Saturday, 2 April 2016

A visit to the Shrine of Saint Jude


Faversham, a market town in Kent, ten miles from Canterbury, is home to the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, under the care of the Carmelites, and its annex, the National Shrine of St Jude. The Shrine is the attraction for large numbers of visitors from all over the world, thanks to the work of Fr Elias Lynch and his fellow Carmelites. Fr Elias was one of three brothers who were all Carmelite priests and leading figures in the revival of Carmelite life in England, a major part of which was the restoration of Aylesford Priory 400 years after its dissolution by Henry VIII.

The website of the British Province of Carmelite Friars has a page on the development of the shrine which is fascinating. The following quotation from the reflections of Fr Elias gives an idea of his spirit and energy:
Once you start producing religious pictures, people get the idea that you are unlimited in your range. They think that you can supply any religious picture they like to name. Our great trouble was St. Jude; the Apostle and Martyr; patron of hopeless cases. People used to write to us and say, "Have you got a picture of St. Jude?" Now, that poses a difficulty. He, or she, is a well meaning religious person. If you haven't got a picture of St. Jude, you have to write back and say "No". That means a personal letter and costs 3d. It involves personal correspondence. In the end, we decided that the only way out was to print a large number of pictures of St. Jude and send them out to everybody. I found an old German picture of St. Jude with a club big enough to murder anyone, and I reproduced a quarter of a million pictures of St. Jude and his club, with prayers in honour of St. Jude, and sent them out broadcast to all who called on us.
Roughly: "Well people were asking for pictures of St Jude so I just ran off a quarter of a million of them!"

Part of my heart-protecting discipline is trying to take a proper day off each week, so I took the train from Margate Station earlier this week. The journey takes 32 minutes, (compared with Google's estimate of 37 minutes by car) and the train stops at Westgate-on-Sea, Birchington-on-Sea, Herne Bay, Chestfield and Swalecliffe, and Whitstable on the way, with the sea visible for much of the time. Even at this time of the year, there was a constant trickle of pilgrims. Like Aylesford, the shrine at Faversham could be described as "the other modern." It is impressive to read that the shrine was constructed in two years.

The Church itself is also attractive with its beautiful mural behind the High Altar. I particularly liked the panel on the left, of Our Lady ascending the Temple steps at her Presentation.

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