Certainly a personal spirituality is not limited to one's person at all, even though it is personal. It cannot be, especially for the Christian. It is corporate. It is meant to be shared, not placed under the proverbial bushel basket. It is part of a greater body, as St. Paul wrote. And so, yes, one can enter into a people's spirituality.
I believe it to be important to recognize this point, even—or rather—especially in the quieter moments for the contemplative reflects into the active moments. It is important because we are not islands unto oneself, with our own spirituality or our own beliefs. We are part of the great Body that is meant—and is designed in our very being—and most optimally—to be transformative.
And yet I can claim to have discovered a people's spirituality laid deep beneath a spiritual rock face that is being, day by day, recovered from beneath—a masterpiece to be revealed once more for and by the people within Holy Mother Church. It is a personal discovery that continues to shape outside of the personal and into the corporate, into the very Body of Christ and into the personal of countless others. It is not the stirring of my own act but rather a cooperation with my own into and of the greater Spirit at work and of Our Lord and Our Lady. It is a witnessing to those acts brought about by their work and Our Lady's intercession.
And so the transformative begins.
My experience with this renewal of spirituality—and its implicit marks of the Church—began on All Saints Day in 2010. This great solemnity is as great a day to demarcate a new beginning, especially for one from New Orleans, but it was unplanned and fortuitously blind as could be expected from the mundane exercise of scheduling and execution of a plan for attending Mass for All Saints Day on a Monday evening in the Catholic Church here in the United States when the obligation of such a Mass is removed for the Faithful, a happy fault that should gain me such a blessing!
I was led with great curiosity, as I am prone to do, to wander—and thus, wonder—upon the Anglican Use parish (now Principle Church of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter) of Our Lady of Walsingham. On that faithful day in 2010 began a personal unearthing of the Spirit alive within the Church and those coming into the Church that continues to this day.
I recall those first two weekend Mass homilies that followed by the retired Fathers Noble—as they have said, "Noble by name, not by birth." I especially recall the first homily of theirs on the "Seven Words." As it went, there are four words you do not want to hear and three you do. The four being "You are under arrest," and the three being "I love you." And with those seven words, Fr. Bruce Noble began an exhortation onto the following the life of St. Thomas More, a dear saint to my heart. It was indeed spiritual kindling for the fire within. And though Fr. David Noble has passed, it brings great strength to those first days of discovery until now.
As so it has continued until now this past week, with the new rector, Father Charles Hough IV's homily on the weekend preceding the Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham, which was cause for great celebration in the first year of the new Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter created by Pope Benedict XVI and has also spurred this post forward though her feast day has come and passed on September 24th. For it was with the medieval noblewoman Richeldis de Faverches that Our Lady appeared in 1061 A.D. and gave instructions for a replica of the Holy House at Nazareth to be built there in the tiny hamlet of Walsingham. It was a standing testament of the Faith of the people of the British Isles and for hundreds of years hundreds of thousands made pilgrimage to that Holy House to recall that domesticity of the faith enkindled there, first with the Annunciation.
It was indeed with one holy "yes" that faith continued to be rekindled by the Faithful in movement towards that holy "yes." And then, there was nothing... If we are so to believe history, as Henry VIII and the English Reformation brought them into fire and destruction in 1538, most violently. Said of the images of Our Lady of Walsingham by one Hugh Latimer:
"She hath been the Devil's instrument, I fear, to bring many to eternal fire; now she herself with her older sister of Walsingham, her younger sister of Ipswich, and their two sisters of Doncaster and Penrhys will make a jolly muster in Smithfield. They would not be all day in burning."Further more approved and executed:
"It was the month of July, the images of Our Lady of Walsingham and Ipswich were brought up to London with all the jewels that hung around them, at the King's commandment, and divers other images, both in England and Wales, that were used for common pilgrimage ... and they were burnt at Chelsea by my Lord Privy Seal"And so it was, the place of pilgrimage of Our Lady of Walsingham and the Holy House were no more than ruins and a distant memory for centuries until both the Anglicans and the Roman Catholics renewed, first with the re-establishment of the 14th Century Slipper Chapel in Walsingham in 1897 and the recognition of the pre-Reformation pilgrimage by the Anglican Father Alfred Hope Patten SSC in the 1920s, even down to a replication of the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham based off her image in the medieval priory seal.
And so it was and is, a death knell at first appearance but a rebirth in the latter. And so it continues, as is witnessed both there in England and here in the States, as the movement of hearts back towards unity and away from division continues. It is said that England is Mary's Dowry, referred to both by the English from medieval times during the times of Henry V and then given papal recognition by Pope Leo XIII in 1893. Even so, the Faith remains strong, for it so.
For in Houston, of all cities, lies this new shrine for the Faithful here in the States to aid in that spiritual pilgrimage back into the Faith fully, and to aid those within the Faith a place of respite and hospitality to those sojourners on the journey of life on the Way. For as was related to me in this beautiful unfurling of the Faithful banner to Him, the most important route in all of medieval London—Walsingham Way. And so it is now, renewed, the Walsingham Way.