Walsingham Retreat 3rd-6th November 2015

The Retreat began with the Mass on Tuesday evening in the Church of the Annunciation.

These are personal notes and cannot be taken as a true record of what was said. They are mainly “trigger points” of what became a very special and memorable time under the guidance of Mgr John Armitage. Rector of the Shrine.

Session 1 Wednesday Morning

The desire to pray….. We all clearly have desire, having come on retreat. God looks and sees…… our intention rather than looking for perfection.

Father John has no desire to go to the moon. He does not lay in his bed, thinking “I wish I could go to the moon”. However, had he been to the moon, he may well desire to return following his experience. That is prayer ……… It is firstly experiencing a closeness to God and then having the desire to want more!

Father’s glasses are perfect! They do everything they are supposed to do. They are perfect for the purpose they were made for. But they make a “useless” teapot! Each of us has special gifts, we are all here for a purpose and we can all achieve “perfection” in our own way! With our unique special gifts.

We should only “adore” God. He is the only one to be put on a pedestal! We should love others, parents, children, husbands, wives or any one close to us. But we should not adore! Only God will be the one who will not let us down.

What to do now ……… Identify what or who do we “adore” in life? Who takes the place of God?

Wednesday 2.30pm The Anglican Shrine. Sprinkling

The history of the Shrine from 1061.

Fr Stephen. His view is that the original site of the Holy House was chosen so that it was close to water, hence the Holy Wells. When Fr Hope Patten built the Anglican Shrine he made sure it was built next to a well, he believed at the time that this was the original well. This was proved to be wrong. It is believed to be one of the many that were excavated from the original to cope with the increasing number of pilgrims. When the Holy House was demolished the rubble was put down the wells to stop pilgrims getting the water.

The Shrine’s whole purpose is to promote and nurture the Annunciation, and it was his belief that when Our Lady’s message came to Richeldis she was taken back to the Annunciation. This is why Hope Patten put the depiction of the Annunciation on to the gable of the Holy House. The building line of the original building is marked by the black stones outside the doors of the Holy House.

Session 2 Wednesday Afternoon

Holy Years are normally announced every 25 years or when there is 0 or a 5 ending the year (1990 2005). Pope Francis has not waited for such a year. Holy Years are times when there is forgiveness and an opportunity for a fresh start.

On December 8th the Pope will declare the Holy Year as the Year of Mercy. The Holy Door will be opened or will “collapse” in all 4 Basilicas in Rome, the only four basilicas in the world! St Peter’s, St Paul’s, St John Lateran and St Mary Major. Certain other places are also allowed a Holy Door and there will be one in Walsingham. The old sacristy in the Slipper Chapel will have a “Holy Door”. The contents of this Chapel have not been revealed until it is opened in December.

A new Rosary Garden has been planned for next year. It will be in the Slipper Chapel area. A life size picture of the Last Supper is being loaned to the Shrine for the year.

The Bull pub is not named after an animal, but the Papal Bull a name for an official Papal Document.

PRAYER …………Desire for God ………. Where does it all go wrong?? Fantasy rather than reality?

We only have to look in the mirror to see what needs changing …… The truth sets us free. Changing what we can or accepting who we are and what we are ….. We are not celebrities.

We need to gain self-knowledge and use the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

We need to accept the “Sacrament of the Present Moment”. Be encouraged to examine our conscience before bed and pray the act of contrition. Saying sorry and give thanks for the gifts of the day. And learn from the experiences of the day.

Most of our fears are about what is going to happen in the future, tomorrow, next week And even yesterday! Things we can often do nothing about.

God’s grace is fresh we need to live in the present day …….. Pray and listen to the Words of the Our Father. We pray for Blessings for today, not next week or a week on ………..!

We need to be alive to God’s grace.

Accept forgiveness ……… We can do little about what was done in the past, these thoughts are wrong …….. The devil is behind these feelings. A good film to watch ……. The Mission. A man kills his brother in a dual; he cannot be touched by the law. He has Given up, he cannot forgive himself for what he has done and he drags a net with all his possessions in ......

We need to know ourselves …… We need to be thankful.

What to do now ….. Move from what we have struggled with and learn to accept the unconditional love of God.

Thursday 5th November

Session 3 Thursday Morning.


Work has started on the Retreat House. The building has been given to us for 100 Years rent free. There will be 19 rooms. The chapel where the martyrs spent their last night is being renovated in the cellar and The Exhibition Centre is being created. Both will be ready for next year. All the work is being done whilst consulting and talking to the Anglican Shrine. Walsingham is unique, both shrines share the same teaching and devotion to our Lady. Cost £700,000.

At the Slipper Chapel site a new pilgrim hall will be built, it will accommodate 100 People and will be a place for people to gather for multiple reasons. Cost £80,000.

Planning permission is an ongoing problem. There will be new signage. There is a “Stations of Mercy” going to be in place for the Holy Year. This will be Accessed through the “Holy Door”.

The Tea Room franchise will end on the 15th November and will be managed” in house”.

There will be an accommodation swap with the shop. A new Holy Water Font will be built and this will be linked to a well not Anglian Water!

A Calefactory (warming room) is to be built where pilgrims can rest, and get warm. tables and chairs will be available.

Within 4 years a cloister will be built linking all the main areas of the Shrine. This will Depict the “History of England through the lives of Our Saints”. We have to remember That most of the saints linked to Walsingham are “youngsters” (post reformation) the Shrine firmly sits in the medieval period. It is a Saxon Shrine.

Next year 2016 will be the main year for fundraising …….. Be creative!

What have we become? What is our Vocation?

Vocation is often termed as a call to the priesthood or religious life, it is much more than that. It is a call to our own existence, each and every one of us.

It has a lot to do with our faith, discover who we are and the ability to change direction in order to do God’s Will.

What is God’s intention for me? We can often think a wedding is the marriage ceremony, well not quite, no matter how much time and money is spent on the wedding the marriage is much more. The wedding lasts an hour; the marriage lasts a life time and comes with many challenges both joyful and sometimes difficult. A vocation whether in a marriage or not, means we must follow the lights God gives us, Sometimes they can be very good, sometimes they are very bad. It is part of our Vocation.

An example was given by Father, on a difficult visit he made to prison. He was visiting a parishioner who was in for robbery. He wore gloves whilst committing the act but was found guilty by the authorities taking a print of his ear!!!

We are all different and our individual vocation is our own spiritual DNA. We are all unique, each and every one of us. We are known to God by the life we lead!

Who am I? What is my name? I need to know who I am ……. Then go beyond my name to the person I am.

We can be taken over by the problems in our lives. We need to reach out beyond our current situation.

Simple prayers we learn as a child can become very much part of our lives. Father told us that a statue stood in the grounds of his school, outside his classroom window. It was the Sacred Heart. Arms open. The prayer he learned as a child…… Sacred Heart of Jesus I put all my Trust in you. This prayer has become very much a part of his prayer life and he never stops saying it now.

Some years ago father was placed in an extremely difficult situation, potentially damaging and caused great distress. He received a letter. He did not know what to do! He decided to place the letter at the door of the Tabernacle and said “Sacred Heart of Jesus I put all my Trust in you”.

He coped with the problem and was able to move on.

What to do ………. What is my name and my identity? Think of an experience of sadness or great joy.

Session 4. Thursday Afternoon

In the USA there is an organisation called “Christophers”, their motto is “Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness”. We need to recognise the light in us and those around us.

Cardinal Hume wrote “wherever he goes, whoever he sees, everyone is better than I am”. Father has spent a lot of his priestly life working in prisons. He has met many people who have done a lot of bad things but he is not sure if he has met anyone that is evil! An old saying often comes to mind. “There but for the grace of God go I!”.

We need to understand the power of reconciliation! It may surprise us but there has been an upsurge in the use of “confession”, it is mainly during the day and is on the television. All of a sudden people from all over the country feel the need to go on national television, on Jeremy Kyle or the Gerry Springer to “confess their wrong doings”. This is Confession and humiliation without forgiveness! We have to understand that Christ died for our sins, we need to acknowledge our sinfulness, and however difficult it is we need to forgive others and not judge. God forgives easily, but our forgiveness will be measured on how we deal with others. The mystery of suffering brings wisdom.

The church teaches us about hell. But we are not told about who or if indeed anyone is there, apart from the devil and the fallen angels. Father says that if he was over hell he would be building extensions all the time.

We can receive forgiveness all through our lives, all we have to do is ask and be truly sorry.

“Offer it up” …….. What does it mean? What can we change? We have a choice to be “better” or “bitter”.

Bitterness crushes us, transform, accept and “offer it up” this is known as Spiritual Transformation. Suffering leads to greatness of heart.

A baby is found at the gateway to a concentration camp, dead. Next to the child is a prayer, hand written, by one of the women. It offers forgiveness to the perpetrators of the crime. In her grief she became liberated. Maximillian Kolbe had the same gift. These people were “inside” but not “imprisoned”.

We have to learn how to carry our crosses in order to help others carry theirs.

In Algeria there was once a monastery with an order of Cistercian monks. The superior, A doctor wrote a letter, opening his heart to all peoples of faith. Within a few days after Writing the letter he was murdered.

Carrying our crosses, accepting, transformation gives us the gift of Wisdom and Wisdom comes from living.

What to do ………. Pray to be a better person and avoid and eradicate bitterness.

Session 5. Friday Morning

The importance of Mass.

The second Vatican Council declared that the Mass is the source and summit of the Christian life. An expression rarely used is …….. “The Holy Suffering of the Mass” this is otherwise and more commonly known as “The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass”. We offer up what we cannot change and we do it with love.

Example …… A baby is born, the parents are full of joy they could not be happier. Life is now complete. At 3am in the morning when the baby cries, is that same “joy” still there, Yes, but it is different, when the parent gets up to settle the child it is done at the sacrifice of their own sleep and done in total love.

We need to change how we approach the celebration of Mass, our attitude and Our behaviour.

On Maundy Thursday (Man Dartum) before the suffering and death of Christ he Celebrated the first Mass with his disciples. It is significant that prior to that Mass Jesus became a servant. He washed the feet of his friends, even Peter’s who remonstrated with him.

This symbolises the need and responsibility we all have to look after each other as part of our ultimate celebration. There is never a time when anyone of us cannot help another human being. Even if we can only offer a smile.

SERVICE is at the very heart of who we are ….. Often suffering with others and in charitable works. Jesus gave his very self!!

The Sacrifice of the Mass sets us free.

When we look at the story of the road to Emmaus, we see all his friends downcast, They are confused, frightened and downcast. When Jesus joined them he was not recognised, even as he related to scripture they failed to see him. As they got to the crossroads and he went to carry on. They said it is getting late come and stay with us we will eat together.

It was only at the breaking of bread that they realised that it was Jesus.

St Gregory the Great wrote commentaries, he wrote one, on the events of the “Road to Emmaus”.

As they walked along the road they were not enlightened, but at the crossroads, as they saw him walk on their eyes began to open ……. And at the breaking of the bread they were fully opened.

When we come to the Eucharist we should come having “washed feet” in whatever form that may take. We need to prepare, ask the question, how do we live our lives? We are able to give at all stages of our lives …… No matter what age we are, we all have something to offer!

We are called to SERVICE.

What to do ……. Take time to make resolutions ……. Make them realistic.

1. Daily prayer. Mass. The Rosary. Spiritual reading.

2. Help another human being.

3. How can I share my faith.

How to become an evangelist? PRAY ….. CARE for OTHERS ……. UNDERSTAND our FAITH. Most importantly. JUST LIVE IT!

The Retreat ended as it began with Mass in the Reconciliation Chapel at 12 noon on The 6th November followed by lunch.