Blog for week of Christian unity!

Dear brothers and sisters, 

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!I have taken a decision to not be present at an ecumenical Vespers on Sunday. It was a kind and welcome invitation, and initially I had agreed to be there. I have full confidence in the host providing a strictly compliant environment and a liturgy that will adhere to necessary protocol. So why withdraw? Idleness? Snooker? (There’s a big snooker tournament on tv that evening!) It will go ahead (Vespers) and witness to our pro-active desire to work for a healing of divisions between the churches. The Catholic Church will be present through local representation. And I will be on-board at a ZOOM event later in the week involving my ‘opposite numbers’. Ecumenism isn’t something we have permission to withdraw from.Mid week we heard of the untimely deaths of Archbishop Tartaglia of Glasgow, and retired Scottish Bishop, Vincent Logan and Bishop Moses Haamungole of Monze Diocese, Zambia. Archbishop Tartaglia and Bishop Moses had both tested positive for Covid around the new year.Bishop Moses’ death struck me particularly hard. He was only 53 years of age. He generously came for my episcopal ordination in 2018, and was a wonderful host when I visited Zambia in 2019. News of his death brought back memories of another Bishop of Monze, Paul Lungu S.J. who was tragically killed in a road accident in 1998. He, too, had been in his early fifties. Heavy losses for those they leave behind, taken too early, with so much still to do. My prayers are with them all.Pope Francis has dedicated this as a year of special devotion and prayer to St.Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church. Many of you already have a strong devotion to him. He deserves more attention from all of us. He is called on in prayer to help us prepare for a ‘happy death’. A key to this is learning how to grieve for those we have lost.The Holy Family would have been no strangers to grieving, it was part of their culture, as it is part of every culture and society. Sadness, loss, grief are things we must all learn to live with. St. Joseph will help us to grieve with hope. He will explain how he grieved and did not let it rob him of his Faith in a loving God, nor would it rob him of joy. There’s something to work on for the year ahead.

 

With my blessing,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster 

Be at peace with 2020

My dear friends in Christ,

Welcome  to the Bishop’s Blog!We are hardly off to a roaring start! In some ways it seems like ‘so near and yet so far . . .’. Schools are of particular concern. What will be the lasting effect on our young ones? Whilst we struggle to manage the pandemic itself one aspect that we do have more control of is how we individually respond to our circumstances. I’ve heard of the media inviting people to ‘write a letter’ to 2021, expressing their hopes. What may also be a worthwhile exercise is to work at some sort of reconciliation with the past year, 2020. It will go down in global history as a BAD year, obviously, but it risks doing us damage twice, once as we passed through it, and a second time as we struggle with its memory. That could be with us for the rest of our lives.So, it robbed us of our plans, our loved ones, those who died and those we could not visit or hug. It robbed us of our health, our education and our businesses. It robbed us of our freedom, our peace of mind, our jobs. Tragically, it robbed us of Holy Mass, worship, and of the freedom to live our Sacramental Faith. We could probably say much more as we look back on a year we never saw coming, an experience we never want again, and something that hasn’t finished with us yet.

Even though all this is true, I sense a need for us to try and be at peace with 2020, even with the harm done, otherwise that year becomes like a Corona-virus itself, infecting and spreading its poison into the rest of our days.

One thing it did not rob us of is our belief that Our Lord has been with us every step of the way, every moment of every day. We have been given opportunity to know what is most important. We have seen what we had previously taken so much for granted. We have come to know that the best things in life can never be taken as convenient.At this start of a new year let us try to be at peace with 2020 despite the harm it has done. Let us lay it to rest, with the bad and the good that we found in it.

With my blessing on you all as we progress into 2021, especially those of you who feel most fragile.

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick 

Bishop of Lancaster

A Pastoral Letter from the Bishop of Lancaster


A  Pastoral Letter from the Bishop of Lancaster 

Appointed to be read aloud at the Holy Mass in the Diocese of Lancaster on the Solemnity of the Holy Family 2020  

My dear people,This Solemnity of the Lord’s Nativity is kept holy as we recognise Christ, the Light in our darkness, Christ, our Saviour. It falls at a particular time in our calendar but is relevant for the whole year. Christmas falls on 25th December but its gift should be opened each day of
the year.Over these past ten months we have been made aware of our frailty and our strength both as individuals and as a society. We know that the pandemic has landed more heavily on some than on others. We know that certain individuals can cope better under this pressure than
others. We have been asked repeatedly to be considerate of others, especially the most vulnerable and those whose occupations or circumstances put them in the front line of this battle.When a care worker, medic or teacher finishes their shift or their work for the day, what do they do? They go home. Home to what? For the vast majority, they go home to family, spouse, children, news of elderly parents, washing, shopping, cleaning, preparing meals,
medical appointments, bills and hopefully time to relax. All this – and more – is what it means to live in this world.

