Our Lady of Walsingham Dowry Tour!

My dear friends in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

Lancaster Cathedral has taken its place in the National Tour of Our Lady of Walsingham. The Tour is something of a Pilgrimage. We are familiar with making Pilgrimages to Shrines of devotion, especially Shrines dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. Now it is as though the Blessed Virgin makes a journey to come to us.Yesterday evening I was greatly moved to see so many of the Faithful here with me in the Cathedral for the opening Mass and blessing/crowning of Our Lady’s statue. This morning I was equally moved to be with so many groups of children and staff from our Catholic schools. The Cathedral was busy! My thanks to so many who made the journey to Lancaster. I also thank Fr. Pearson and the Cathedral staff and volunteers who were very brave to welcome so many.I am grateful to Mgr John Armitage, Antonia Moffatt and their team from Walsingham for this Grace-filled visit.We are preparing to rededicate England as the Dowry of Mary. This will take place on Sunday 29th March.I do recommend you visit the Walsingham Facebook page and website for some wonderful photos.May the rich blessings from this event reach every heart and corner of the Diocese, especially those in most need of Christ’s loving, healing, comforting presence.With my prayers,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster 

Dowry, Brexit and the God Who Speaks

Dear friends,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!On this day when we ‘leave Europe’ I am trying to gain a sense of perspective about its significance.
I am no political commentator, nor do I have economic expertise. On these aspects of Brexit I make no comment, except to say that for all the predictions being offered we ought not to be at the mercy of speculators. There is so much that will only be known when it is known!I do know something of Faith in Christ and His Gospel. It strikes me as important that Catholics respond to this moment in our history with firm Faith.Two gifts are given to us; the first is the fact that this year is full of The God Who Speaks, an initiative of your Bishops to help us deepen our knowledge of Jesus Christ, the Word of God. Do visit the Diocesan website or that of the CBCEW to find out more.The second gift we are given is the visit to our Cathedral next week (Thursday 6th – Saturday 8th Feb) of Mgr. Armitage and the team from Walsingham. They bring the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham as well as the model of the Holy House of Nazareth. It will be a time of Education, Devotion and Prayer for us, focussing on Our Blessed Lady’s place in the life of Catholic England over centuries, up to today, and in the years ahead.These two gifts will put ‘leaving Europe’ in a much better light, the Light of Faith. The ‘Dowry Tour’ is drawing attention to an event that will take place on 29th March, the Rededicating of England as the Dowry of Mary. ‘What on earth is that about??!!’ I hear some of you muttering . . . It is Christ-centred and hugely relevant for us at this time, whatever our place on the Brexit spectrum. I commend to you both these timely gifts of Faith. They will bring a calm into your life to settle anxieties caused by present uncertainties. Without doubt we face uncertain times, and for some there will be serious difficulties.Let us remember when faced with such worries the prayer of St.Teresa of Avila the 16th century Spanish Carmelite nun;

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing, but God never changes.
Patient endurance attains what is needed.
Whoever trusts in God will find they lack nothing.
God alone suffices.

May this beautiful and simple prayer be with you and in your heart now and in the days to come.

As ever in Christ our Lord,+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

 

Happy New Year!

Dear friends in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

We are well into it by now. Do you recall all those people putting up their Christmas lights long before Christmas (and even Advent)? Well let’s hang on to our Christmas Faith long after the Feast. Let us personally hold the Light of Christmas well into the new year.Candlemas is not far away now. Make something of this beautiful Feast of Light and Hope. Get to Mass or visit the Blessed Sacrament and light a candle for your intentions.The world remembers the 75th anniversary of the Holocaust. Light is needed here, so that we can be humble in the face of such darkness. Our respect for our brothers and sisters in the Jewish Faith is important. Let our compassion and prayer be light for them.We also encourage ways of working and praying with our brethren in non-Catholic churches. There is undoubtedly much that holds us beck from full communion. Honesty is necessary to acknowledge this.Even so, there is much that brings us together. When I was growing up in Garstang there was something of an ‘us-and-them’ mentality about ecumenism. Now, thank the Lord, there is much to unite us in the face of aggressive secularism.Saving the planet is on the agenda ‘big-time’. In some ways the planet will look after itself, and Christ has already saved it anyway. But you know what I mean. I wonder, is it our convenient life-style, with unlimited options, instant communication and results that we are trying to save?Sensitivity to the well-being of creation is not new to Catholics, even if we have tended to ignore the Church’s teaching and certain acts of piety. CAFOD have promoted ‘live simply’ for years. For even longer, fasting and abstinence have been essential elements to Christian life.

There is renewed encouragement to adopt healthier, less wasteful habits now. Personal discipline is such hard work though! Why bother? The bottom line is, because Jesus did it. That’ll do me.

My blessings go to you and your families.

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

A Pastoral Letter from the Bishop of Lancaster for the Solemnity of the Holy Family

 A PASTORAL LETTER

   FROM THE BISHOP OF LANCASTER

     FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF THE HOLY FAMILY

Appointed to be read at all weekend Public Masses in the Diocese of Lancaster, on the weekend of 28/29 December 2019My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The Word truly became flesh and has dwelt among us. The image of the infant Christ, Son of God, son of Mary, is placed before us that we might know with confidence the Mystery of God’s love. Commercial Christmas is soon over; ours is not. We are given the Season of Christmastide – which we may legitimately extend to 2nd February, the Feast of the Presentation – as a time for staying with the Holy Family. It is a beautiful gift for each one of us and for the world. Let us take time, itself a gift, to reflect on how Our Lord came. He ‘took flesh’ within the womb of Our Blessed Lady. He literally ‘took flesh’ from her. This is how all unborn children grow. His life was completely dependent on her health and well-being. And Mary entrusted herself to St. Joseph, a worthy spouse, step-father and guardian of the Holy Family. Pray for young parents. Pray for unborn children. Undoubtedly, they were members of an extended family. The Genealogies of St. Luke and St. Matthew make us aware of grandparent figures. Details are lacking but we may imagine elderly members of the family taking an interest and being given a role in the up-bringing of this new Child. Imagine the concern caused by them having to flee to Egypt to escape harm. Imagine the joy at being reunited when eventually they returned, even though it was to Nazareth. These were the days long before any welfare state. Families were close; they had to be because there was no alternative. It is still the case in many parts of the world. In our own society family must still be seen as the primary place for care and education for life. Pray for extended families. Pray for those who work to support families that struggle.Marriage is of Divine institution. Christ raises it to the dignity of a Sacrament. It is a vocation, and for many, the way to heaven. A story is told of a young priest conducting a wedding ceremony. At the appropriate time he delivered a well prepared homily on the joy and bliss of marriage, emphasising the privilege of so intimately sharing in the Grace of Divine love, nothing less than Christ’s love for His Bride, the Church. During the homily, one elderly woman in the congregation turned to her neighbour and whispered, ‘my word, Ethel, I wish I knew as little about marriage as that young man seems to . . .’ Pray for those who must preach the truth of the Gospel.It is easy to mock the experience of marriage. It can be tempting to dismiss the Church’s teaching as too idealistic, no longer relevant in our complex times, particularly where suffering and misunderstanding are present. However, the young priest was doing the right thing in presenting the Christian teaching on marriage rather than ‘lowering the bar’ and presenting a merely human experience.Christian love is not an ideal but a reality. We are not ashamed to appear ‘old-fashioned’ in our religious practice and teachings. We will not abandon Christ’s teachings to follow secular novelties and fashions. Pray for those who have been hurt in marriage. Pray for those who work for healing in our marriage tribunals.

