It has been a profound and uplifting experience, not least because our group of 16 people was led by a venerable priest, Father Peter Lessiter.
|Unable to move, Fr Lessiter celebrates the Mass with great humility and devotion|
The pilgrimage itself was very demanding in terms of having a strict programme of devotions at various times and venues throughout the Shrine but, if I tell you that Father Lessiter, wheelchair bound, was at the helm during those four days, despite being seventy nine years of age and in his forty ninth year as a priest, you will have some small concept of the very great demands that were made on this, the most humble of men.
And then, if I tell you that Fr Lessiter is basically paralysed due to various illnesses you will appreciate the tremendous effort he made in order to provide the rigour and integrity to the group and to give honour to Our Lady of Fatima and her Divine Son.
Retirement is a word not recognised by Fr Lessiter; God called him to the priesthood and there he will remain until such time that God will call him again.
Not for him the two bedroomed bungalow in the suburbs and the leisurely life style of the average retired parish priest.
Father L maintains a spiritual and mental programme of activity that would put a 25 year old to shame.
|A much loved and respected priest|
And when people thank him for his witness and guidance his stock reply is:
"Don't thank me, thank Almighty God, He's the one who is deserving of praise; I am just His servant"
It is hard to imagine the daily struggle of an aged man who has lost 80% of body movement.
But Father Lessiter bears it all without complaint or any reduction of his immense good humour.
Watching him celebrate the Latin Mass, virtually immobile but for slight movements of the hands, is a humbling experience.
Every slight action takes an enormous effort of will; just standing at the altar must sap his energy considerably.
Yet he continues, unremittingly in his drive to save souls.
During his lifetime he has brought the Sacraments to many thousands of Catholics living a 'recusant' like existence prior to 2007.
He has also been on constant call, night and day to take the Sacrament of Extreme Unction to those in danger of death - anywhere in England and Wales.
And, most especially, he has been on call to minister the Last Rites to brother priests, many of whom, have turned to the traditional Faith on their deathbed.
It may take more than a hundred years for Fr Lessiter to receive the recognition he deserves but, I am confident that the day will come when he is canonised by Holy Mother Church.
Please remember him in your prayers, he has a gruelling and mentally draining period ahead of him and a difficult return journey to make.
Coincidentally, you may like to read Fr Ray Blake's post that touches on the subjects of retirement and evangelisation, you may read it HERE