. What would he have said to the basilicas and monasteries of today’s Assisi ? But it feels more of a pilgrimage place than a tourist destination. Good things happen here, good things happen around the world because of what Assisi stands for, because of the international Franciscan community.
Saint Francis, seeing that, by reason of the stigmata of Christ, his bodily strength grew gradually less and that he was not able any more to take charge of the government of the Order, hastened forward the General Chapter of the Order; and, when it was assembled, he humbly excused himself to the friars for the weakness which prevented him from attending any more to the care of the Order, as touching the duties of General; albeit he renounced not that office of General because he was not able to do so, inasmuch as he had been made General by the Pope; and therefore he could neither resign his office nor appoint a successor without the express leave of the Pope.
Nevertheless he appointed as his Vicar Friar Peter Cattani, and commended the Order unto him and unto the Ministers of the Provinces with all possible affection. And, when he had thus done, Saint Francis, being comforted in spirit, lifted up his eyes and hands to heaven and spake thus: “To Thee, my Lord God, to Thee I commend this Thy family, which unto this hour Thou hast committed unto me; and now, by reason of my infirmities, which Thou my most sweet Lord knowest, I am no longer able to take charge thereof. Also do I commend it to the Ministers of the Provinces; and if, through their negligence or through their bad example or through their too harsh correction, any friar shall perish, may they be held to give account thereof to Thee on the Day of Judgement.” And in these words, as it pleased God, all the friars of the Chapter understood that he spake of the most holy Stigmata, to wit in that which he said excusing himself by reason of his infirmity: and for devotion none of them was able to refrain from weeping.
And from thenceforward he left all the care and government of the Order in the hands of his Vicar and of the Ministers of the Provinces; and he was wont to say: “Now that, by reason of my infirmities, I have given up the charge of the Order, I have no other duty than to pray God for our Religion and to set a good ensample to the friars. And of a truth, I know well that, if my infirmity should leave me, the greatest help which I could render to the Religion would be to pray continually to God for it, that He would defend and govern and preserve it.”
Here are Fr Anthony Charlton’s reflections on meeting an extreme pilgrim.
Being in the centre of the city we inevitable get many callers at the door.
Someone looking for help with their electric, a person needing their house blessed because they are hearing voices, or a homeless person looking for a cup of tea and a sandwich.
On Sunday afternoon just as I was ready for a nap after lunch, the doorbell rang and there was a young man dressed in black who was looking for a place to stay the night. He announced himself as Br Nathaniel and was a member of the comparative new order of young men founded in 2002 in the States and called the Servants of Jesus Christ. Each Servant takes a month-long poverty pilgrimage bringing along only one change of clothes and a bible.
Brother Nathanael was making his way through the UK. He has come from London and after staying in Canterbury was moving on to Aylesford. I was struck by how little he possessed and that he had to rely on the generosity of those he met.
The spirituality of the Servants of Jesus Christ is based on St Ignatius’s spiritual exercises. St Ignatius encourages those doing the exercises to live like the poor. He encourages us to embrace “poverty as opposed to affluence” and also to embrace “insults or contempt as opposed to the prestige of this world”. He saw this as preparing the ground to receive the virtue of humility as opposed to pride.
Lord help me to let go of anything that hinders my relationship with your Son.
Canon Father Anthony Parish Priest,
Saint Thomas', Canterbury.
This is the beginning of an interesting article by Ellen Teague in Saint Anthony’s Messenger Magazine, setting the Franciscans’ return to Walsingham and their ministry there in their historical and ecumenical context. Today is the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham.
IF YOU have ever visited Walsingham, England’s National Marian Shrine, you may have noticed a ruined friary standing on a small hill outside the village. This Franciscan Friary was built in the mid-14th century and flourished for nearly two centuries, until the dissolution of religious houses under King Henry VIII. Over the last five centuries, the friars of the order which served there until the 1530s – the Order of Franciscan Friars Conventual, more commonly known as Greyfriars – never forgot Walsingham. They have prayed for friars buried there, for those who had caused the destruction of this holy place, and for the day when Greyfriars would return to Walsingham.
There were great celebrations then on 19 March 2018 when a small group of Greyfriars formally returned to Walsingham, to be based in the centre of the town; it was the solemnity of the Feast of St Joseph. Friar Marco Tasca, Minister General of the Greyfriars, attended from Rome. He said the friars aim to a prophetic sign of dialogue and reconciliation to the world today, ministering to Walsingham’s many pilgrims just as they did five centuries ago.
Pilgrims have flocked to the small Norfolk village of Little Walsingham since the 11th century to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. It was in the Anglo-Saxon village pre-dating the Norman invasion that a devout English Lady, Richeldis de Faverches, experienced three visions in 1061 in which the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to her. In these visions Richeldis was shown the house of the Annunciation in Nazareth, and was requested to build a replica of it. Mary is said to have promised that, “whoever seeks my help there will not go away empty-handed.” In Medieval times, when travelling abroad became difficult because of the Crusades, Walsingham evolved into a place of great Christian importance and pilgrimage, ranking alongside Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago de Compostela. The popularity of Walsingham was boosted since it was impossible for Christians to visit Nazareth itself, which was in Saracen hands.
This XIX Century passage captures a moment when attitudes to relics and pilgrimages were beginning to change. Since then the sites of many saints’ shrines have been refurbished to welcome visitors, who may be bemused, but are not as scornful as our writer feared. The modern loving inscriptions on seaside or park benches are in direct line to the shrines of saints, not to mention the verses and flower symbols carved into grave markers.
It is not, perhaps, a difficult matter for an age which has lost all faith in saints, and almost all in the possibility of saintliness, to find ground for scornful derision in the devotion of the men of old, to the tombs of the hallowed dead; but it is, at least, open to question whether such a method of raising funds for religious purposes was not quite as legitimate and consistent as the modern fancy for the frivolity of a “Bazaar”, or the feebleness of an amateur concert.
Alas! That in speaking of the English shrines, one should have to speak always of what has been, or of the fragments, the shadows, the dry records only, that remain to us. If the veneration of centuries, if the glories of art, had no voice that could be heard against the clamorous cupidity of the despoiler, surely one might have hoped that the presence of the holy dead would have availed to arrest the royal tyrant and the puritan bigot in their career of sacrilege and crime.
Some English Shrines by the Rev. Geo. S. Tyack, B.A. in Curious Church Gleanings, ed William Andrews, F.R.S.H., Hull, William Andrews & Co, 1896.
May oppressed people and those who oppress them set one another free. May those who are disabled and those who think they are not, help one another. May those who need someone to listen to them move the hearts of those who are too busy. May the homeless give joy to those who, albeit unwillingly, open their door to them. May the poor melt the hearts of the rich. May those who seek the truth give life to those who are satisfied because they have already found it. May the dying who do not want to die be comforted by those who find it very hard to live. May those who are not loved be authorised to open the hearts of those who are not successful in loving. May prisoners find true freedom and free others from fear. May those who sleep on the streets share their kindness with those who do not manage to understand them. May the hungry tear the veil from the eyes of those who do not hunger for justice. May those who live without hope purify the hearts of their brothers and sisters who are afraid of living. May the weak confuse the strong. May hatred be surmounted by compassion. May violence be neutralised by men and women of peace. May it surrender to those who are totally vulnerable, so that we may be healed. Therese Vanier
In L’Arche Kent Community Pilgrimage handbook 2022. Therese was one of the founders of L’Arche Kent in 1975.
A few days before our visit to Bury Saint Edmund’s, a book turned up on our shelves that none of the family remembered: ‘Edmund, in search of England’s lost king’, by Francis Young.* It was a good preparation for our time there and made it more memorable. Young is both enthusiastic and knowledgeable, but he can tell us little for certain about the life of Saint Edmund. It is for his martyr’s death that he is remembered.
The Danes’ Great Heathen Army ravaged much of Eastern England for a second time in 869, capturing and assassinating King Edmund of East Anglia. Edmund’s armourer was an eyewitness to his binding to a tree and execution as an archery target, before being decapitated and his head tossed into the brambles, where a wolf cared for it till the search party arrived.
It seems that Danes as well as Anglo-Saxons recognised his sanctity, and indeed he was celebrated across England to Wessex, and beyond the North Sea to the rest of Europe. King Canute, Danish King of all England after he had had King Ethelred executed, established the great Abbey at Bury Saint Edmund’s, no doubt from very mixed motives. Future Kings patronised the Abbey, publicly deriving authority from their alliance with Edmund.
However all that came to an end when Henry VIII dissolved the monastery in 597. The fate of the Saint’s body is not known, despite searches in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Francis Young has his own theory of where they might have been hidden before the King’s representatives arrived.
Francis Young brings to life not only Edmund, but a host of characters, Danish, English and French; scholars, churchmen and royalty. He throws light on the evolution of English society over seven centuries before the dissolution and in the time since then. He argues that England needs its former patron saint now more than ever, with the reason for the United Kingdom under question post Brexit, and a new relationship with our continental neighbours yet to be established.
Read this book if you are a potential pilgrim to Bury, or else interested in almost forgotten English history. Young’s deep scholarship is presented in clear, flowing English. If you read it for the history, you may well find yourself looking up train times to Bury. You will not be disappointed when you go on pilgrimage.
*Edmund, in search of England’s lost king’, by Francis Young, London, I.B. Tauris, 2018.
Pilgrimage was a popular devotion in England before the Reformation, that tornado which changed the face of Canterbury and many other towns, including Bury Saint Edmund’s in Suffolk. People would travel, often with some hardship, to celebrate a saint at his or her home, to pray at the shrine, and to buy a souvenir to show to family and friends. Earlier this year we brought home some Saint Edmund’s Russet apples from Saint Edmundsbury Market as our pilgrimage souvenir.
After our visit to Norway yesterday, join us in a virtual pilgrimage to Bury, beginning, as is right, with a passage from the Prologue to Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote The droghte of March hath perced to the roote And bathed every veyne in swich licour, Of which vertu engendred is the flour; Whan Zephiruseek with his sweete breeth Inspired hath in every holt and heeth The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne, … Thanne longen folk to go on on pilgrimages.
When in April the sweet showers fall That pierce March’s drought to the root and all And bathed every vein in liquor that has power To generate therein and sire the flower; When Zephyr also has with his sweet breath, Filled again, in every holt and heath, The tender shoots and leaves, and the young sun His half-course in the sign of the Ram has run, … Then folk do long to go on pilgrimage,
Geoffrey Chaucer’s pilgrims set out to Canterbury in April, probably just after Easter but Mrs T and I left that city just after Christmas, travelling to Bury Saint Edmund’s.
Getting around England is so much easier today than in Chaucer’s time: a train to London, a short walk, and onto another. That said, we arrived out of season, as the restrictions on travel and gatherings were easing. We found ourselves warmly welcomed in another pilgrimage city. The Cathedral’s choirs were just finding their voices again. It was good to be there, but we did not see everything we had in mind. Another time, maybe?
One blessing of a short time away is to shake off the daily routines that keep us from spending time with each other. Even if you can only manage a walk for a few hours with your spouse or friends, create the opportunity and enjoy your time together. By the time you read this it will be summer holidays: plan now for quality time at half-term or Christmas!
Tomorrow we will look at the story of Saint Edmund, king and martyr, which turned the little town into a major pilgrims’ destination.
As I said a few days ago, I though we could use some of our holiday time to go on virtual pilgrimage, and thanks to Sheila Billingsley who alerted us to this Norwegian saint, we can start with Olav, the Holy King of Norway who died in 1030, in a world very different to our own.
I was especially glad of her recommendation as I was unwell and needed to find an on-line Mass to attend. She pointed me to a Roman Catholic High Mass for the Feast of Saint Olav, presided by Bishop Erik Varden of Trondheim in the Lutheran Cathedral in that city – the church where Dr Varden was ordained Bishop.
Sigrid Undset wrote of St Olav, patron saint of our diocese and country: ‘Saint Olav was the seed our Lord chose to sow in Norway’s earth because it was well suited to the weather here and to the quality of the soil.’ What makes his story so compelling is the fact that we can follow, step by step, the work of grace in his life. Olav was not a ready-made saint; he began adult life as a viking mercenary. Though through his encounter with Christ in the Church, through decisive sojourns in Rouen and Kyiv, then his final, dramatic return to Norway, where he died a martyr, supernatural light gradually took hold of him and suffused him, radiant in his body even after death.
Should you wish to follow our celebrations, you can find access here. A good account of St Olav’s life is available here.
Do read the life of Saint Olav at the link above and dip into the celebrations on youtube. The homily is on the website in English and German.
As I followed the Mass, I was impressed to see the Church Universal alive in two ways in Trondheim: the warm friendship between the two churches, Lutheran and Catholic, and the very international community which is the Catholic church in Trondheim.
Saint Olav was killed in battle with King Canute of England and Denmark in 1030 and soon counted as a martyr. He is patron saint of Norway, though he had been rejected by the leading warriors who had accepted Canute’s bribes. No doubt some of this money had come from the Danegeld, paid to the Danes to stop them from looting through England.
Tomorrow we visit an earlier English king, whose cult Canute promoted in Suffolk: King Edmund the Martyr.
Later this month we will be reflecting on pilgrimage. After all, the most humdrum holiday can bring us a Holy Day: something seen, something heard; a smell or a taste, the feel of sand between the toes – remember that you are dust – breathed-on dust, animated dust, but dust: enjoy the feeling!
Now I must apologise for the rest of this message being in French but it is an invitation to join the French National pilgrimage to Lourdes on-line – it is happening in person at the shrine as well, and it will be possible to follow the services and events at times to suit you.
Vivons ensemble le pèlerinage à Lourdes 2022
Pèlerinage à Lourdes du 12 au 16 août 2022
Du 12 au 16 août, Prions en Église et le Pèlerinage National vous proposent de découvrir Lourdes en numérique avec le site Internet Prions en Église et l’appli Prions en Église sur votre téléphone. Sur le site de Prions en Église, inscrivez-vous au e-pèlerinage 2022 pour recevoir chaque matin par mail, des propositions vidéos, des podcasts, des textes pour découvrir à votre rythme l’histoire des apparitions, visiter le sanctuaire, suivre des conférences et entendre des témoignages.
l’appli Prions en Église dès le 8 août, en tant que pèlerin dans la cité mariale, vivez votre pèlerinage plus intensément : un parcours de 14 podcasts vous est proposé pour découvrir Lourdes et prier au sanctuaire : le rocher, la lumière, la source, le chemin de croix, l’histoire des apparitions… déambulez dans la ville et le sanctuaire muni de votre smartphone pour vivre une balade spirituelle exceptionnelle.Ce parcours est disponible en téléchargeant l’appli
Et aussi, sur le site et dans l’appli, vous pouvez déposer vos intentions de prière que nous porterons pour vous à la grotte le 14 août à 18 heures. Ce temps de prière commune pourra être suivi en live sur notre page Facebook ainsi que la lectio divina animée par l’équipe de Prions en Églisechaque jour à 14 heures, les 12,13 et 14 août. Le 15 août, si vous êtes à Lourdes, vous disposerez sur l’appli Prions en Église, du déroulé de la messe de l’Assomption, célébrée à 10 heures avec le Pèlerinage National. Inscrivez-vous gratuitement et invitez ceux que vous aimez, pour qu’avec Marie, nous devenions témoins de l’espérance.
À très bientôt,Karem Bustica, rédactrice en chef,Prions en Église et Prions en Église junior