Approaching Lent!

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

We are about to begin the Holy Season of Lent. It is our way to the Resurrection of Christ. It begins, as you know so well, with the dramatic anointing of our foreheads with blessed ash, and the words, ‘Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.‘I know the alternative words are also available, ‘Turn away from sin. Believe the Good News.’ Perhaps, given all the information we are given on the state of the world’s health those first words about dust are more appropriate. We are part of the creation. We are formed from the dust/slime of the earth.To give our attention to the creation is certainly an invitation to search for the Creator, and remain mindful of what that Creator can do with dust.As Lent approaches I look forward to celebrating the Rite of Election at the Cathedral on the first Saturday in Lent. It is such a joy to see and meet people from across the Diocese, people who have found Christ and are beginning their journey with Him.So many of us were Baptised as infants. We did not choose to enter the Church; we have our parents to thank for this blessing above all blessings.But these adults have decided to become Catholics. They bring something fresh and wholesome into our lives at a time when we need this refreshing. It is a joy to meet them and listen to their stories. I am grateful for those who helped them find their way to this moment.Lent can appear a rather forbidding time, but it brings spring into our soul. I pray it is a time of deepening your relationship with the Lord, especially if you are experiencing difficulties. He chose to enter the desert for you, and with love for us all. With His love our difficulties are changed into a sharing of His Cross and lead us to the Resurrection. Only remember, He loved us first. Let us love with His love.

With my prayers for you all,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

 

Through the past Week…

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

This time last week the Cathedral was full of hundreds of our school pupils and staff. They came to share the Walsingham Dowry Tour, preparing for 29th March when the Catholic community of England will take part in a solemn act of Rededication of England as the Dowry of Mary.Over the two days 6th – 8th February, Mgr Armitage (Rector of the Walsingham Shrine) together with an enthusiastic team of volunteers, helped us host a most moving and encouraging event. It was a moment of deep devotion to Our Blessed Lady. Personally I was greatly encouraged both by the numbers able to visit the Cathedral and by the example of prayer. Thank-you to all who had any part in this work of Grace. I hope Sr.Sharon is able to include some of the wonderful photographs that help capture something of the occasion. It should be widely shared across the Diocese.Our schools responded very generously. Friday morning the Cathedral was packed with our Blessed Lord, our school-children and with sunlight!On 11th February, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes (Diocesan Patroness), I celebrated Mass at St.Kentigern’s, Blackpool. It was a wild, wet evening. Even so, there was a good attendance of faithful souls.It seemed fitting to have this Feast following so closely on the Walsingham visit. It was a confirmation of Our Lady’s presence here. And she is certainly needed as we face all the demands of our times. These can seem so overwhelming.The list of things to do and problems to solve appears endless. Our time and resources can appear so limited. But then, we recall what Christ has done for us, and the Gift of His Spirit, and the promise of eternal Life, and all is bathed in a different light.I close this Blog by making mention of a faithful parishioner of the Cathedral parish who passed to the Lord on the day the Walsingham Tour opened. Mary Carthy has served the Lord with generosity and love all her life. She has been a treasure in the Cathedral parish for years, ministering to clergy and particularly to my recent predecessors.I know her dear family will be struggling to come to terms with her death, but they have the profound consolation of remembering her good and full life, and her own joy at being called to the Lord in heaven. As Catholics experiencing personal loss we have the comfort, please God, of knowing that every day that passes draws us a day nearer to seeing our loved ones again. What splendid motivation for valuing the work of the Church and the place of pray!

With my blessing to you all, especially those of you carrying particularly heavy or dark burdens,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

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