There are others who, unfortunately, have lost jobs, and now are faced with the crisis of knowing how to pay their bills, even how to stay in their rented home. Other families are even less fortunate as they find themselves homeless. I imagine the distress of young parents
who find themselves with children they struggle to provide with basic essentials due to the cruelty of fate, economics or ‘luck’. I can imagine that darkness is sometimes welcomed because it helps to hide their plight, and yet, in this darkness they easily fall prey to anxieties
that never take time off, robbing them of precious sleep and that most essential quality of human life, hope.The Light that is Christ does not respect sin. He seeks out the darkest places knowing that these are the very places where He will find those for whom He has come, those who need Him most. The Church carries His light. The Church allows His light to shine through Faith and  Charity. Prayer is something we can and must do in every time and every situation. With courage, prayer enables us to enter into the darkness of people’s lives so that the Light of Christ can shine both for us and for those we find there.Our Holy Father, Pope Francis has recently given us a beautiful Apostolic Letter, Patris corde, to mark the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of Saint Joseph as the Patron of the Universal Church. It is something I ask your clergy to help make available in our parishes
and schools. It speaks to us of the love of a father’s heart and will help to bring us the light of hope at a time when it is greatly needed.God the Father knows all too well that bringing light into our darkness is wonderful but not in itself enough. Beyond prayer, beyond belief there must be active Charity. This, too, is the vocation of the Church and of every Christian. We must overcome the darkness through our
love of others. Too often we can be paralysed by the sheer enormity of the problems we face and the desperate difficulties faced by those around us. St. Joseph shows us what is still possible. A single individual can be given the gift of overcoming what others see as
insurmountable problems.The world is a big place, and the number of those struggling can be overwhelming. Where do I start? Start with those closest to you, your family. Start at home. I invite you to take this opportunity to renew your personal Faith, particularly if you are experiencing severe
difficulties. Be aware of the light you were entrusted with at your baptism. It was given to you for your own salvation and also for the good of others. Your vocation is to carry that Light in these days even though they are days we would not have chosen. This is where Christ wants
you to carry His love.At Christmas people want to be generous to others. Many families actually go into debt in order to ’make’ Christmas for their loved ones. Sadly, the most important element is missed; they ignore the reality of the Word made flesh in favour of joys that will not last. For us,
Christmas is about a debt, a debt of love we owe to the God who has paid our debt owed due to sin. Note the difference; one household is plunged into debt by their Christmas whilst the faithful household is lifted out of debt by the Saviour.As we begin the new year we pray above all for holiness. The Holy Family was not spared difficulties, and neither will we be spared. An abiding trust in the Father’s love will enable us to overcome any darkness. With the prayers of Our Blessed Lady, Mother of the Redeemer,
and of Saint Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, may you be given a peace, joy and encouragement that only the Lord’s coming can give.

With my blessing on you all,
+Paul Swarbrick
Bishop of Lancaster.

Homily for Midnight Mass of the Lord’s Nativity.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, and all people of good will,

Welcome to the Bishop’s Blog!

