To be a Pilgrim – in the Year of Mercy!

My dear friends in Christ,

Welcome (back) to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

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A central part of the Jubilee Year of Mercy in Rome and in every diocese, is the Door of Mercy, usually found in the Cathedral church, but in some larger dioceses in other churches as well.

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To reach the Door of Mercy requires a journey or pilgrimage, something which assumes its own unique spiritual significance for the believer.

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For we are called by God to leave the past behind with all its light and shade, what the apostle Paul calls ‘our old selves’, and embrace the divine invitation to begin afresh, renewed by the mercy of God.

In our own Diocese of Lancaster many Catholics, of all ages, will again set out in pilgrimage in the course of the coming months.

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In May, our own ancient Marian shrine of Ladyewell will host the annual Diocesan Altar Servers’ Pilgrimage, where I hope to meet many of our Altar Servers and their families.

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This gathering of faith will followed by the Diocesan Pilgrimage to Ladyewell a few weeks later.

In late July the annual Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes takes place, at which the sick are given pride of place.

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Here our young people, clergy and nurses and carers give a wonderful service to the Lord and his holy people on the pilgrimage in honour of his blessed Mother.

At the same time the World Youth Day will see millions of young people come on pilgrimage and gather in Krakow at the invitation of Pope Francis.

To celebrate the Jubilee Year of Mercy as it draws to a close there will be a Lancaster Diocesan Pilgrimage to Walsingham, where pilgrims have travelled for many centuries to honour Our Lady at her shrine there.

 

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No doubt there will be others travelling alone or in small groups to a place of pilgrimage i.e. Rome , the Holy Land etc which appeals to their particular religious devotion.

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We could also mention in this regard the shrine at Cleator, West Cumbria, where many come on pilgrimage on the Sunday closest to Our Lady’s birthday in September to honour the Mother of God there.

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A Catholic understanding would see pilgrimage ultimately as a response to that quest deep in the human heart for something more than the ever-changing world in which we find ourselves can offer, and which at times we can find bewildering. Both the journey of pilgrimage and arrival at our destination have significance.

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We usually travel with like-minded people who can support us with their company and friendship, often sharing what are their own personal reasons for setting out on pilgrimage. The journey itself is therefore symbolic of our life’s journey which, we pray, ultimately leads us to the vision of God.

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Our presence at the place of pilgrimage, be it Lourdes or wherever, can help us reset the compass and mark the direction of that life’s journey I have just spoken about. We find ourselves in a new place, we observe others at prayer, we reflect on the processions of sick people as they file past and the care given to them.

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We enter into our spiritual selves, apart from the din and distractions that normally occupy us. In such quiet moments we can discover our place before God, usually with the powerful help of Our Lady.  We can also realise our importance as individuals, irrespective of our age, condition or calling in life, and that we do matter and are unique in God’s eyes.

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A further and easily overlooked grace of pilgrimage is the awareness that we belong to the Church, which is universal in its embrace and reflected in the nationalities of the pilgrims.

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The predominant role of the sacraments – especially the Holy Eucharist, Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick – brings us close to the source of these sacraments which is the crucified and risen Christ.  On pilgrimage we live out our baptism and priestly calling as God’s sons and daughters by our frequent reception of the mysteries of faith.

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The gospels relate how the Lord Jesus, on his way to Jerusalem, went up a high mountain with Peter, James and John, his close friends, and there he was transfigured/utterly changed in his Father’s presence.

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The Transfiguration was a key-moment for Our Lord, an intense ‘stopping point’ as he prepared to face his future suffering, death and resurrection for the salvation of us all. Whatever form our own personal pilgrimage will take in this Year of Mercy, I pray that we too may encounter God our Father, as Jesus did, and find the necessary strength to be ‘Merciful like the Father’.

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Until next week – As ever in Christ,

+Michael G Campbell OSA

Bishop of Lancaster

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On my Visits….

Dear Friends in Christ,

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Welcome back to the Bishop’s Blog for this week!

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Resuming my Parish Pastoral Visitations, I spent last weekend in the parish of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Penrith, and St. Wulstan’s chapel of ease, Alston.  The area adjacent to Penrith – the Cumbrian fells – is rightly famous for its landscape and very striking vistas, and the scenery there last weekend was stunning.

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The steep incline to Alston, which is one of the highest situated towns in England, was partly covered in snow, even in mid-April. The little Catholic community worship in a church dedicated to St. Wulstan and erected by a generous benefactor in 1953. A tradition, however, suggests that the church may now sit on the site of a former prison where, during penal times, one of our martyrs was imprisoned, a wonderful story if true! It was good to meet and be with the faithful parishioners of Alston on Saturday evening.

