My sojourn in Jerusalem was completed on May 31–at which point I packed my bags and headed to the airport for a flight to London. The only problem was a suitcase that went astray. Happily, I had packed a smaller carry on with all the necessities. After an overnight in an airport hotel we met our twenty five pilgrims–about half from Our Lady of the Rosary. They signed up for a pilgrimage tour to England focussing on the English martyrs and Catholic literary figures.
We hit the ground running with a visit to the shrine to the English martyrs at Tyburn where we celebrated Mass to begin our tour. A sightseeing tour of London followed then a tour of Westminster Abbey–the famous museum and shrine to English politicians. There followed a visit to Westminster Cathedral–the mother church of Catholicism in England. Out hotel was situated right on the river next to the Tower of London. The next day was the first day of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebration and London was packed as we made a tour of the re-built Globe theater and then strolled up the South Bank–joining the thousands of people in London for the jubilee. Some pilgrims took a riverboat down the Thames to tour the Tower while I split off with the Briccos to return to the Globe theater for a production of Much Ado About Nothing. The play was superb (except for a rather heavy handed re-interpretation with a feminist agenda)
The next day was a day trip to Canterbury on a mini pilgrimage to the shrine of Martyr Thomas a Becket. We celebrated Mass in the cathedral with Fr Benedict Kiely who spoke of his work with persecuted Christians in the Middle East. We toured the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey, learned more about the Protestant Revolution and the suppression of the monasteries and in the afternoon visited St Dunstan’s Church where St Thomas More’s head is buried. That evening back in London we were free to do our own thing in London Town so some of us got tickets to Les Miserables.
Saturday saw us on our way to Walsingham. On the way we stopped at Cambridge for a short walking tour, then on to Ely and Oxburgh Hall–the country house of the recusant Bedingfeld family. Some of us clambered down into the famous priest hole–where priests would hide from the agents of Queen Elizabeth. We then drove on to Norwich and celebrated the first Mass of Pentecost in Norwich Catholic Cathedral.
Sunday we were in Walsingham for Mass in the morning and a visit to the shrine. Then back on the bus for a lecture on T.S.Eliot and a visit to Little Gidding Church. Then a long drive and a lecture from Professor Deavel on Shakespeare the Catholic before arriving in Stratford on Avon at our hotel.
The next day in Stratford included a tour of the town, a visit to Anne Hathaway’s cottage and the museum at Shakespeare’s birthplace. Today on to Oxford, a visit to Tolkien’s grave in Wolvercote cemetery. Now when you visit his grave you can also see the grave of his daughter Priscilla who passed away just a few months ago–also nearby is the grave of C.S.Lewis’ secretary and editor Walter Hooper and a few places down from Walter is the grave of the Catholic poet Elizabeth Jennings. We celebrated Mass at Blackfriars and then went to Headington to C.S.Lewis’ grave and a very good visit to Lewis’ home The Kilns.
Tomorrow another day to explore Oxford, then on to Stonehenge and Bremerton–the parish and grave of George Herbert–the friend of Nicholas Ferrar of Little Gidding and then on to Salisbury Cathedral–then to the airport before the pilgrims fly home. Me? I have another ten days in England doing some research and visiting friends and family.