Whoever you are, wherever you are from, whatever has happened in your life and your world up to now, I welcome you and share with you the blessing, the peace, joy and encouragement of our Saviour’s birth. Happy Christmas!We few are fortunate to be here for this Midnight Mass, during which, as in every Mass, on the altar the bread and wine will become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus. This is the miracle of the Mass, and it happens so that we can take Jesus out into the world, into the homes and hearts waiting for Him.  We are fortunate, not because we are better than others. Some will come to Mass this evening and be told there is ‘no room’ for them. (I’d be the first to offer my seat, but no one would take it!) And yet, many have greater need than us. The Church is not a place where the sinner is unwelcome. Fears, frailty and failings should be all the more reason for coming to Jesus. He welcomed sinners, ate with them and prayed for the good of those who persecuted Him. How will our presence here tonight benefit those turned away because of restrictions on space, those unable to come, those who have been hurt by the Church, those who think they have no place here?We are here to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Light in our darkness, our way to the Father’s heart. It is a personal matter for each of us, but carries a public responsibility. Before a child can be born the child must be conceived, and nurtured for nine long months. The Word of God took flesh silently, hidden, within Mary, so that she could be counted a child of the Father. Similarly, the child must be conceived in you – in a silent and hidden way – so that you may know whose child you are, so that when you are asked, “Who made you?” you may reply, “God made me.”We have a responsibility to pray in this Christmas Mass for all unborn children, for their mothers and fathers waiting for their babies to be born, that they will know something of the precious gift of life, and that they will love their children. To help us know how important such prayer is, just consider that as we are told each day the number of Covid victims, (how many is it now?) yet each year in this same country over 200,000 children’s lives are ended through abortions. What did they do to deserve it? Why were they not loved? Are we not being told to save lives? Do their lives not matter?Globally, many babies do not survive until birth because of unfortunate medical complications and economic deficiencies. Many women do not survive child-birth. But Jesus did survive. He was born in extremely unhygienic circumstances, (realistic crib smells . . .) He survived infancy’s accidents and illnesses and grew to adulthood. He survived and carried the grief of losing St. Joseph, seeing His mother widowed whilst still quite young. In many ways He lived as the world dictates, He complied; that’s why we know so little about His first thirty years. And yet, He would not be defined by the world, because He was the Word made flesh, Son of God. Remember He said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” There is something more than the world here.Our Christmas is different this year for obvious reasons. This pandemic is damned inconvenient! Despite your careful planning, you have to make serious, often heart-breaking sacrifices. But what is essential remains unaffected, the Mystery of the Word made flesh. And do we want to know just how Christmas changes things and why it is important? Well, there is a simple image we can use to help us understand. It is this: Stones become bread. The Old Testament, based on the Law of Moses, the Ten Commandments, written on tablets of stone, carried down from the mountain, preserved in the Ark of the Covenant. Stones are heavy things and will take your strength. If carrying stones is the way we do religion we are going to find ourselves getting weary, losing strength.But look what happens now, as Jesus gives us His New Commandment to love one another, and commands us to “Do this in memory of me”. The Bread of the Eucharist, Holy Communion, becomes His new way for us to do our religion. The bread becomes the Body of Christ; instead of taking our strength it gives us strength for body and soul. (What makes me smile is that it’s as though He took the idea from the devil himself. Do you remember the first temptation, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread”? Clever!) In the Tabernacle of the Jerusalem Temple they preserved stones. In the tabernacle now is the Bread of Life. Simple!We are creatures of habit. We tend to like what is familiar, what we are used to. Christmas can be little more than a nostalgia for what we have known. (The smell of cigars takes me back to childhood family Christmases. Dad always smoked cigars at Christmas!) If we are brave enough, perhaps even desperate enough, we can receive – as a gift – what Jesus wants to give us, an encounter with the living God. It is not gained as the fruit of our hard work or careful planning. These can always disappoint us as unforeseen and unwelcome factors spoil them. Instead, even with the smallest, most pathetic scrap of Faith, within us, the Word can be conceived. We may not be aware of it. We don’t know how it has happened. It is pure Grace, pure gift, utterly undeserved. Stones become bread: the Word becomes flesh. My plans fail so that God’s greater Plan may succeed.You can meet people who declare with great confidence and great sincerity, “I don’t believe in god”! It may even be said by children, and you can be stuck to know how to answer them. Perhaps there are two ways to proceed. Firstly, you might say, “Tell me about the god you don’t believe in”. Then listen. You may find you can say, “And I don’t believe in that god either!”. The second response you might give is to ask, “Do you believe in Jesus?” Then listen. His sole purpose is to enable us to know the one true God, who changed stones into bread. The sole purpose of the Church is to enable people to know, and come to know better, the one true God and in so doing come to know themselves.Why did God make you?” “God made me to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in the next.”And there you have it! A reason for living, a purpose irrespective of status, wealth, health, age, qualifications or criminal record. You also have a direction for life to travel and an ultimate destination to look forward to, beyond the mess and mistakes of this world. I must not be too negative about this world. It is created by God and was created good. It holds a beauty. But it is a beauty that holds a sadness because it does not last.Let me conclude. I know Christmas for many of you has been spoilt because you are not able to be with loved ones, yes? (say yes!) Many of you will be remembering those who have died, and you miss them deeply. Some may have died recently. Others will have gone years ago. Often, our grief does not fade with the passing years, it can become heavier, we miss them more. I mentioned the smell of dad’s cigars taking me back to my childhood Christmases. Every Christmas now I recall seeing mum’s coffin in church surrounded by Christmas decorations. Strangely, it hasn’t spoilt my Christmas. Rather, it has made Christmas more special, helping me know more deeply what Christmas gives us; the Word become flesh and dwelt amongst us so that we might one day dwell with God. Grief is of this world, hope is of heaven. Stones into bread.May the peace, joy and encouragement that only the coming of Christ can bring be yours this Christmas whoever you are, wherever you are from, whatever has happened in your life and world up to now, and whatever is yet to come.

