Fr Ian and Gregory recently visited another shrine, from which is sent this ‘postcard’.
For over 900 years the shrine of St Edward the Confessor, King of England has been at the centre of his foundation – Westminster Abbey. It is probably the only such shrine in England which still houses the remains of a saint.
One might then expect this to be a ‘thin place’ perhaps to some it is. However, when Gregory and I visited it seemed to me the Abbey was more a historic place for thousands of tourists to visit, than a sacred place. Indeed the shrine itself, we were informed, is not open to the public, in case so many visitors damage the floor around it. One can only glimpse it from a distance. Instead each day one or two people enter the ‘holy of holies’ and offer prayer on behalf of visitors and others. Perhaps this is appropriate for a shrine of a saint who has appealed more to those in high office than to the everyday person of England, who probably prefers the heroic acts of St George.
Undettered Gregory wanted to light a candle at a candle stand and write down those for whom he wished prayers to be said. ‘What shall I write?’ I asked. Gregory, aged 4, fresh from the parish pilgrimage to Walsingham said ‘For my family especially my baby sister, and for the Lady of Walsingham.’ Many ask for the prayers of Our Lady of Walsingham, she would, no doubt, be pleased that a little boy was anxious to pray for her that God may look after her too. In the crowded abbey, in that moment, I felt the presence of a “thin place.”
It is a very “thin place” at the 8am Mass at the shrine altar on Saint Edward’s Day.