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I grabbed a cab over to Westminster Abbey yesterday with two media friends, after our day of interviews, press conferences, et al.

edwardtheConfessor_medium.jpgIt is the one place I most wanted to visit.

A) Because I wanted to pray there and get a sense of the sacred and ancient energy of worship, coronations, weddings and burials.

B) I had to see where Kate Middleton would walk down the aisle when she marries her beloved Prince William on April 29, 2010 (more on that later!). 

We got there just in time because they closed early, at 3:30 PM, due to the very challenging weather in England. Roads were snowed out and workers had to get home.

We had a glorious hour. The live tours were finished for the day but along with the entrance fee they give you a very cool phone-like device that acts as a very user friendly tourist guide. You walk around with it to your ear. Just push a button to hear the narration on any particular area by actor Jeremy Irons. They also have a lot of guys dressed in robes to answer questions.

Westminister Abbey is a tourist attraction but it remains a house of worship. They hold regular worship services daily and offer an officiated moment of prayer every hour. Two times a day they offer special prayers at the shrine of Edward the Confessor, the Royal Saint.

Luckily, the call to pray for happened soon after we arrived. A lovely female priest with a soft and loving voice stood in the pulpit close to the main altar and offered a sweet, kind prayer to God. “We pray that we know your presence,” she said, and then made a special request for help for those impacted by the snow and a request that all the prayers and petitions of  those who had been there that day be heard and fulfilled. 

She then invited people to Edward the Confessors chapel, just behind the High Altar, for a slightly longer prayer experience. The chapel is surrounded by the high tombs of Kings and Queens, all with effigies atop. Edwards remains, said to be responsible for miracles, are build into the center of the chapel. Built into the side of the structure that encases him is a place for people to drop down to their knees and pray for his intervention–once a very common site because his devotees wanted to get as close as possible.

But these days, we sit in chairs, as a clergy person leads us through a prayer asking for his help on a manner of worldly and personal issues, and especially, in protecting the Queen. It is a responsive prayer, so we all can partake, and afterward we are invited to continue on with our personal prayers in silence. Everyone cleared out, but I stayed. The energy in that chapel was unlike anything I have every experienced. It was healing. And I noticed a bowl of prayers on the altar in front of Edward’s remains.

The clergy woman leading the service stayed as until my prayers were done.  Her name is Rev. Marja, and she explained that she is a Church of England priest and has a congregation in Wales, and she is just here for a week. Westminster Abbey invites visiting clergy from all over the UK to lead the prayer services for a week. They stay in a nearby flat and offer themselves in service.

I spoke at length to one of the men in robes. I was fascinated to see how similar Church of England is to the Catholic Church. I know Henry VIII split from the Catholic Church and formed the Church of England so he could ditch a few wives and by bypass the no-divorce rule of the Catholic Church. Just did not realize so many of the element of the Catholic faith remained, such as saints. 

He told me that Westminster Abbey is knows as a “Royal Peculiar.” It is a place of worship that is directly under the jurisdiction of the British Monarch. The Abbey, in fact, is a symbol of the connection between Church and State. Just found it fascinating to know that the Queen and the Dean of the Abbey call the shots.

It is a magnificent and holy place. You can find the burial spots for  the most famous royalty through the ages, as well as famous authors. Even Sir Lawrence Olvier call it his final home.

No photos allowed in the Abbey. Edward the Confessors Chapel above comes from ThePapalVisit.org

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