A few days ago we set off on a rather grey morning for a pilgrimage to the Shrine of St Augustine.
I think this was a first visit for all of us although some of us knew a little of the story of this beautiful shrine in Ramsgate.
We received a warm welcome by Fr Marcus Holden, Parish Priest and Custodian of the Shrine and members of the Friends of St Augustine who looked after us very well.
On the advice of our coach driver, we had allowed plenty of time for the journey from Banstead and so arrived with time to spare and were able to have a brief look around the church before we gathered for Mass at midday.
As we entered the Shrine and were directed left into the building, the first thing that we noticed was the very colourful and unusual Stations of the Cross.
On the opposite side of this corridor we passed St Joseph's Chapel containing the Blessed Sacrament.
And close by, another beautiful chapel with this wonderful Pietà.
Mass was celebrated by Fr Marcus and it was lovely to hear the parts of the Mass sung. Our pilgrims responded well in singing the hymns and the parts of the Mass. It was very moving to be able to celebrate Mass in this beautiful Church built by the well-known architect Augustus Pugin. It was also interesting to see how people easily accommodated themselves to the reception of Holy Communion, under one kind, receiving in a line horizontally in front of the altar rail, many taking advantage of the opportunity to receive kneeling at the communion rail.
And the beautiful altar frontal . . .
After Mass we had a break for lunch and went off in separate directions, some had brought packed lunches whilst others investigated the local cafés and pubs. Judging by the numbers at the local pub, I think many of us had opted for this - and delicious food it was too!
We watched an excellent video, produced by Fr Marcus Holden and some of his family, on the history of the Shrine and some very helpful background information on St Augustine. We also had time to watch a short video on Pugin's home, The Grange. Maybe we'll keep that for another parish outing . . .
We finished our pilgrimage with a very reverent Benediction conferred by Fr Marcus. It was wonderful to hear everyone join in the O Salutaris, Tantum Ergo and the Adoremus in Aeternum.
We were very privileged to be able to venerate the relic of St Augustine. I must say, full credit to Fr Marcus, it can't be easy to remain dignified whilst climbing a step-ladder and wearing a cope! He managed it superbly.
And the relic . . .
Just before we finished our devotions and had a tour of the church, we joined in a rousing rendition of the Salve Regina.
All in all, a marvellous day and everyone seemed to get a lot out of our visit.