Norwich, September 16 – 20
I’ve just spent a few days in the lovely home of my old friend, Canon Jeremy Haselock, in the Close of Norwich Cathedral. Fr Jeremy is the Precentor and Sub-Dean of the Cathedral, and he and the Dean and other Canons, are housed in some splendour in the Close of that magnificent Cathedral. Living there for a few days took me back to the three years I spent living in the Close of Salisbury Cathedral, when I was Chaplain to the Theological College there. One of the great glories of the Church of England (for which she may be forgiven many things that are not so glorious!) is the maintenance of 43 Cathedrals (44 if you count my old Cathedral in Gibraltar) where the daily round of Mass, Matins and Choral Evensong has been preserved for centuries).
Norwich is just 16 miles from Walsingham, where the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham was restored in the 1920s by the Vicar of the village, Fr Hope Patten. The Shrine was second only in popularity to that of St Thomas a Becket in Canterbury until both were suppressed at the Reformation. After Fr Hope Patten’s initiative, the work was developed by my dear friend, Canon Colin Stephenson, who popularized the Shrine, so that now it is a focus of devotion to Our Lady for the whole Church of England and not just the Anglo-Catholic section of it. Recently, Justin, Archbishop of Canterbury, who comes from the Evangelical wing of the C of E, walked the “Holy Mile” barefoot, and then gave Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament to pilgrims.
Fr Jeremy drove me there and I lit candles in the Holy House for St Clement’s and all my friends, living and departed. The Holy House was built in the 11th century by the Lady Richeldis, Lady of the Manor of Walsingham. It was a replica of the house in Nazareth where our Lord grew up, and the motive for building it was to provide a substitute place of pilgrimage for English pilgrims who could no longer go to the real site because the Holy Land had been taken over by the Saracens. The modern parallel hardly needs pointing out.
Our devotions finished, we called on Bishop John Salt, the erstwhile Bishop of the lsland of St Helena in the South Atlantic, who has now retired to Walsingham. We carried him off to a pub in a village nearby which was a delight. No modern “improvements”, ale from the casks, a menu that would make city restaurants blush, and dogs lying about all over the place! Then a drive back to Norwich through autumnal countryside, through narrow country lanes flanked by trees bowed low with apples or bright with bursting chestnuts. Truly a magical time to be in East Anglia. Thank you, Fr Jeremy.