Dear Friends in Christ,
Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog.
A long-standing feature of Catholic parish life which many of us will remember was the annual May procession in honour of Our Blessed Lady. In recent decades this custom has somewhat fallen into abeyance, but thankfully is now beginning to make a re-appearance.
Such devotion and open air processions may be seen as a filial act of devotion to the Mother of God by we her adopted children, made all the more pleasant of course by good weather!
In his recent ‘Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy’ our Holy Father, Pope Francis, underlined the place and importance of pilgrimage during this Year of Mercy. Every diocesan cathedral and shrine is to have a special door designated as the gateway through which we pass to God’s mercy. They will be forums of mercy where we can receive indulgences and the Lord’s tender forgiveness.
Certainly, each believer is asked in so far as is possible to make a pilgrimage during this Year of Mercy, either alone or in the company of others. Pilgrimages can be deeply meaningful, even life-changing events. Whether it be to Lourdes, Rome, Fatima, The Holy Land, Walsingham, or simply somewhere local, a pilgrimage symbolises our desire to take time out from our daily routine and encounter the living God in a holy place.
We live at a particular time when, thanks to social media, we are inundated, even saturated, with news and information of all sorts.
A pilgrimage affords us the opportunity to clear our minds and to breathe more deeply of the Spirit. We are given the time to pause and reflect and, put simply, to enter into our own hearts where the risen Lord speaks to us in a silence which does not require words.
Walking in procession with others, praying, singing hymns, with moments of quiet, allows us to regain a sense of rhythm and order in our often clogged lives. I am always struck by the attraction Lourdes has for so many of our young people.
Here they can join other pilgrims of all ages and be free and at ease to express their Catholic faith in an environment where prayer to God through the intercession of Blessed Mary takes central place.
Our Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes is proving very popular this year – but again it’s not too late to sign up. Lourdes also teaches our youth that illness, frailty, disability, old age, have their place in life and mysteriously their special value in the eyes of God who has a special care for those whom the psalmist calls ‘the poor and needy’.
Don’t forget, too, about our own Diocesan Pilgrimage to the ancient shrine of Ladyewell, which will take place on Saturday 20th June at 2pm.
Please do come along and invite others to join you! Even the shortest and most local of pilgrimages can have a lasting effect.
We may not all be in a position to travel abroad, but a purposeful visit to our parish church can be a very worthwhile personal pilgrimage and an occasion of much grace.
Let each one of us resolve to go on pilgrimage this year or next, whether it be great or small. It may even be life-changing!
Until next week – let us pray for each other.
As ever in Christ our Lord,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster