Saturday, 2 February 2013
Praying to St Hilda
We had a blessed, if long day, today. We went on a pilgrimage to Whitby, the second of our Discernment Walks during the Year of Faith. Leeds and Middlesbrough diocesan vocations and youth services have teamed up to offer these experiences to young people aged between 14 and 19. We were inspired by something that Pope Benedict wrote recently commending the traditional practice of pilgrimage. Our county is replete with holy sites, we thought; let's go and pray at them and help our young people to rediscover our Catholic patrimony. The first walk before Christmas was to Ripon and the shrine of St Wilfrid. Today we stood by the ruins of Whitby Abbey, site of the famous seventh century Synod of Whitby when St Wilfrid persuaded the British bishops of the Celtic tradition to adopt the date of Easter followed by the Roman Church, thus bringing unity to the Church on our island. Fr Massie, the Middlesbrough vocations director, invited the sixteen people present - young people and some youth leaders - to imagine the scene on today's feast day - Candlemass - in the fourteenth century in the very ruins before us. Times have changed but Christ is still calling on us to carry his light into the world, he said. There was a pleasing silence as we reflected on our shared responsibility, while hardy tourists wandered around in the background.
Earlier, we had been welcomed at Madonna House in Robin Hood's Bay where we ate our packed lunch. The members of the community there (pictured above in the foreground) made much of us and gave us lots of tea and then showed us a short DVD describing their life, testifying to the God of love through simplicity of life, poverty, community, the whole underpinned by prayer. During the seven-mile walk from their house to the abbey, after we had recited together the Joyful Mysteries, I was privileged to take part in innumerable edifying conversations: one young woman described her passion for keeping a youth group going; another described how she said the rosary each day in the family home; a young man spoke of his desire to do a degree at Leeds Trinity precisely because of its Catholic foundation; and a young African man described with pride how he had played Jesus in Passion Plays in his homeland and showed us a picture of himself, crucified.
We finished the day with tea and then Vespers at St Hilda's Catholic Church in the town, followed by fish and chips. St Hilda was an Anglo-Saxon princess who was abbess of a double abbey comprising both monks and nuns; it was situated where the current ruins now stand. Thank you to Parish Priest Fr Pat Keogh and his hospitality team for looking after us so assiduously. On the way back the young people in the minibus were saying things like "I'm definitely going on the next Discernment Walk" and "I don't want this day to end." Job satisfaction rating: pretty massive.