“God has shouted, ‘Yes, yes, yes!’ to every luminous movement.”
Hafiz, Persian poet and mystic

Our Blessed Mother wanted the shrine to be established at Walsingham so that all who come there can share in the joy she experienced at the Annunciation and we, as Carmelite brothers and sisters in the Divine Will, aim to help everyone live in the joy and freedom of her FIAT! Pope Leo XIII’s prophesy that ‘when England returns to Walsingham, Mary will come back to England’ may well include a pilgrimage to Walsingham but more importantly it is about returning home changed. No pilgrimage without some inner transformation, without some understanding of what needs to be done when returning home so as to live a deeper and more authentic Christian life, will bring England back to its Christian roots. As Christ becomes more incarnate in us, so those around can come to know the joy and beauty of knowing him and the peace that comes from living in union with the Father who created us.

Yes, the message of Walsingham is all about joy! The Pynson Ballad reminds us that the Virgin Mary wanted the Holy House to be built as a reminder of the joy she felt at the Annunciation when Christ became incarnate. This is what she desires for us: the fullness of joy that only God can give. A joy rooted in the Paschal Mystery, a joy that deepens as we die to self and live for Christ, thus allowing him to breath, speak, work, move and animate our whole being. A joy rooted in an authenticity of being as Christ becomes more and more incarnate in us.

As she is presented to us in Luke’s gospel, Mary stands for the perfect disciple. Like Israel of old she is chosen and called simply out of love. She has not chosen God; rather God has chosen her. She is a child of grace, of choice, and so she is able to respond to God’s initiative with the words ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word.’

But that is not the end of the story. Mary had to be open to human growth and development, just as Jesus had to grow physically, spiritually, socially. She had to make choices, accept responsibility, and ultimately let her Son go his own way even when she did not understand.

Trust implies a readiness to venture into the unknown, secure in a love that is greater than oneself and one’s own limited plans. So we see that at the heart of Walsingham is a specific woman, Mary, who listened to God and said ‘Yes’ from the depths of her being, a woman who handed herself over so completely that God could fulfil the Divine will in her. She was asked to listen, to love and to bear life. It is what each of us is asked to do in our turn as we try to listen to what God is asking of us here and now, so that we may also love God and bear Jesus for the world in and through our own particular calling, whatever that may be.

Walsingham exists to remind us of the mystery of Mary’s silent surrender, her self-sacrificing love, her joy and humility in bearing and believing the Word of God. The Spirit is ultimate freedom, total unpredictability. God lives not in a ‘house made with hands’ but in hearts that are, with Mary, ready for anything – ‘Be it done unto me according to your word.’