Mon Oct 8

I have arrived in Walsingham! After 2 busy days in SD doing practical things I had an excellent flight to London. Using points I flew 1st class – a rare treat. Friday I stayed with an old Fitzroy friend, Alan, who lives in Fitzrovia. I was too jet-lagged to do anything, so had a bath & fell asleep talking to Alan. Next morning I had some things to organise, then checked-in to the Intercontinental, which overlooks Park Lane. A walk in Hyde Park was followed by drinks from my balcony overlooking Buck Palace 🙂

Sunday morning I met my friend, Joan, for Mass at St Magnus the Martyr, London Bridge – an historic Wren church. A nice Mass, good music & excellent sermon on a difficult gospel (divorce). I was wondering how I dealt with it every 3 years! Nice nibbles & drinks followed, at which I met some people who knew me at St Mark’s. Then Joan & I went for lunch to the pub off Aldwych that is run by the Aussie, Roxy Beajoulise. Roxy remembered that I was coming back to spend a month at Walsingham…..a v good memory!

Monday I caught the tube to Joan’s & from there we drove to Walsingham. It was raining in London, but when we got out the sun was shining. It was gr8 to be back in Walsingham. To my surprise I was told that I was sleeping in the bedroom in the Administrator’s cottage – being told in hushed tones, that was Fr Hope Patten died! The Administrator now lives in a house nearby (a long overdue arrangement) & the cottage is now his base for work & hospitality, with the upstairs area being where special guests can stay. It is a marvellous medieval building with real cathedral ceiling & view of the grounds.

It was good to see Bishop Lindsay Urwin again, who was pleased to have me “on the staff” for 4 weeks. It seems he is away most of October, so I am to step into his shoes……but not his mitre! So I have to prepare sermons on healing, water, pilgrimage & the Eucharist, as well as on Mary. He said I could relax on Tuesday & there would be a staff meeting on Wednesday.

Tues 9

This morning the sun is shining – so good to be here! I said Mass in the Holy House, with intention for all my parishes, concerns & people that I pray for. Now that I am retired, instead of one particular parish, all the churches I have been in get equal billing! Just Joan & I, so a quiet intimate Mass. In the refectory I discover that Bp Lindsay had emailed all the staff, advising them of my being here. Many of them I know from my visits over the past 23 years. At 10 am we went to the Priory to catch up with the sisters (of whom I am an Associate). I will be saying Mass for them whilst I am here. It is like coming home 🙂

On Tuesday nights there is a wonderful Healing Ministry Service. It begins with hymns, homily & Sprinkling. The Sacrament is then brought in & remains on the altar whilst around the church people can receive Laying-on of hands, be anointed or make their confession. I was allotted confessions – which has been such a moving experience for me on previous visits.

Wed 10

We had a staff meeting, at which I was given various task for the next 7 days. In particular I am to be available for confessions each night after Evening Prayer. I was asked, “Do you mind, Fr?”. I replied, “Do I mind? That’s what I am here for!”. At 11 am the weekly Pilgrims Mass is celebrated. I was one of the priests at the altar (as opposed to the 14 in the stalls) so was identified as on the staff. I am now meeting & chatting with pilgrims & clergy, which I enjoy. In the evening we had the traditionsl Service with torchlight procession & Benediction. The crisp night gave a wonderful atmosphere as we walked around the grounds with our candles, all 140 of us – previously I have experienced this in twilight.

Thurs 11

This morning I said the 7.30 am daily Mass, with a congregation of 10. There are a lot of groups in because the sacristy was set up for 8 Masses that morning. The rest of the day was spent talking to pilgrims, walking around the village & relaxing. Unfortunately by mid a/noon the sun had gone & there was light rain.

Sun 14

The sunny days have continued until this a/noon. Friday morning was quiet, but in the a/noon groups arrived for the w/e. I enjoyed meeting the people & their priests. They were all interested in an Aussie priest being on the staff for a month. I immediately clicked with 30+ from St Martin’s, Ruislip – a group with a large number of young women who were typically English. I have never been here for a w/e & was eagerly looking forward to it.

Saturday morning all the parish groups were having their Masses & devotions. At 2.30 pm I officiated at Sprinkling – for the 1st time. I enjoyed it & in my homily talked about how precious water was in Sth Australia. Afterwards an Indian man spoke to me & reminded me that Don Bradman came from Adelaide! At 6pm we had the Pilgrims Mass for all the parishes. A packed church & 16 concelebrating priests. It was a lively Mass, with gr8 music. The thurifer was a bishop’s daughter, here with her parents. After dinner there was the candlelight procession followed by Healing Ministries. Again I was hearing confessions – & again it was moving for me, with tears shed by the penitents & me.