Pope Saint John Paul II noted how the family, a fundamental institution, is experiencing a radical and widespread crisis. He said that the Church cannot yield to cultural pressures, no matter how popular and even militant they may be. Pray for those who have fallen away from the practice of their Faith because of temptation. Whatever our experience of life, the Holy Family is there for us, somewhere to find shelter, acceptance and belonging. I pray this year for all grandparents. Yours is an indispensable role. You offer support and encouragement to young families. Your relationship with grandchildren gives them memories they will carry into their own later years. May your example and memory be amongst their richest inheritance, especially when the world’s riches leave them empty or unsatisfied. Let us pray for our grandparents.

 

Finally, this year we set ourselves to become more familiar with the God who speaks. Imitate Mary and Joseph, young mother and step-father, waiting eagerly to hear Jesus, the Divine Son, speak his first word. It would be a word that brought great joy to them. They would be quick to tell their relatives and neighbours, ‘He has spoken!’ As we approach the new year, may we also wait patiently for the Lord to speak to us, whoever we are, whatever our circumstances and needs.I encourage you to attend Mass on New Year’s Day if possible, it is an opportunity to begin the year by listening to the Word. He has a word for each of us. It will bring us comfort and hope.

With my prayers for you and your families as we prepare for the new year,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

 

My Christmas Greetings and Blessings!

My dear friends in Jesus Christ!

Welcome to the Bishop’s Blog!

As we listen to the news and as we look around at our world it is very clear that we need a Saviour. The Good News is that we have one, the only One who can effectively save us from all that would take life from us. Jesus Christ, Son of God, son of Mary!Let us not be blind to all those small efforts made by so many individuals, helping to share love, bring hope, lighten the burdens of loneliness and trying to bring healing to those whose lives are broken. The needs are so great. No sooner have we achieved a little progress than some new crisis appears. It may be personal or global or anywhere in between.Let us not be too proud to ask for help. Even the strongest people have their limits, but the love of God is limitless.Light, Hope, Joy, Peace come from Him. Let us see our poverty so that we can receive His riches. They are gifts that will not fail or fade. With Christ by our side, the future is bright, and the present full of consolation, and the past is blessed because it has enabled us to reach this moment of His Grace.My thoughts and prayers extend to embrace each of you, and particularly those who are experiencing heavy burdens at this time. May you have a Holy and Peaceful Christmas as you sense the gift of God’s Love, found in the Babe of Bethlehem.

 

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

Doors into Advent!

My dear friends in Jesus Christ,

Welcome to the Bishop’s Blog!The Holy Season of Advent is itself a door to the Great Feast of the Word becoming flesh for our salvation. Amongst many other events, a number of events involving schools are worth mention. Radiant at Corpus Christi Catholic High School in Preston was a vibrant, well-attended day focusing on the gift of the Eucharist.Over 200 were present for the day which included catechesis, prayer, personal stories of growth in Faith, opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The day ended with Holy Mass.Two days later I was invited to Carlisle to formally bless the foundation stone for Newman Catholic High School. Full media coverage was on hand. What a momentous stage for the school to reach. For the past four years the school has operated out of a temporary site. Within a year they will be permanently settled in this new building. My gratitude goes to all who have worked tirelessly to enable us to reach this point.A class from Holy Family Primary School, Blackpool came to visit the Cathedral in Lancaster on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They were a joy to be with! Fr. Pearson gave them a guided tour, explaining why the Cathedral is different from other churches in the Diocese. Just before the children headed home they were shown into the Bishop’s office, to see the portrait of all the former Bishops of Lancaster Diocese.Earlier this week I made my first visit to cardinal Newman Sixth Form College in Preston. It was an informal visit simply to meet the Principal, Nick Burnham, together with the Chaplain and senior staff. The visit was tinged with a certain degree of emotion. Mum went to Lark Hill Convent School in the 1930s. My three sisters were also pupils there in the 60s and 70s. I believe a Father Swarbrick who originated in the Garstang area was a key player in the founding of the school back in the 19th century.All these activities were evidence that we are trying to carry the tradition of our Catholic Faith forward in these extra-ordinary times. Advent speaks of Light, Hope, Joy and Peace found in Christ. It also teaches us that life is a gift and has a direction, a destination. Once we recognize and accept a gift we must thank the Giver of the gift.May these remaining days of Advent continue to enrich you with the promise of eternal gifts.

