My Christmas Message!

Dear Friends in Jesus Christ,

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In a world marked by violence, disfigured by the scars of wars, of murders, of exploitation and injustice, a Child is born for us to whom has been given the unexpected title: “Prince of Peace”.

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Faced with a defenceless child, our hearts are somehow softened and our passions calmed. But the Child of Bethlehem is not only a source of dreams and hopes; He calls us to a radical decision, to a foundational commitment in favour of truthful love. He himself would grow up to become a sign of contradiction heralding a new world where justice, peace and joy would reign.

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On the throne of the Cross, the King of kings confronted human violence at its worst … and responded with mercy and forgiveness, thus uncovering for the world new ways to reconciliation and freedom. His Resurrection revealed to his disciples the ultimate meaning of life, woven through with surprising grace and life-giving Spirit. This is the mystery we celebrate at Christmas.

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For in Jesus, innocence can be recovered, healed and renewed. Each of us is invited to open our hearts to this Good News, to make it our own, to share it with family, with friends, with an entire country. We celebrate Christmas at the time of year when nights are longest. Is this not a sign that new life can surge forth at the very moment we believed it lost?

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As we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, I pray for a fresh outpouring of heavenly peace on all people of goodwill, both here in the North West of England but especially in those regions of our world where there is conflict, civil disorder, and an absence of that peace which Almighty God desires for all his children.

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A happy and peaceful Christmas to all!

+Michael Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

P.S. The Bishop’s Blog is on a break now until 10 January 2015.

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The Approaching Feast of Christmas: The Eternal Day enters our temporal day

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Dear Friends in Jesus Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog in these last days of Advent.

The great Doctor of the Church, St. Augustine of Hippo, in his Christmas sermons to the people of Hippo was fond of referring to the birth of Christ as the Eternal Day entering our temporal day.

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The Evangelist John in his magnificent gospel prologue spoke of God’s Word as ‘the light which shines in the darkness, which the darkness could not overpower’ (John 1:5).

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/80385895″>Advent Series Promo – Light in the Darkness</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/southridgefellowship”>Southridge Fellowship</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

As we in our part of the world experience a real diminishment of light at this time of the year, it is helpful to view the great feast of Christmas as the in-breaking of divine light into our darkened world. We are celebrating the birth of him who would later describe himself as the light of the world.

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One of almighty God’s most powerful acts as recorded in Genesis is the creation of light and its separation from darkness. Light is wholesome, heartening, and allows us to see where we are going.

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Can we allow ourselves once more at this sacred time to be bathed in the light of Christ, whose teaching guides our steps through life until we come to eternal light?

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Christmas lights and colourful decorations presently adorn our homes and streets adding a note of cheer in the midst of winter darkness. Yet the decorations eventually have to come down and the lights stored away for another year, but the light of Christ is different and burns brightly the year around.

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Despite the busy shopping and seasonal exchange of cards and gifts, Christmas can for many be a lonely time.  It may be that families find themselves separated by distance, or have memories of those now no longer alive and with whom they enjoyed many past Christmases together.

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Perhaps Christmas can also be a lonely time because of ill-health, separation or the frailty of old age, or on account of some other personal sadness or tragedy. Or it just can happen that people find themselves alone on Christmas Day.

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The real truth of the Christmas story however is to be found not just in the memory of a child being born two thousand years ago, but in that child’s enduring presence among us, whatever our personal situation may be.

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In the Annunciation to Joseph, (Matthew 1:18-25), we find mention of the name Emmanuel which in Hebrew means God-with-us. From this time forward God was now going to be with us in his Son whose birth from the Virgin Mary we are recalling.

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A divine light has now come into the world which will never be extinguished.  The Eternal Day has indeed entered our temporal day so that no believer may ever again be in the darkness.

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As happened to those first shepherds near Bethlehem long ago, may something of that heavenly light shine on each one of us this Christmastide!

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As ever in Christ our Lord,

+Michael G Campbell OSA

Bishop of Lancaster

Reaching Gaudete Sunday!

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Dear Friends,

On Monday 8th December, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, I was delighted to attend on behalf of the Diocese, the Installation of Bishop John Arnold as the eleventh Bishop of Salford.

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In a packed Salford Cathedral, filled with representatives from Parishes and Schools in the Diocese, hundreds of priests, most of the Bishops and two Cardinals, he was greeted at the door of the Cathedral by the Metropolitan Archbishop of Liverpool and the Provost of the Diocesan Chapter. They escorted him to the Altar, where the Apostolic Letter appointing Bishop Arnold was read, before he was solemnly seated in the Cathedra.

Bishop Arnold then presided over the celebration of Mass (photos are here) for the Solemnity. In his homily, Bishop John paid warm tribute to his predecessor Bishop Terence Brain and reminded all present of the generous willingness of Mary to accept the will of the Lord.

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At the end of Mass (the liturgical booklet is here), after greetings from His Excellency Archbishop Antonio Mennini, the Holy Father’s representative (nuncio) in Great Britain, Bishop Arnold invited us – and especially his new Diocese to join him in reciting a simple prayer each day:”Stay with us, Lord, on our journey”.

