Father Jimmy Collins
Soft Blows the Wind
On Foot to Walsingham
ISBN 0 85244 569 5
Gracewing, 2003, £7.99
(price at publication of review)
Reviewed September 2005; © Copyright, The Society of Saint Francis, 2005
At seventy-eight years of age, Fr Jimmy Collins resigned from his parish of St Joseph the Worker, Kirkby, in the Archdiocese of Liverpool. Fr Jimmy wanted to mark somehow two gifts from God: his priesthood, and the presence of the Blessed Virgin throughout his life. He decided to walk to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. This was intended to be a pilgrimage of personal thanksgiving, with no support or publicity. Fr Jimmy would say Mass each day and recite the Rosary as he walked. After the pilgrimage, he wrote out his experiences, with no intention of publishing them. However, at the repeated requests of friends who read them, he eventually agreed to the publication of the book.
The first half of the book follows Fr Jimmy on his pilgrimage. His various encounters and experiences along the way inspire reflections on aspects of his life and Christian ministry as a priest. The second half contains the thirty two sections of the route, with good basic maps and instructions. There are also helpful lists of information centres and suggested accommodation en route. The introduction provides a brief history of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, and an account of its restoration which is specifically from a Roman Catholic perspective. The focus of this book however is not the shrine itself, but rather the pilgrimage to it.
This book would make a good companion for parts or all of the pilgrimage route, practically and inspirationally, by sharing in some of Fr Jimmy's journey. Pilgrimage, journeying with Our Lord in penitence and with purpose, seems thankfully to be once again in the ascendancy. What better route to take, than one that leads to what is, by popular agreement, the most holy place in England.
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