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster 

A Pastoral Letter for the Beginning of Advent from the Bishop of Lancaster

A PASTORAL LETTER FROM THE BISHOP OF LANCASTER FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT 2019

Appointed to be read at all weekend Public Masses in the Diocese of Lancaster, on the weekend of 30 November/1 December 2019

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,The Holy season of Advent is once again before us. Another year has slipped by, with its memories, highlights and shadows. The Church is ever on watch, keeping awake, ready to greet the return of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Today’s Prayer after Communion reminds us that we constantly live amidst passing things and we must hold fast to what endures. Whilst personal faith may often seem inadequate, the Faith of the Church, the Body of Christ, will carry us. Climate change, political and economic instability at national and international levels, scandals within the Church itself, and so much more can overwhelm us; we struggle to respond.Those who keep watch can be threatened by many temptations. Tiredness, distractions, complacency, hurt, loneliness all chip away at the firmest resolve. Keeping watch in such circumstances is the work of committed adults working together, knowing that the personal attitude of each can help or hinder. We must choose to keep watch, doing all we can to be faithful to Christ’s command.Celebrations of Christmas often involve children. I am grateful to the faithfulness of schools in presenting the Christmas story and remaining true to what we have received. Children must be led; they need the example of adult faith, leading them to find and know and worship the adult Christ. Snowmen and elves must not take the place of Jesus. Snowmen melt. Elves do not exist. Belief must develop and grow and mature with Christ. It must leave the snug stable and set out towards Holy Week.The Bishops of England and Wales have asked the Catholic community to use the coming year, starting today, as an opportunity to deepen our engagement with Jesus, the Word of God in Sacred Scripture. The theme is, ‘The God Who Speaks’. Only last year we celebrated Adoremus, dedicated to knowing and reverencing Our Blessed Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist. The God Who Speaks has the same purpose. It will build us up as Christ’s disciples and as the Church. It will make us stronger Catholics. The times we live in need us to take this year seriously, welcoming it with generous hearts.Our Clergy have all studied Sacred Scripture and are ordained to preach the Word. Many teachers and lay Faithful are also well qualified to teach and catechise. Readers in parishes are chosen not just because they can read and have the courage to, but also because they prepare the readings in good time and work at the art of reading the Word of God within the Sacred Liturgy. I acknowledge Religious communities in the Diocese who celebrate the Prayer of the Church, the Liturgy of the Hours, with fidelity. Many of the Laity share this practice, others use Lectio Divina, the reflective form of praying with the Word.During this year I ask the Clergy to familiarise yourselves with the rubrics concerning the Church’s use of Sacred Scripture, recognise the purpose of the rubrics, and do all you can to follow them. They exist for a good purpose. They help us to listen to the God Who Speaks. By listening to Christ the Teacher we will be more confident teachers.Last year at this time I asked that each family, each Catholic household place a crib at the heart of the Christmas decorations. Make a crib an early gift to those who have slipped away from the practice of the Faith. This year can each Catholic household place the Word of God in a prominent place? It could be the Bible itself, or a personal Sunday Missal, or a copy of the Mass readings you may have accidentally stolen from the parish!The Father was heard to declare; ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him’. Some fundamentalists once told me they did not go to funerals because in the Bible Our Lord told his disciples to ‘leave the dead to bury the dead’. They were utterly sincere, as fundamentalists often are. I asked them how they applied His command to cut off the hand or pluck out the eye that caused them to sin. They did not answer. Sincerity and enthusiasm are not enough for the willing disciple. We must learn how to listen to the adult Christ.At Cana Mary told the wedding guests, ‘Do whatever He tells you’. We must learn how to listen to the adult Christ. May her prayers and example appeal to our hearts. She will be a sure and patient guide, teaching us what is of lasting worth in this passing world.

With my prayers and blessing upon each of you,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster