Today began with Mass in the Shrine Church, celebrating Our Lady of Healing. At the Mass Fr Kevin Crinks was admitted as a member of the Society of Catholic Priests (SCP). SCP affirms the ministry of women priests. Later that day pilgrims travelled to Wells next the Sea, taking in the sea air, eating ice creams and browsing the shops, where purchases ranged from a new jigsaw of Italian Spaghetti gone wrong, to novelty chocolate crosses and a new toy bus.
It was a reminder of how God is not only found in special places like Walsingham, but in everyday life, in the beauty of creation, in friendship and laughter.
For some pilgrims today was a day to spend time quietly reflecting at the Shrine. It was a time to be still and reflect on how God works in our lives, having received the holy waters from the well, the opportunity for laying on of hands with prayer, for annointing and the sacrament of reconciliation, all ways in which we come close to God and God comes close to us that we celebrate and give thanks for.
But it was a puzzling time for me at least. Having heard Bishop Lindsay explaining that in all of these ministries it is not the person administering that matters but Christ working through them, having come seeking Mary’s own ministry, her intercessions for us to her son, her healing and guidance it was bizzarre that the role of women in the Shrine was so absent.
Surely an inconsistancy here?
Like many of the images of Mary, the icon of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa in the Shrine Church shows Mary pointing to her Son, her face scarred. It is said that the Polish icon was struck by a sword when it was stolen by the Hussites, a protestant group in the 13th century who wished to destroy the sanctuary of the Pauline monastery as such icons were deemed idolatry and were against the Hussite beliefs. Perhaps in a very different way in the present church, this serves as a reminder of how many women like Mary and others are scarred like this by others. This as they courageously continue to point people to Christ and allow him to work through them in their own ministries.