I didn’t finish until 10 pm – & the shrine is beautiful at that time of night, with just a few people in it & all the candjes flickering. Then it was off to join a few from the Ruislip parish for drinks. A very happy & fun conclusion to the day.

Sunday everyone goes to the Parish Church for the 11am Mass. It was packed & 20 priests concelebrated. A beautiful Mass with joyful singing. I don’t know what the parishioners think about having their church invaded by so many visitors – but how wonderful to find a country church packed on a Sunday morning, a rare occurrence these days! For the pilgrims the day concluded with Procession of the Sacrament & Benediction. It was raining, so the procession was indoors – a wonderful act of worship. Then they all left & there were just 12 of us for EP…..such a contrast.

After EP I was informed that Clare & Ruby from All SS, San Diego, had arrived. A joyful reunion followed. We had lots to catch up on. After supper I led them in the traditional 1st Visit. We have a full day tomorrow. Mass in the Holy House at 8.15 am, visit to the Sisters at 10 am & Sung Mass at 11am to celebrate the Translation of OLW – the date in 1931 when the statue was transferred from the parish church to the newly built Shrine.

Tues 16

Clare & Ruby & I have had a lovely time. Weather is rainy, but no matter. The Mass for the Translation of OLW was a joyful celebration. I acted as a deacon to Bishop Salt (retired St Helena). In the evening we 3 SD pilgrims went to the pub.

This morning I said a Requiem Mass for departed friends from All SS. The rest of the day I am filling in for Bp Salt. At lunch the bishop of Guildford came up to me, knelt on one knee & asked if his group (the Chaplains Royal) could have Sprinkling after their Mass. I guess I am officially on the staff! At 2.30 pm I officiated at Sprinkling, at 5pm the usual Mass in the Holy House, at 6 pm I lead Shrine Prayers & at 8.15 pm I will be hearing confessions as part of the Healing Service. It is a joy to be useful 🙂

Thurs 18

Wed was a busy day. I said the 7.30 am Mass, then a special Mass at 8.15 am with Ruby & Clare. The weekly Pilgrims Mass was at 11 am, which is always a joy. At 1.12 pm Ruby & Clare caught the bus to Norwich. Was sorry to see them go – but we had a lovely time whilst they were here. No obligations for the rest of the a/noon until EP at 5.30 pm. A chance to do banking transactions on the Internet – what a lifesaver it is! At 8.15 pm we had the candlelight procession & Benediction. It is gr8 to look into the church & see familiar faces of people I have met in the Refectory.

Speaking of the Refectory…..the meals are excellent, & the staff wonderful. I always thank them & do try to speak with the younger ones.

This morning I woke up at 4.30 am….why I do not know! I said the 7.30 am Mass again & at breakfast chatted with pilgrims, of course. Then over to the Sisters for morning tea. The rest of the day is quiet. As is tomorrow………until the w/e pilgrims arrive.

Mon 22

It was a busy w/e. Friday night I went to The Bull with the 3 kids working at the shrine (Y4G) It was fun – they are gr8 people & very interesting.

As well as over 100 pilgrims for the w/e there were another 60 on Saty who came as day pilgrims. This meant an extra Mass & Benediction & lots of people. I officiated at the 2.30 pm Sprinkling & at the intros one lady identified herself as an Aussie. At the 6pm Pilgrims Mass I gave the homily, which I enjoyed. The candlelight Procession was followed by the healing ministries. I heard many confessions, some involving tears. It is a privilege to administer this sacrament & I am always moved by it.

Sunday morning it was grand to be walking with 100 people all to the same destination……….the parish church. The Mass was again wonderful with hearty singing. Locals remembered me – I feel like I am part of the place! Alas, I forgot that I was to officiate at 2.30 pm Sprinkling. But Fr Craig came to the rescue (when he really needed a rest) By 3.45 pm the weather was overcast, but the procession of the Sacrament was able to go outdoors. It is a wonderful conclusion for the w/e pilgrims & I sang my lungs out at Benediction. After EP I went to the home of the chantry priest, Fr Paul, for dinner. A lovely meal & good company.

This morning I woke up to a dull, misty day. This is typical October weather that I was expecting 2 weeks ago. I kept telling everyone that I brought California sunshine with me! Today I am off to Norwich to have lunch with my old friend, Fr Martin Smith. He is going to retire next year, so we will have lots to chat about. And we did – a very pleasant time together.

Fri 26

The week has been good as I continue to enjoy meeting pilgrims & taking part in the Services & ministry. One small group came from the Royal Navy church in Portsmouth. The priest knew the 2 RN chaplains I had known in SD & he kindly phoned one of them, Fr Ian Wheatley. It was gr8 to speak with him again. On Wed I gave the homily at the Pilgrims Mass. Thurs night I was Bp Lindsay’s guest at a wine tasting in the Farm Stores building that sells local produce. There was an Aussie wine amongst them – but none of the wines impressed. I met various people from around the area, incl a woman who was in Darwin in 1974 when it was hit by hurricane Tracey.

This morning I said Mass for the sisters. The congregation of 15 included the Y4G kids. Afterwards there was coffee & then I met with Mother Teresa. As a priest associate of the community I try to support Mother as much as possible – & I was able to do this in our conversation. She is a remarkable woman & has been a good friend since I first met her in 1996.

Sun 28

I have had a busy w/e. Fri night I met the Y4G kids at the pub. On Saty there were day pilgrimages – another 1st for me, & I concelebrated the 12 noon Mass with Bp Lindsay. I reminded him that the last time we had done this was at Fitzroy in 1998, when Sunday Mass was in the hall because we were restoring the church. At 2.30 pm I conducted Sprinkling. This concluded with Benediction & Last Visit for the day pilgrims. We had no organist, so I had to lead the singing. Fortunately I remembered the tunes. As people left one lady thanked me for my enthusiasm & loud voice!

The weather on Sat was cold, overcast & rainy. At 6 pm we had the Pilgrims Mass & at 8.15 pm it was the candlelight procession (despite the weather) followed by healing & confessions. As usual, I was humbled by hearing confessions. This was the 1st w/e that Bp Lindsay has been here & it was marvellous to see him in action. He is a wonderful preacher & teacher.

Sunday was once again the Parish Mass. As it was my last Sunday I was invited to stand with the Chief Concelebrant. The Sunday Parish Mass has been a highlight of my time here. The singing is always marvellous & the sermons excellent. At 3.15 pm I was back in the Shrine for Procession of the Sacrament & Benediction. Despite the weather we processed outdoors, as we did last night.

Altho the w/e pilgrims had left, there was quite a few for supper. This is because next week is Bible Week & the shrine will be full. Over 200 people will come for this intense week of bible study, seminars, worship & prayer. After supper I was invited to Bp Lindsay’s cottage for drinks with the music group for Bible Week. A fabulous group whom I found very interesting. It was nice to relax with them & to experience Bp Lindsay’s hospitality.

Tues 30

Bible Week is amazing! 220 people have filled the shrine, incl some priests I know, & there is a real buzz. It began with EP on Monday. The shrine church was overflowing & the singing wonderful. The choir led us in a beautiful Magnificat. After supper we had Compline. Tuesday morning there was the Bible Study, but I did not attend. At 12 noon we had an hour of silent prayer in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. The silence from over 200 people, including children & teenagers, was truly awesome. At 5.45pm there was a lovely Solemn Mass & after supper an hour of prayer with Mary as the theme. With all the Services there is a good mixture of anthems from the choir, contemporary music & good hymns. It is all very inspiring.

Fri Nov 2

Bible Week has been a wonderful conclusion to my time at Walsingham. It has been gr8 to be with 220 people for a week of anglocatholic worship & fellowship. So many interesting people from all over Britain. The music has been excellent, as well as the teaching. It is good to have been useful when everyone else was busy. As well as my usual tasks I led Shrine Prayers 3 times. Thursday, being All Saints’ Day I said my own Mass in the Holy House – with special intention for my 2 All SS parishes at San Diego & E St Kilda.

My friend Joan came up from London on Wednesday & I took her out for dinner on Thurs night. We drive to Binham, about 4 miles from Walsingham, where there was a nice restaurant in an old pub. Nice barman who had been to Australia & excellent food. Today I say Mass for the sisters at 9.30 am & after coffee Joan & I drive back to London. I am staying at St Mary’s, Bourne St for 5 days, then fly back to the US.

So now my time at Walsingham is at an end. It has been a wonderful 4 weeks for me – exercising a priestly ministry to hundreds of people & being renewed spiritually myself. All the staff have been friendly & the meals were excellent. It has also been wonderful to be part of the staff. I have been visiting the Shrine as a pilgrim since 1974 & this has been a new experience. Now I am familiar with every corner & custom! It is truly home for me in a new way & I very much hope that I can do this every year.

Tues 6

The drive back to London took an hour longer because of several road-works. It was nice to be back at St Mary’s, esp as the guest room & bathroom have been renovated. Saty I went to the 11.30 am Mass, then in the a/noon headed off to the famous cricket ground, The Oval, for an AFL exhibition match. This featured my team, Port Adel, against a Melb team, Western Bulldogs. I was surprised at how ordinary the spectator facilities were compared with what we have in Australia. There were about 10,000 people – a mix of Aussie visitors (like me), ex-pats with their English families, groups from teams playing in the AFL Europe league (incl a group in Port colours who were the Sheffield Thunder) & interested Poms. It was almost like an Aussie cultural festival! The game was okay in the 1st half, but in the 2nd half Port kicked 9 unanswered goals & hit the front. WB came back & led by 2 goals – then Port won with a goal in the final 60 secs. It was an exciting last 1/4ter, much to the delight of the Port supporters there 🙂

It was cold on Saty night & Sunday morning was cold & wet. Joan joined me for High Mass. This was quite long as the music was Haydn’s Nelson Mass, complete with strings & brass. Afterwards we went to lunch at the local pub. The day concluded with E/song & Benediction.

Mon was sunny & I caught up with friends. Tuesday was also sunny. I did a sentimental walk back to where I lived in Pimlico in 1975, then continued on to the Tate Gallery to see a wonderful exhibition of the Pre-Raphaelites. This 19th cent movement had an impact on church interiors & has always been of interest to me. There were some marvellous paintings & works of art, incl Holman Hunt’s famous “Light of the World”.

On Wed I fly back to the US. I will have 10 days of travelling, incl 4 days in Cancun, before returning to Melb.

Fri 9

I arrived safely in SD on Wed night, very tired. I have had 2 busy days doing practical things, incl buying a new suitcase. It wasn’t cheap – but you get what you pay for & the brand has been proven by me to be the best. This is a perfect carry-on with features that are an improvement on my existing case. This being my last trip for the year, I started planning for 2013 & made some bookings with United. Tomorrow I fly to Cancun for 4 days. I have been there before – & there are things I have yet to see, esp the Mayan ruins at Tulum.

Mon 12

I have had a wonderful relaxing time in Tulum. Unbeknown to me, this is the off season (no wonder the hotel was cheap!). So the hotel is quiet – only 2 of us in the club lounge tonight – & the beaches & tourist sites not crowded. My room has a balcony overlooking the ocean, with a perfect view in the morning. No wonder this is called the Mayan Riviera.

On Sunday I walked 45 mins to the nearest RC church for an English Mass. The Church of the Risen Christ is modern & has open doors – thus allowing the beautiful ocean breeze in. In the a/noon I walked along the beach…..the water looked so inviting, as did the bars on the beach!

Tuesday I caught a bus into the centre, then a 2 hour bus ride to Tulum. I dislike organised tours & am quite adept at using public transport. It also reminds me of my early days of travelling – & much cheaper, too. Tulum is the site of an ancient Mayan city on a hill overlooking the ocean. Quite small compared with similar sites, but the ruins are impressive.

Tues I fly back to SD for a 24 hour stopover. I then go to Washington DC for 3 days before flying back to Melbourne on Sunday 18th. It has been a marvellous 7 weeks – 4 fantastic weeks at Walsingham & interesting travels afterwards.

Fri 23

I arrived safely back in Melb on Tuesday – however my knee was swollen & painful. This was the result of a fall on my last night at Walsingham, which manifested itself in an infected knee in DC last week. So Tues a/noon I was seeing my Dr. He sent me straight off to Cabrini Hospital Emergency, where I was fed antibiotics for 30 mins, then sent home with tablets & instructions to rest. That was easy, as I am tired from the trip & have many things to sort out after being away 2 months.

Wed I was taken to Mass at All SS for an SSC meeting. On Thurs morning plantation shutters were installed in my condo, replacing the blinds. I am very pleased with the result, as the blinds were well beyond their use-by date. They add a nice nautical feel to my home. The knee now is back to normal, so I caught the tram to my Dr, then into the city to have blood tests & do necessary shopping. Melbourne’s trams are wonderful for cripples!

It is good to be back in St Kilda. Returning home this time was different, as it was the 1st time I came back to my own home. There is a feeling of being settled, which I have not felt since I retired. I now look forward to summer on the seafront & having my 1st Christmas in St Kilda.