My dear Friends in Christ,
‘Describing the Catholic Church, it was James Joyce who once said, ‘Here comes everybody!’
He might have meant: Here comes Peter the denier and Thomas the doubter, and the converted pagan Augustine of Hippo. Or here comes the soldier Ignatius, and the scholar Aquinas, and the tent-maker turned missionary Paul. Here comes the powerful Catherine of Sienna and the ‘little‘ Therese of Lisieux. Here comes peace-loving Francis, preaching to the birds.
It’s true we are all that and much more besides! We are the monks who copied scripture onto parchment, and preserved God’s word. We are those priests, nuns and friars who could barely speak the language, but went on the missions all the same. We created hospitals, the hospice system and the most extensive school system on earth, passing on what we knew, and what we believed – with a care for every human person created in God’s image.
Today in the Diocese of Lancaster, we are the workers from Poland arriving in Morecambe and Carlisle and migrant nurses from Kerala living, working and worshipping in Blackpool and Preston.
We are Chesterton and Merton and Hopkins to name but a few. We are the martyrs of Lancashire and Cumbria: like John Plessington, Christopher Robinson, and then the believers of every age: Jeb Bush, David Alton and Oscar Wilde, Cardinal Basil Hume, Tony Blair and Fulton Sheen.
We are the married couple Louis and Zélie Martin, the martyr Oscar Romero, Popes Paul VI and John Paul II, to well-known figures of today Delia Smith and Anne Widecombe and many more.
We are the soldier in combat at Mass or praying the rosary, and the homeless man or woman in Blackpool who still pops into the Sacred Heart on Talbot Road, Blackpool and finds a welcome there.
We are Jacob and Chanel, about to be baptized this weekend. We are Lynsdey, Samantha, and Anna with Justin, Michael and Jacob prepared to be confirmed as the Bishop comes to town!
We are the Eileen and Betty who were known locally at daily Mass, supported their parish and so many charities, encouraged the Altar Servers from school, and whose funerals are to be celebrated next week and the week after.
We are the saints. We are the sinners – sometimes painfully so – We are God’s family through Baptism. We are everybody!
We are the Body of Christ. Bruised. Broken. But resurrected and given new life, new hope. Changed forever….
We are people who live in the resurrection. We are men, women and children – the young and the old – the families and the ‘heroic’ married couples, those single, ordained and consecrated persons of faith – who hold the light and keep the flame still burning. Remember all those who came before us, and all who still join us and will continue to do so in the years to come!
All the official ones and those many names we shall never know who held that candle, and helped spread the light, to proclaim not just the ‘good news’ – but the greatest news in all human history: Jesus is Lord!
The saints on earth and in heaven worship and praise Almighty God because we are saved from sin and death. Baptized into Christ, we rise with him to eternal life. This can be seen in the scriptural description of the Church triumphant, which is a great multitude of “every nation, race, people, and tongue,” wearing white robes and carrying palm branches in their hands.
Until next week – May God bless you all,
As ever in Christ,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster