For some of us, summer means a lot of walking. I don’t just mean pleasant country strolls – although I hope there will be some of those as August brings some days away from offices and computers and deadlines. I also means specifically Catholic walking: pilgrimages, visits to shrines, and the Martyrs Walk.
The Martyrs’ Walk carries on a great tradition, begun in the earliest years of the 20th century by the Guild of Our Lady of Ransom, established to pray for the conversion of England. The Ransom Guild established the Tyburn Walk – a great annual Catholic march through London, which in its heyday brought thousands of people together. They walked from the Old Bailey – site of Newgate prison where many martyrs were held in chains in the 16th and 17th centuries – through London to Tyburn, site of the old gallows, where now stands a convent where the sisters keep up Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and where the memory of the martyrs is honoured.
The Tyburn Walk had to change in recent years, because it is no longer possible to walk along Oxford Street – the shopping crowds are so huge that even walking alone means that you squeeze your way among others. It seemed that the tradition might die. But a new group took on the project, and now organises the Martyrs Walk, starting at the Old Bailey and following the old route, but dispersing at St Patrick’s church, Soho Square (after venerating the relic of St Oliver Plunket which is kept there) to go to Tyburn by various routes in smaller groups. Once gathered at Tyburn, there is Benediction in the convent chapel, followed by a Tea prepared and served by the nuns.
This year’s Martyrs’ Walk is on Sunday June 23rd and all are welcome to join us. Starts 1.30pm – meet at St Sepulchre’s churchyard, near the Old Bailey. We stop on the way at SS Anselm and Cecilia, and at the Anglican church of St-Giles-in-the-Fields, where we are always made very welcome. Organisers are the Miles Jesu movement, and the Martyrs’ Walk is linked with the programme of Catholic History Walks run throughout the year. Numbers are always good, and some people come year after year.
Keen to do some more walking? Join the John Paul II Walkers. This is a bigger project. Organised by the Dominican Sisters of St Joseph, it is a four-day Walk to Walsingham, from August 8th to 11th. It starts at Bury St Edmunds, with Mass in the ruined abbey, and after an overnight stay in the local church hall, the walkers start the walk to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. The route goes through some of the most glorious countryside in England. On the way, there is singing and the Rosary, stops for picnic meals, and then a hearty supper on arrival. Sleeping in church halls and school halls, we arrive at Walsingham on the Sunday morning in time for the noon Mass where a place has been reserved for us in the front pews. The aim of the John Paul Walk is to pray for the New Evangelisation. The mood is joyful and upbeat, the walkers mostly young, (though people of all ages are welcome), the atmosphere prayerful, the whole experience wonderful. Want to know more? Contact the Dominican sisters: http://www.dominicansistersofstjoseph.org/apostolate/blessed-john-paul-ii-pilgrimage .
Your EWTN London correspondent will be doing a lot of walking this summer – and plans to ejoy every moment of it.