For those of us accustomed to the rarified (and nowadays, dare one suggest, rather etiolated) character of Anglo Catholic parishes in London one of the most heartening features of the Ordinariate is the wonderful mix of people who make up its priesthood and laity. As we set off after mass to progress from the Slipper Chapel to the village it was striking that this group of pilgrims was very far from the stereotype of a self-selecting and insular group that one Anglican bishop of our acquaintance likes to refer to as “the Anglo-Catholic travelling circus”. This was quite simply a group of people, men and women, from all parts of the country and from all walks of life, gathered together in England's Nazareth to give thanks for many blessings received, and to celebrate that its petition for union with Holy Mother Church had been answered.
One unexpected consequence of the numbers joining the pilgrimage was that we were diverted from the road on to what had once been the Wells and Fakenham Railway, until it fell victim to Dr Beeching’s axe in 1964, a particular shock for those who had very properly and very bravely chosen to walk unshod and who now forsook the caressing tarmac for unforgiving stones and thistles. We followed the cross, lifted high and glinting in the bright sunlight, and a statue of Our Lady of Walsingham carried by four bearers, if not exactly o’er hill and dale then certainly through countryside a little more rugged than that of Regent’s Park.
Flushed as we were by the unaccustomed exercise, onlookers would not have noticed our blushes when, encountering first our Orthodox brethren outside the Chapel of Saint Seraphim, and then some minutes later the Administrator of the Anglican Shrine, we had on each occasion reached the second verse in the Lourdes Hymn:
We pray for God's glory, May his kingdom come!
We pray for His vicar, Our Father, and Rome.
Those blushes dissolved into beams of delight at the greater symbolism of arriving in the little village that is such an important part both of our Catholic history and our Anglican Patrimony, carrying Our Lady onwards into the grounds of the Anglican Shrine where we could offer up more petitions for the unity of Catholic Christendom.
Then, as pilgrims thirsting after righteousness and mindful of our Anglican Patrimony we settled into The Bull to relive the events of the day over a pint. Some things never change.