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick 

Bishop of Lancaster

Prepare for life after Christmas than on life at Christmas!

My dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ,

Welcome to the Bishop’s Blog!
Not long now. Just a few more sleeps . . . for those who can sleep . . . .  and before we know it we’ll be the other side of the festive season. I wonder if our emphasis should be more on preparing for life after Christmas than on life at Christmas. It’s all very well making a fuss for a ‘one-off’ occasion, but Jesus brings lasting joy. So, we have a job to do of extending the Grace of Christmas beyond the Feast of Christmas.The superficial things like decorations and trees and lights can come down. We need to look deeper for what should last. Two simple clues are given as we profess our Faith in Jesus Christ, Son of God, Son of Mary, the Divine and the human natures. Beyond the Feast we can extend the Grace by continuing to look at God in prayer and worship, and look at our fellow creatures with respect and active charity.At the heart of the Christmas message is St. John’s phrase, ‘The Word took flesh; He dwelt amongst us.’ The truth is that this happened not when Christ was born but when He was conceived, nine months earlier. That’s why the Church’s new year used to be the 25th March on the Solemnity of the Annunciation. Let us pray for our unborn babies. They are part of our society. They exist as human being, and can be counted amongst the most vulnerable. How tragic it is that society can be so concerned about pregnancy loss and yet can sanction the termination of tens of thousands of unborn children. Is there any other species on the planet that is as destructive of itself, and of its most defenseless members?Covid is only one threat to life in a world where many threats exist. As we do all we can to protect lives from one particular threat, the pandemic, may we be brought to see far greater threats that appear to have the blessing of society.

With my prayers and blessing for each of you,

 

 

 

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster 

Advent Pastoral Letter 2020

A PASTORAL LETTER FROM THE BISHOP OF LANCASTER

  For the Second Sunday of Advent 6th December 2020

Appointed to be read aloud at all weekend Public Masses in the Diocese of Lancaster on the second Sunday of Advent 2020.

My dear people,

A single desire lies in our hearts and is beautifully captured by the simple cry, ‘Come Lord Jesus!’ It is spoken with greater intensity in this short season of Advent, but it is a cry we utter in every season of the year and every season of our lives. Made in the image and likeness of God, we long to see the face of God our creator. In that moment we will see our true selves for the first time because we will look into the face of the living God.This Pastoral message, following the tradition set by my predecessors, carries a dual purpose. Firstly, to build the unity of the Diocese as it is shared across our parishes and homes. Secondly, it will give a focus for our lives, encouraging us to reflect above all on the second coming of our Saviour.Our lives seem currently to be dominated by at least three massive uncertainties; the effects of Covid-19, the effects of Brexit, and the effects of damaged ecology. As Christians, we can counterbalance these uncertainties with the certainty of Our Lord’s victory achieved by His love. This is more than clever words. He achieved it by acts. He achieved it by taking flesh, by His ministry, by His Passion and Glorious Resurrection. This is what our lives are dominated by, above and beyond all uncertainties. But our Faith can be weak, and our witness can fail, and we can become scared, and even those who lead us can cause us to question.St. John the Baptist is a key figure in the life of Our Lord. Even in the womb he responded to Christ’s presence. He prepared the way for the Lord, and baptised Him. He encouraged his own disciples to leave him and follow Christ. We hear the Baptist in today’s Gospel, ‘at the top of his game’, as it were.In lockdown and its subsequent tiers we look for ways of coping, remaining strong for others, doing what we can to lift those who have fallen. NHS staff, teachers, carers and many other professionals have done outstanding work. I commend Clergy, Religious and Lay Faithful for ensuring that people have access to the Blessed Sacrament for prayer in spite of the severe restrictions imposed. I thank those who have written to MPs expressing concern that churches have suffered too severe a lockdown. I commend those who look after families, especially the young, elderly and vulnerable.I think of St. John the Baptist later in his life in lockdown, having been arrested for his outspoken criticism of Herod. Even strong people have their limits, and St. John reached a point of doubt. He sent a message to Jesus asking, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or do we look for another?’ The answer he received did not change his circumstances, but it did give him new heart.Christmas can be a point of convergence for three aspects of our lives; past, present and future. From the past we draw memories and lessons, knowing we can’t go back. The future is shrouded in questions, a feast for the imagination. A variety of futures lie before us, depending on how we make choices, and how events beyond our control affect us. So, what of the present, the ‘here and now’?‘Christianity is not an ideal to be aimed for but a reality to be shared.’ What we have been given matters. What have we been given in our many forms of lockdown? A verse from Psalm 18 is worth remembering; ‘He brought me forth into freedom. He saved me because He loved me.’ We desire freedom, but some little thought leads us to realise that what matters most is that He loves us. Freedom without His love is no freedom; to know He loves us assures our most desired freedom.In previous Advents I have encouraged us all to have a crib at the centre of decorations in our homes, and perhaps even in our places of work. This year I encourage the same. This year I also encourage you to make every effort to attend and celebrate Mass, but this will be difficult for some. So I encourage you to get to Mass within the Octave (eight days) of Christmas.I also encourage you to keep Christmas going, even up to 2nd February, the beautiful Feast of Candlemas, when Christmastide concludes. Carry the light and hope of our ultimate freedom into the new year. Carry it joyfully through all the restrictions, trials and uncertainties of this life, knowing the utter certainty of victory through Christ’s love.

With my blessing on you all, especially on those who are experiencing particular hardships.

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster.

A Blessed Advent 2020!

My dear friends in Jesus Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

I welcome this Advent more than any before. It brings us a new start as we prepare ourselves for a celebration of Christmas that will be, in many ways, very different from what we have been used to.The past couple of weeks have been dominated by a number of ZOOM meetings. This time last year I had no idea what ZOOM was. The past several months have dramatically reduced my travel. So many trips cancelled, both local and abroad. Plans lie in tatters, and even the good news of vaccines being available hasn’t brought any immediate change. And now there is Christmas to sort out.The best we can hope for is that Mass will be open to the public, even though numbers attending will have to be managed carefully. I know many priests will be able to celebrate several Masses and thus offer more people chance to get to Mass. But popular times such as Midnight Mass are likely to be harder to manage. ‘No room at the inn’ will become ‘no room at the church’. I do hope that churches will be found open throughout Christmas Day and on into the Octave so that people can at least come in to Our Blessed Lord and visit the crib, and find time for personal prayer.And that brings me to a point I’ve mentioned in previous Advents; the importance of households displaying a crib at the heart of their decorations. Add to this the possibility of families and individuals creating Advent Wreaths. Do be careful of the fire risk of course! The effects of candles burning in an otherwise darkened room can be magical and soothing.For many, then, it will be a poorer Christmas than we have been used to, and certainly more restricted than we would ever wish for. But a poorer Christmas need not diminish Christ. There is something more authentic about it, something that helps us see the essentials rather than the trimmings and trappings. The Christmas story we never tire of listening to is immersed in poverty and inconvenience, and yet the light of hope and joy blaze through.The Government has announced the cutting of international aid from .7% to .5%. It is argued that with so many increased needs here in the UK we cannot justify spending so much on foreign aid projects. It’s a hard call in some ways, but it represents a promise broken and an abandoning of some of the world’s poorest people. What saddens me is the amount of money and resources wasted even in these current difficulties. May the Catholic community not lose sight of the poor. May we be generous to those in need so that we may be ‘heirs to the treasures of heaven’.

Happy Advent!

With the assurance of my blessing and prayers,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster 

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

My dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ,

Welcome to this week’s  Bishop’s Blog!

Before I begin, just try to get your head round this: Imagine, getting sight of the exam paper answers before handing in your script! And it’s the examiner who’s handed it to you. That appears to be today’s Gospel.On this last Sunday of the Church’s year, it is the custom to focus prayer and attention on children and young people. This year we do so, conscious of the additional complications to their lives caused by pandemic. What is it like to be young now? To be just setting out on life’s journey and be hit by so many extra difficulties? Schools, colleges and particularly universities have been severely tested. Being able to ‘hang-out’ with friends has not always been possible. Families have had anxieties over job security. Young people seeking work are particularly affected as so many businesses struggle to survive, and in many instances young people who had employment were the first to be sacrificed and handed their notice. Tough times, so we are right to pray for the young.Jesus talks to His disciples about the end of it all, not just when there’s a vaccine, but the very end, what awaits us once life’s journey is completed. And for all of us, not only the young, this is key to life. If we look on life as setting out on a journey, it makes sense to decide our ultimate goal, and thus the direction we need to travel in to reach it.Of course, at the end of the journey it is not a ‘what’ that awaits us. Rather, it is a ‘Who’. The Last Judgement has been described in art and literature in some terrifying ways, aimed at putting the fear of God into us so that we double our efforts to do the right thing and get counted as sheep, not goats (poor goats!). But too much fear or indeed the wrong form of fear can produce the wrong response. We remember the tale of the man given one talent who hid it because he feared his master. That must not be our fear. A life lived out of fear is no life.Jesus made no secret of His Father’s desire that all His children might come to share His Divine life, what is described as the ‘fulness of life’. What stands out in the image of the Last Judgement is how relatively easy it should have been for us to secure a place in heaven. What He did here was the equivalent of showing us the exam answers before we sit the exam. Learn to see what needs doing, then decide to do it: simple. In fact it is so easy that some didn’t even know they were achieving it. The significance of their simple acts of charity was unknown to them throughout life. They decided to use any opportunity to do good.We must add next how tragically simple it is to lose our place in heaven. The words of the Act of Contrition ring so true as we confess ‘ . . . what I have done, and what I have failed to do . . . ‘ The other deadly trap we fall into is to assume we have time to make up lost ground, time for another chance. It’s a trap I constantly fall into; I’ll do it later. . . . . The time will come when we no longer have such an option. Now is the time to decide and to act. As has been said before, this is not a rehearsal.I remember once being asked by an old woman in Zambia to buy her a blanket next time I went to town. She even gave me the money for it. I did what she asked, but on the day was late getting back. I’ll take it to her in the morning I thought. But then, I thought a bit more. It’s night. This is when she wants the blanket. So, I set out along the dark paths to her village. I knew she would be there. I knew she would be frightened to hear someone calling late at night, but I thought it worthwhile. Sure enough, she’d gone to bed along with several of her grandchildren, AIDS orphans. I cannot describe her joy to be given her new blanket at that end of the night instead of in the morning.If this life is all there is, then for some it is desperately unfair. I say this not just because of some people suffering more than others as a result of the pandemic. It applies to less extraordinary times too. This life is unfair, although we tend not to complain when it is unfair to our advantage.‘Set your hearts first on God’s Kingdom, and all these other things will be given to you as well.’ What a deal that is! Better than any ‘buy one – get one free.’! How important it is in these times to share with young people the words of Our Lord, which carry such reassurance and hope, even as they offer a way of life so different from what this world can offer. This is the only justification we have for our schools and colleges, that they give pupils and staff the Gospel message in which our Catholic teaching is rooted. It is the work of our Youth Service too.As well as explaining to us the simple steps leading to the Kingdom, Jesus has promised to remain with us as guide and as food for the journey. How I hope our young people find their way back to Mass in our parishes. Jesus gives Himself to us as food to strengthen us for the journey to His Kingdom. To stay away from Mass and Holy Communion is the equivalent of having an eating disorder. It is so important that the Gospel is handed on to future generations. I am conscious of so many of our older parishioners saddened because their children and grandchildren don’t practice the Faith. Some are burdened by a sense of failure. It is not for us to judge who has failed or succeeded. We leave that to the Lord, and we have been told He is merciful. He has shown us the answers before we write the exam. We know what to do. We know what success looks like.There are young people choosing Our Lord. Some are making brave choices and decisions in their lives to keep the Faith. These are brave people, often swimming against the tide, choosing to differ from their contemporaries both in opinion and in life-style. They will become teachers and guides to their own families and friends. They will also become good news to complete strangers. We must recognise them and encourage them. If I were young in these times, I do not know if I would be able to stand up as a Catholic Christian. The demands are so great compared to when I was young. But Our Lord never ceases moving amongst us, talking to us, opening our hearts to receive His simple message of practical love, doing the Corporal works of Mercy, making His forgiveness and healing real rather than just words. He offers us what the world cannot give. And when the world has finished with us, the best is still to come. I pray that the young can take this to heart, live their lives based on Christ’s unselfish love, and become people of hope to those around them.Certain figures of the Gospel come closer to us as we prepare to begin Advent. Saint Elizabeth, Zechariah, Saint John the Baptist, Saint Joseph, each has their place. But it is always Mary who gives us the surest advice to heed. On one occasion, long after Jesus had grown up, she noticed people’s sorry state because they had exhausted this world’s wine and still were not satisfied. Mary simply instructed those standing ready to ‘do whatever He tells you’. What worked for them then is good for us now.

As ever in Christ,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

Remembrance Sunday 2020

My dear friends in Christ,

Welcome to the Bishop’s Blog!

Sitting by the fire on Saturday evening, with the dark and damp held well at bay by double-glazing and shut curtains, the noise of fireworks still got through. The unfortunate origins of bonfire night have shifted for most people into an innocent chance to enjoy themselves with spectacular displays at a time of year when light is losing out to the dark. I felt that this year people’s spirits – especially the children’s – would be lifted by the occasion. I hope so.Listening to the bangs and explosions did introduce some less welcome thoughts though. It occurred to me that in other parts of the world people would be hearing similar noises, but caused by gunshots and armaments. They would be threats not just to the evening quiet, but to life itself.And so my mind turned to the business of Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day. The invitation to remember is the same as always. How we do it this year will obviously be affected by our on-going restricted circumstances. Parts of our comforting rituals will not be possible. Perhaps inconvenient restrictions can serve to give us a different but thought-provoking new angle on the occasion.Loss of liberty, making sacrifices, being denied the right to choose how to live; is this a small taste of what it was for others to serve in times of severe conflict? These things weigh heavily on us in an age accustomed to flexibility and convenience. But parents know all about them, and so do dedicated staff. And so does the dedicated disciple.The legacy of war – even war against covid-19 – inspires us to dream of some ‘new normal’, and to work for it. Any new normal we expect to find in the world around us must surely be formed first within us. If we are to welcome it, it will bear characteristics identified with wisdom, fortitude, charity, sacrifice and service. Joy will be in there too, a joy not dependent solely on our immediate circumstances, but founded rather on the Lord’s eternal promises.In this month of prayer for the Holy Souls may you all find comfort and healing in the wounds left by grief.

With my blessing,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster 

 

In Solidarity with People of France after Terrorist attack in Nice Basilica

My dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

I join with other Faith and political leaders in condemning the tragic murders of three Catholic worshippers in Notre Dame, Nice, on Thursday morning. I also call on all Catholics in the Diocese of Lancaster to join me in offering prayers for the souls of those who died, for their grieving families, for the clergy, religious and faithful of Nice, and for the people of France who have been wounded and shaken by yet another act of terrorism.

We are appalled by any act of violence wherever it occurs, but this attack in Notre Dame, Nice, touches us more deeply: It happened to Catholic worshippers gathering for Mass in their church, a sacred place. Just one week ago a priest in our own Cathedral was violently attacked at the altar whilst conducting a funeral Liturgy. Although it appears the perpetrator on that occasion was suffering mental health issues, it brings home to us how vulnerable we are, even when so close to Our Lord.

As in all things, we turn to Christ to know how we should respond. He shows us that the way forward is not to seek revenge or retaliation. We should not close and lock our churches, turning them into fortresses where neither strangers nor parishioners are welcome. Rather, we deepen our trust in our loving Saviour who was himself the victim of violence, and yet died praying for his murderers.

We must also pray for peace, mutual respect and understanding between people of differing Faiths. I am glad to say we enjoy good relations with our Muslim brothers and sisters locally. More broadly, let us beware how we relate to others, particularly in situations involving potential conflict. The Gospel is not served by hot tempers, verbal aggression or attitudes inflamed by disrespect.

The demands made on us by the times we live in are great and appear to increasing. We may be tempted to despair, deciding that too much is being asked of us. In worldly terms that is understandable. But we look to Christ, and to His generosity, expressed most completely on the Cross. That is the measure of what we are asked to give in return. We will do it with generous and loving hearts because of what He has done for us. Without doubt, the prize will be worth the sacrifice.

With my prayers and blessing for each of you,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster