Dear Friends in Christ,
Welcome back to the Bishop’s Blog – to this the first post of 2016!
This week, I would like to call the People of God in our Diocese of Lancaster to our annual Pilgrimage to Lourdes during this Jubilee Year of Mercy – especially our young people!
Pope Francis has called the whole Church to a new and life-giving experience of God’s mercy in the Jubilee Year which began on 8 December (last month) and concludes on the feast of Christ the King this November (2016).
God is not far from anyone of us and so the Holy Father wishes us to open our hearts and allow ourselves to be embraced in a particular way by the gentleness of that mercy.
There are many ways of responding to the Pope’s invitation, of awaking ourselves spiritually to the wonder of this mercy, and a significant one would be to join the Lancaster Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes in the last week of July. This, I suggest, could be a life-changing moment, especially for a young person who has never been on pilgrimage previously.
The idea of pilgrimage has very ancient roots and God’s people, Scripture relates, were on pilgrimage for forty years on their way to the land of promise with Moses at their head. It was a time of spiritual purification under God, one of self-discovery and of growing in the knowledge of God’s saving plan for them.
They journeyed as a people, and at the heart of pilgrimage is to walk in the company of others, on a journey of discovery and personal insight.
We go to Lourdes as a diocesan family, engage with others, pray for loved ones, assist those less able than ourselves, and all the while be under the watchful eye of Our Blessed Lady, the Lord’s mother. We leave Lourdes changed people, whether we realise it or not.
What is it about the shrine of Lourdes which attracts such large numbers year by year: young and old, the sick and infirm, and those in quest of something or other they are not sure of? One principal reason is that the atmosphere there is so different from what we experience in normal life.
The whole demesne, and above all the grotto where Our Lady appeared to Bernadette, offer a space and an opportunity just to be ourselves, to observe other pilgrims, particularly the touching procession of sick pilgrims, to reflect and of course to pray.
The clamour and the strife of our present-day world of which we are so conscious in our day to day activities pales into the background. We are in effect standing in a different place, on holy ground.
I warmly invite any person, especially our young people, at this time, over the age of 16 years, who read this and have never been to Lourdes to strongly consider coming with our Lancaster diocesan family in this unique Jubilee Year of Mercy. Don’t think that a pilgrimage to Lourdes is not for you! It is!
Almighty God and Our Lady of Lourdes will have many surprises in store for you! One thing is sure: you will never regret it, and it will be a week you will remember for the rest of your life. Why not give it a try? If you are a young person contact Castlerigg Manor or if an adult – book with Mancunia.
May God bless you all,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster