Our Lady of Walsingham

Our Lady of Walsingham

The Anglican Diocese of Ballarat is under the patronage of the Martyrs of Papua New Guinea and Our Lady of Walsingham.

The Walsingham Story

Even in the eleventh century, when this story begins, the village of Little Walsingham was a thriving place, located mid-way between Norwich (then England's second city) and the wealthy town of King's Lynn.

Richeldis de Faverches was a Saxon noblewoman, married to the Lord of the Manor of Walsingham Parva. He died leaving her a young widow with a son, Geoffrey.  We know that Richeldis had a deep faith in God and devotion to Mary. We know too of her reputation for good works in care and generosity towards those around her.

At this time there was a great deal of interest in the Holy Land and people undertook long and often dangerous pilgrimages there. Christian armies were soon to be engaged in a number of Crusades to liberate the holy sites from Muslim control and it is believed that Geoffrey eventually joined one of those Crusades as an expression of his Christian faith.

For Richeldis, however, the life of prayer and good works was rewarded by a vision in the year 1061. In this vision she was taken by Mary to be shown the house in Nazareth where Gabriel had announced the news of the birth of Jesus. Mary asked Richeldis to build an exact replica of that house in Walsingham. This is how Walsingham became known as England's Nazareth.

The vision was repeated three times, according to legend, and retold through a fifteenth century ballad. The materials given by Richeldis were finally constructed miraculously one night into the Holy House, while she kept a vigil of prayer.

Although we cannot be certain that this story represents all the details of historical fact, we do know that in passing on his guardianship of the Holy House, Geoffrey de Faverches left instructions for the building of a Priory in Walsingham. The Priory passed into the care of Augustinian Canons somewhere between 1146 and 1174.

It was this Priory, housing the simple wooden structure Richeldis had been asked to build, which became the focus of pilgrimage to Walsingham. Royal patronage helped the Shrine to grow in wealth and popularity, receiving visits from Henry III, Edward II, Edward III, Henry IV, Edward IV, Henry VII and Henry VIII, who finally brought about its destruction in 1538.

After nearly four hundred years, the 20th century saw the restoration of pilgrimage to Walsingham as a regular feature of Christian life in these islands, and indeed beyond.

Fr Alfred Hope Patten, appointed as Vicar of Walsingham in 1921, ignited Anglican interest in the pre-Reformation pilgrimage. It was his idea to base a new statue of Our Lady of Walsingham on the image depicted on the seal of the medieval Priory.

In 1922, the statue was set up in the Parish Church of St. Mary, and regular pilgrimage devotion followed. From the first night that the statue was placed there, people gathered around it to pray, asking Mary to join her powerful prayer with theirs. This work of intercession continues to this day.

The  Walsingham Prayer

Mary, recall the solemn moment when Jesus your divine Son, dying on the cross, confided us to your motherly care. You are our Mother, we desire ever to remain your devoted children. Let us therefore feel the effects of your powerful  intercession with Jesus Christ. Make your name glorious in this place by your visits, favours and many miracles. Pray, O holy Mother of God, for the conversion of this Parish, restoration of the sick, consolation for the afflicted, repentance of sinners, peace to the departed, O blessed Mary, Mother of God, Our Lady of Walsingham, intercede for us. Amen.

Another Walsingham Prayer

Almighty Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, you have revealed the beauty of your power by exulting the lowly virgin of Nazareth and making her the mother of our Saviour. May the prayers of Our Lady of Walsingham bring Jesus to the waiting world and fill your people with the presence of her child, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen