On the Western Rite calendar, we observe the Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham on October 15, celebrating a vision of our Lady to a widow, Lady Richeldis de Faverches in the year 1061. (While this date is past the year 1054, which technically serves as the date for the “Great Schism,” the actions of the clergy in Constantinople were as yet unknown in Norfolk, England and were obviously being ignored by our Lady!) In the vision, St. Mary showed Richeldis the house in Nazareth where she had grown up and had received the visit of the Angel Gabriel, announcing her conception of the Son of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. She instructed Richeldis to build a similar house there in England to serve as a place where any who sought her could come to pray. So Lady Richeldis built a house for prayer near the town of Walsingham. She had a statue carved of our Lady as she appeared in the vision and set it up in the holy house. A spring with healing water was found there and soon, people began to make pilgrimages to ask for the intercessions of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
A church was built around the holy house and for 500 years, devout Christians traveled to this remote corner of the world to light candles and say prayers for loved ones and to drink of the healing water. But the divisions which had begun at the time of the “Great Schism” eventually led to more divisions, and the period of terrible iconoclasm which accompanied the English Reformation resulted in the destruction of the shrine and the burning of the statue (King Henry VIII had made 3 pilgrimages to Walsingham before he opened the floodgates which led to such destruction!)
The shrine lay in ruins until early in the 20th century, when an Anglican priest began the work of restoration. Walsingham has once again become a place of pilgrimage for Orthodox, Anglican, and Roman Catholic Christians. A small Orthodox chapel was established near the rebuilt holy house during the 1930’s and there is an Orthodox Church in the town of Walsingham. Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, the Mother of God hears the prayers of all who seek her intercessions.