Today, on what didn't start as a good day the pilgrims from the Syro-Malabar Community began to gather here at The Friars. Within a short time they had converted the piazza into an amazing spectacle with flags and brightly coloured silk umbrellas with silver metal fringes. There were two icons on display, one of Kuriakose Elias Chavara and another of Saint Alphonsa, a Franciscan sister.
On either side of the main shrine were a number of statues which would later be carried in procession. As if this was not sufficient the benches began to fill with an overwhelming array of coloured silk saris and dresses for the women and the men were not left out with bright shirts and cotton dhotis. The gathering ceremony was short and was followed by a Rosary Procession which wound its way round the Rosary Way and back to the main shrine area.
One of the highlights of the day was the arrival of Bishop Paul Mason and Joseph Arumachadath Bishop of Bhadravathi who accompanied on the process to the altar by first holy communion children and a tabla band of about twelve players. With the arrival of the bishops and introduction the celebration moved on to the start of the Syro-Malabar rite Mass in Malayalam; Bishop Paul gave the homily on 'doubting Thomas' the patron of the Malabar church.
relics which encompassed the whole of the large lawn by the pond. Again the Tabla band played a prominent role. Talking to a family after the Mass the wife told me that being at this pilgrimage was like enjoying a piece of India brought to Aylesford. Having experienced this pilgrimage I can quite understand what she meant.