What wonderful weather and what a varied company of pilgrims we were for this year’s Ladyewell pilgrimage. We were joined by members of the Company of Servers, from Blackburn Chapter who kindly served at the Pilgrimage Mass. As ever we were kindly welcomed at the shrine. Here is a selection from the beginning of the Pilgrimage sermon, given by Fr Michael Burgess:
“Many of us have an unreal image of Mary – as if she never got her hands dirty, never made mistakes, never had doubts, never had to struggle against fear, and so on. For Mary we think it was all plain sailing as she journeyed through life and beyond to heaven.
In 1981 an English writer and theologian called Donald Nicholl went to teach at Tantur near Jerusalem – the experience of being in the Holy Land was an eye opener to him in many ways – but one in particular. Because it changed his image of Mary forever.
He wrote a book on his time there and said that his image of Mary was derived from paintings and poems – ‘of some dreamy, ethereal young lady, untouched by human toil.’ But after meeting the peasant women of Galilee he came to a very different image of our Lady.
This is what he wrote, ‘The image which comes now spontaneously to mind is of a woman with strong hands, sinewy through much work; of a face whose skin is rough from exposure to the sun and wind; of feet that are broad-spread through climbing the hills around Nazareth barefoot; but above all of eyes that are steady, and a mouth that is firm, through enduring the sorrows of the refugee, the poor and the oppressed.’
He saw in Mary a strength and a tenderness – courage and compassion – worldliness and wisdom – feet rooted in the reality of life but a heart to God’s guidance.
It was a far cry from that original picture he had of the dreamy young lady floating through life. Now Mary was for Donald Nicholl a woman whose feet were firmly placed in this world of work and service – but whose hands and whose heart were open to welcome all with tenderness and love.”