Beautiful Advent reflection

Fr Augustine Hoey (ex Mirfield Father and now,long time Catholic priest), has writen this beautiful Walsingham Advent's that for Anglican patrimony? In case you do not know Fr. Augustine...he is 96yrs old and has such a joyous burden of Intercession for Our Lady's Shrine and home at Walsingham. Fr. Augustine lives and works in Westminster Diocese and was received into Full Communion with the Catholic Church by Cardinal Hume when he was 80yrs...having led a full and active apostolic ministry in the Anglican Church and at Mirfield giving retreats.

From Fr. Augustine Hoey, OB. OSB.
Advent 2011

How odd of God to choose Walsingham…….equally odd to allow himself to
be pushed around and born in a stable. Yet God is like that! He rarely works
in ‘straight lines’… (much as we might wish he would)

It is almost a thousand years ago since he sent Mary to Walsingham…a small
Norfolk village only 4 miles from what was then the thriving port of
Wells…Mary spoke to the lady of the Manor of Walsingham (Richeldis de
Faverches) & asked her to build a replica of the house in which she (Mary)
had lived with her parents before marrying Joseph. She gave exact
instructions as to its size. She had never forgotten it. How could she?

It was there that through the lips of his archangel Gabriel, God had asked her
if she would be the mother of his Son. It was a worrying request St. Luke tells
us she was ‘greatly troubled’ (Lk.1v29)…but in the end she threw caution &
obstacles to the wind & said ‘Yes’. So God began to grow within her. In that
house Heaven & earth had met & embraced each other. Such a thing had
never happened before. Christianity was launched.

God thought it would be a great blessing & joy for the English people to have
a replica of Mary’s home built for them in Walsingham. It would be more
accessible than the long, dangerous 11th century journey to the Holy Land.
English and European pilgrims could visit the ‘house’. It was a vivid reminder
of God’s great love that with the co-operation of Mary he could come and live
among us. It was good too to have the support of her prayers thro’ all the
hazards of Christian living. So, with God’s initiative and the help of Mary &
Richeldis the replica of Mary’s home in Nazareth rose in the green fields of

The pilgrims to this ‘holy house’ grew vast in number & the village of
Walsingham became famous throughout Europe. The devil was not pleased.
He bided his time until King Henry VIIIth played into his hands. The King
eager for funds to replenish the royal purse destroyed the Walsingham Shrine
& pocketed its accumulated treasures for himself. The destruction became
cloaked with Protestant religious jargon to justify the driving from her home of
Our Lady of Walsingham. The desolation is well described in the ancient

Owls do shriek where the sweetest hymns lately were sung. Toads and
serpents hold their dens where the pilgrims did throng.

Weep, weep O Walsingham whose days are night,
Blessings turned to blasphemies, hold deeds to despites (outrages)

Sin is where Our Lady sat, Heaven turned is to hell,
Satan sits where Our Lord did sway, Walsingham, Oh farewell!

However Christ cannot remain dead and buried. ‘On the third day he rose
again’. In the twentieth century the Anglicans rebuilt the ‘holy house’
according to its former measurements & the Catholics restored the Slipper
Chapel which stands in welcome at the entrance of the village. Other
Christians too have claimed a space for themselves.

Mary is in tears
She only needs one home

Mary feels the sword of division in her heart. She sighs as the shades of the
Passion of her Son slant heavily across Walsingham where he is daily
scourged by the divisions among his disciples. His body is broken again & the
nails kept firmly in place by his followers who fashion their singularities within
their self defensive groups. When Christ suffers, Mary is as ever at the foot of
the Cross. She is familiar with tears. They flowed copiously centuries ago
when greedy hands laid upon her Walsingham home & ruthlessly trampled it
to the ground.

Now she is back; yet her tears are still flowing because she has no permanent
home. She is pushed backwards & forwards between four flats!

...Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox & Methodist. Voices rise to her from each
Christian ‘space’. Sometimes they open their doors to each other but the walls

Jesus does not enjoy seeing his mother so hassled. He wants us to dry her
tears which are flowing through the streets of Walsingham. It is enough that
he should bear the pain. The shadows we have created bring such suffering
into her prayer for us.

Do we respond with tears too?

Do we say in the words of Jeremiah….?

Let my eyes run down with tears night & day,
and let them not cease,
for the virgin daughter of my people is smitten with a great wound
with a very grievous blow’.

Yes, we do pray for the unity of all Christians. The words are familiar & slip
easily off the tongue.

We cannot bear the infinite disturbance it will cause if we are to let them bear
fruit. Moreover our prayers are often clothed in our own prejudices.
Nevertheless, Christians will only move into reunion through long and
sustained prayer.

We must remember and believe that prayer can penetrate the hearts of
those we cannot open and shield those we cannot guard and teach

where we cannot speak and comfort where our hearts have no power to
soothe. Prayer with its unseen hand can enter where we may not.

I am so grateful for the support of your prayers throughout the year. I still
manage to carry on much as usual.

I hope the Christ Child will speak to you from his manger.

‘I am swaddled with the painful, stressful ropes of division.
When are you going to free me?’

There is much to bring to the manger!
Love and Christmas blessings
Fr. Augustine Hoey, Ob. OSB


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