In July seven members of the Submarine Service went to join the many thousands of pilgrims who go to the Shrine every year. It was to be a time to rest and retreat from the daily grind of work, the stresses and strains on both our bodies and minds. To seek quietness, and to enjoy the solitude of a place so far removed from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. To spend time not only in prayer but using the surroundings to enhance the ability to reset spiritually, prayer and personal life.
In a world where to stand still and be quiet isn’t the norm, a chance to be a pilgrim and do exactly that is quite the experience. It is often thought that to be on a pilgrimage you must walk for days on end, have sore feet, with blisters, but that’s not true. However, as a group of pilgrims having driven 389 miles we arrived at the shrine by walking the final 5 miles, in what turned out to be a glorious few hours despite the heavy rain. Walking together as a group with our guide from the Shrine stopping at a small chapel on the way made it feel as if we were true pilgrims, full of excitement and a wonder of what was to come for the week.
The week was centred around worship. For some it was a welcome return to worship they know and love, for others it was brand new, and for some they found an opening into a denomination they may never have been a part of before. No matter who or where they were in their faith in God, we were all about to journey together in this place.
Walsingham in North Norfolk may seem like an odd place for a group of submariners to travel to. It is a tiny village some 394 miles from HMNB CLYDE, the home of the Submarine Service. Hidden within this village is a special place, the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. It’s an Anglican shrine dedicated to the miraculous work of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who visited the site in a vision in 1056 asking for a replica of Jesus’ house in Nazareth to be built. It became a site for pilgrims until the Reformation when it was destroyed. 101 years ago, Fr Alfred Hope Patten restored the Shrine, and ever since pilgrims have made their way to the shrine to ask for Mary’s intercession, and to seek healing of body, mind and soul.