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Tomorrow – The Third Sunday of Advent is traditionally known as Gaudete Sunday because the liturgy today summons us to be glad and rejoice, in other words to be happy and cheerful in our outlook. The priest wears rose vestments rather than purple to show a ‘lighter’ mood.

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Though different from Lent, Advent remains a penitential and preparatory season as the use of the colour purple suggests. We are therefore invited on this Sunday to pause and know the reason why we should rejoice, for we do live in the midst of an often troubled and unquiet world as the media keep reminding us.

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We need to understand that the intention behind the Church’s liturgy is to lift us up and usher us into God’s time, and so challenges us to open our minds to God’s way of doing things as revealed and laid out in Sacred Scripture.

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The simple but clear message today is that we should enter into the spirit of the liturgy and be happy at the thought of what almighty God has done for us. All of God’s promises and his initiatives throughout the long history of the people of Israel find their ‘yes’ in the One whom we acknowledge as Lord – Jesus Christ.

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Jesus is God’s final, definitive and most authoritative Word spoken to us, and is precisely the reason for our joy.The liturgy endeavours to capture and convey to us today the mind and sentiments of the Lord Jesus Christ. In his farewell discourse to his disciples after the Last Supper Christ wanted his disciples to share in the fullness of his joy and to experience his peace (John 15:11; 16:33).

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Even during this time of Advent and preparation for the birth of Christ, we are invited to enter and rediscover the present reality of the risen and triumphant Christ standing in our midst. Each new Advent is intended to lead us to an ever deeper realisation of the wonder of the Incarnation and its ongoing impact on us and on our world.

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With Christ’s entry into our world of time a light has come from God that may never be extinguished, whatever winds and storms may blow.

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Let us then allow ourselves to be infused and touched by the spirit of the liturgy of Guadete Sunday. It is the Lord God who calls us to be joyful, not admittedly with a joy of this world, but one which does not depend on the passing delights of everyday.

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Cherish and savour the words of Paul from the entry antiphon, The Lord is near. They are in fact the words of Christ addressed to us, he stands always in our midst as his beloved people whom he has purchased by his precious blood. And he has solemnly pledged that the joy he gives, no one will take away from us (John 16:22). That is his gift freely offered to us on this Gaudete Sunday!

As ever in Christ our Lord,

+Michael G Campbell OSA

Bishop of Lancaster

Celebrating Bible Sunday!

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Dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome and thank you for reading this Bishop’s Blog!

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This Sunday has been designated by the Bishops of England and Wales as Catholic Bible Sunday, and is a timely reminder to us of the central place that Sacred Scripture – the inspired Word of God – must hold in the life of the Church.

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In the years following the Second Vatican Council our appreciation and importance of the written Word of God in Scripture have grown immeasurably. The author of the letter to the Hebrews writes, ‘The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword…’ (Heb. 4:12).

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We are now well accustomed to hearing the Word of God proclaimed at our Sunday Mass, and the Church teaches that through this proclamation Christ himself is in fact speaking to us. This truth underlines how essential it is for readers to speak the word to the congregation clearly and in an intelligent way. Christ therefore continues to commune and dialogue with his people when the Scriptures are read, especially when gathered for the Holy Eucharist.

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For many older Catholics the practice of reading and pondering the words of the bible does not come easy, yet at his Wednesday audience Pope Francis constantly urges his hearers to carry in their pockets a small copy of the New Testament and read a few verses each day.

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What a difference, the Holy Father says, that would make to our lives!  He also encourages parents and children to share a few words of Scripture when together at home in the evening. Such a habit without fail creates a prayerful atmosphere within a family, because Christ is speaking to that family.

The Lord Jesus himself was thoroughly versed in the Scriptures of his people and quoted them often in his teaching. The beautiful story of his appearing on Easter Day to the two disciples who were journeying to Emmaus illustrates how he explained the words of Scripture to them, and in so doing transformed their whole outlook. (Luke 24)

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The risen Lord chided the two disciples for not realising that all of the Scriptures referred to him. If we want meaning and direction for our lives then the Lord will give it to us through his inspired Word, which the Church has treasured from her very beginning. Like those downcast disciples long ago, we too need to approach these life-giving waters which the Lord Jesus is offering to us.

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That great Apostle of the Gentiles, Paul, advised his pupil and friend Timothy to cherish Scripture, for he writes, All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2Tim. 3:16-17.

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The Fathers of the Church – Ambrose, Augustine, Gregory, Basil and so many other outstanding teachers of the faith – put Scripture at the centre of their lives. In their estimation, nothing could surpass the Word of God contained in the bible for light and learning.

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What a difference it would make to our Advent were we to take a little passage from the New Testament, or a psalm, and pray and ponder for a few moments at some point of each day! Then too we could exclaim ‘Did not our hearts would burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?’ (see Luke 24:32).

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Until next week – may God bless you all this Advent,

+Michael G Campbell OSA

Bishop of Lancaster