Saturday, October 27, 2007

Latin Mass Society Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Willesden in London.

October is the Month of the Holy Rosary and London's Catholics show devotion to Our Lady through participation in the Rosary Crusade of Reparation, and in the Pilgrimages to the Shrines of Our Lady of Walsingham and Our Lady of Willesden. Today we visited Our Lady of Willesden shrine where Our Blessed Mother and Queen was honoured and venerated since 10th century up to Reformation upheaval. Pilgrimages and devotion to Our Lady was forbidden whereas her statue was burnt at stake. The shrine was visited by thousands of Catholics, including prominent political and religious figures such as St Thomas Moore, great scholar, martyr and Lord Chancellor in times of King Henry the VIIIth. St Thomas lost his life for being faithful to his Christian principles and faith. He defended the practice of pilgrimages (citing Willesden as an example) against the attacks of reformers like Thomas Bilney. His last visit to the shrine was in 1534, just before his arrest. He was beheaded in 1535 and canonised by Pope Pius XI in 1935.

Another prominent religious figure and saint who visited the Shrine was St Josemaria Escriva, the founder of the Opus Dei. He made two visits, on 15th August 1958 and 17th August 1962, to renew consecration of Opus Dei to the Name of Mary. St Josemaria died in 1975 and was canonised by Pope John Paul II in 2002. Every year, on the Feast of the Assumption, members of Opus Dei living in London make private pilgrimages to Willesden, in the footsteps of their Founder.

Our pilgrimage started with Holy Rosary recitation followed by small conference held by Fr Laurence Hemming. He told us a beautiful legend of the origin of devotion to Our Lady of Willesden. The small plaque above Church's door depict the story and can be seen on the movie below. The legend tells us about certain monk who lived in the Middle Ages. Sadly, he was addicted to gambling, however, he was devoted to Our Lady throughout his whole life and whenever he came across Our Lady's statue or shrine he promptly knelt down and said his prayers. His inordinate life brought him to death without confession and at that time, when the rules of religious life where kept very carefully, his body could not stay overnight in the Church, as his soul was considered lost, but was kept outside in the Church's courtyard. During the night, Our Lady appeared in a dream to parish priest of the Church and she asked him very firmly to bring poor man's body inside the Church. She said he was very faithful in his devotion to her and all his prayers were very pleasing to her, like if a lily grew out of his mouth. After the conference, Solemn High Mass was celebrated - (celebrant was Revd Fr Patrick Hayward) and our little pilgrimage came to the end with after Mass prayers before the statue of Our Lady. It was very beautiful day and spiritually rich experience, and if anyone would like to read more about OLW shrine I include the link: HERE