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There were good attendances at the Sunday Masses in St. Catherine’s, which is a compact but well-maintained and attractive church. The parish of Penrith was founded in 1833 by a certain Fr. George Haydock who was, among other things, a noted Scripture scholar and famous for the so-called Haydock bible with its extensive notes, an edition of the bible which has enjoyed considerable popularity in the United States of America.  (At his inauguration in 1960 the late President John F. Kennedy took his oath on a copy of the Haydock bible.) St. Catherine’s is rightly proud of its distinguished priest founder and the newly constructed parish centre appropriately bears his name.

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I had occasion after each Mass to meet and speak with the parishioners, and was particularly pleased to meet the young Confirmation candidates who are to receive the sacrament later in the year.

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I also joined the parish pastoral council in the Haydock centre, listened to their concerns and addressed their questions. I was impressed by the goodwill and interest of so many in their parish which bodes well for the future. They are well-served by a hard-working and devoted parish priest.

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Later in the afternoon I paid a visit to a residential care home to spend a little time with some parishioners there, and with a number of others who are housebound in their homes. The territory covered by Penrith parish is indeed extensive, but does take in some wonderful countryside. As I have remarked previously, being in the presence of the elderly and frail brings its own grace, and a reminder where Christ is particularly to be found.

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My Visitation concluded on Monday morning with an extended visit to St. Catherine’s Catholic Primary School. The children led an impressive and informative assembly which centred on the Easter story of the appearance of the risen Lord to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. I joined the staff for coffee and took the opportunity to thank them for what they do for the children. Afterwards I toured the school and stopped for a time in each class, and answering their many questions, as best I could.  Children can ask searching questions!

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On Monday afternoon I continued my journey further west, to the parish of St. Mary’s, Cleator, and to the blessing of a much-needed new parish room. The priests and people of the parish were delighted that this long-awaited project had at last been realised. The various parish activities will from now on enjoy ample space, and the parish can take pride in a job well done.

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The remainder of my week was taken up with meetings of one kind or another, culminating in a visit to Blackpool on Thursday evening to take part in a service marking the thirtieth anniversary of Trinity Hospice. The thanksgiving service took place in St. John’s Anglican church, opposite the famous Winter Gardens.

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Representatives of the Hospice, past and present, spoke of the journey travelled in the story of Blackpool Hospice, where care of the terminally sick and outreach to their families forms the central part of its work. The service was noteworthy for the presence of representatives of the Muslim and Hindu communities, as well as the Christian Churches. There was a sense of satisfaction and quiet pride about all that had been accomplished in Trinity Hospice in thirty years, which gave hope for the future and the inevitable challenges which it and all hospices face.

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Until next week – sincerest good wishes and prayers,

As ever in Christ,

+Michael G Campbell OSA

Bishop of Lancaster

My Pastoral Letter for Vocations Sunday

Dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

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It has become a tradition that on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday, the bishop of a diocese writes a letter, primarily on the subject of priestly vocations. I follow this practice and a letter will again be read this weekend in the churches of the Diocese of Lancaster.

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In my Pastoral Letter, I highlight a number of points for our people to reflect on: the acute need for more vocations to the priesthood to ensure that the gospel continues to be proclaimed, that there be a renewed spirit of generosity in our families and Catholic schools in the promotion of vocations among our young people, and that there be constant prayer to the Lord of the harvest in our parishes, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

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Every Catholic shares a responsibility for vocations, and most of all the bishop of a diocese. We are not to lose heart, but must do our human best and confidently leave the outcome to a good God.

A PASTORAL LETTER FROM THE BISHOP OF LANCASTER

FOR THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER – GOOD SHEPHERD (VOCATIONS) SUNDAY
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Appointed to be read aloud at all weekend Public Masses in the Diocese of Lancaster on the weekend of 16/17 April 2016

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My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

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In today’s gospel Christ describes His relationship to us, His people, as that of a shepherd to His sheep. He is the Good Shepherd, the true shepherd from God, who has our best interests at heart. He assures us that we are safe in His care, and that belonging to Him we have nothing to fear, nor will He let us wander from the path of life. During these joyful days of Eastertide we are reminded that it was through His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead that Christ became our Good Shepherd. His love for us knows no bounds. In His own words, “the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.”

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Christ continues His work as the shepherd of our souls from one generation to the next, feeding our minds with the inspired words of Holy Scripture, especially the Gospels, and nourishing our souls and bodies with the sacred food of His body and blood each time we gather, in His name, to celebrate the Eucharist, the abiding memorial of His saving life, death and resurrection. In order for this to happen He appoints other shepherds to continue His work of pasturing His flock, to nurture us with Word and Sacrament, and these shepherds are your faithful priests. On this Good Shepherd or Vocations Sunday, therefore, I urge you, first of all, to pray for your priests, and, as Bishop, I thank them sincerely – with you – for their faithful ministry and sacrifice.

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Today, is also a day when we and the whole Church in prayer beseech Christ, the Good Shepherd, to grant us in His mercy more vocations to the Priesthood, remembering in particular our own Diocese of Lancaster. For whatever reason, young men today are not presenting themselves in any number to be future priests, and that is a concern and a worry. I ask myself; how will we be able to staff our parishes in days to come, given our diminishing number of priests?  Where will the priests of tomorrow come from given our smaller and older congregations?  We are fortunate, at present, in having a number of overseas priests ministering here among us on the mission, otherwise parishes would have had to close already. Today, in the Diocese of Lancaster we have 42 active priests less than we had ten years ago – a statistic which speaks for itself.

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I ask you, dear brothers and sisters, to join with me in praying insistently and often, that when the Lord of the Harvest calls our young people to be other shepherds and his ministers in the Priesthood He may find a generous response. Also; that our homes, our parishes and our Catholic schools and colleges be places of genuine encouragement and vision where that vocational call from God finds a ready answer and a fertile ground to grow and bear fruit.

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All of us, as the baptized, have a duty to pass on the treasure of our Catholic faith to those who come after us, and to ensure that they have shepherds after the heart of Christ to care for them. May Christ, the Good Shepherd, ever watch over His Church and inspire the minds and hearts of those he calls to serve Him and those who guide them.

US ARMY Chaplain Paul Halladay ( CPT) leads US ARMY soldiers in a catholic mass from B and A company, 1st battalion, 506th, 101st airborne division at static observation post OP HOTEL on the afternoon of Wednesday February 02 2006 in Eastern Ramadi, Iraq. Father Paul Halladay is the 1st Battalion Chaplain, living side by side with his soldiers, he provides spiritual guidance in such difficult times of war. He wrote a prayer, " The Blessing of Soldiers and their Weapons". the prayer reads, "Lord we recognize that human conflicts which result in war are never good and thus are not what you will for us, the most beloved of all your creation. Due to the sin of Adam and humanityÕs ongoing sinfulness, war, at times, becomes necessary to protect the innocent, free the oppressed, and restore peace. May these weapons be used for such a just purpose and bless those, Lord, who, in service to their country, are called upon to wield them. Protect them and keep them safe from all spiritual and mortal harm in performing what protection of the innocent, freedom for the oppressed and the restoration of peace requires of them. Amen!".

With the assurance of my prayers and a blessing,

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As ever in Christ our Lord,

+Michael G Campbell OSA

Bishop of Lancaster

 

Lancaster Vocations Team Contacts:

Director of Vocations: (for enquirers aged over 21 years)

Father Darren Carden
St Clare’s Presbytery
Sharoe Green Lane North
Fulwood, PRESTON, PR2 9HH

Telephone: (01772) 719604
Mobile/SMS text: 07552 795060
Email: priest@lancastervocations.org

 

Co-Director of Vocations: (for enquirers aged 15-20 years)

Canon Adrian J Towers
St Andrew’s Presbytery
114 Hoyle’s Lane
Cottam, PRESTON, PR4 0NB

Telephone: (01772) 726166
Email: ajtowers1@icloud.com

On the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis – ‘Amoris Laetitia’

Dear Friends,

A blessed Eastertide and welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog

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Pope Francis has now published his much awaited Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (On the Joy of Love) in response to the two recent Roman Synods on marriage and the family and evangelisation.

The document is a lengthy one and will take some time to analyze. It sets out the Holy Father’s thoughts and reflections on the family in the light of the intense debate of these two Synods.

A quick but careful reading of the Exhortation shows how Pope Francis has listened closely to the views, often contrasting, which were expressed on the Synod floor.

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There is little revolutionary in what the Pope says, in fact he gives us solid Catholic teaching on the importance of the family, but nevertheless the Pope is realistic and does not shirk from any of the difficulties and challenges faced by present-day families in living out their Catholic faith.

weddingThe document is very pastoral in language and in tone, and much of it has a conversational flavour, in the manner of a sympathetic parish priest speaking to his parishioners. In keeping with his approach since becoming Pope, Francis wants the Church to be, and seen to be, a place and house of welcome for all.

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The family and its well-being are essential to society, and any state which militates or legislates against the family ultimately undermines itself. The Pope underlines the importance of every single member of the family, from the new-born infant to the oldest grandparents. All have their role to play, especially the elderly, in passing on values and received wisdom, and in particular where the transmission of the faith is concerned.

 

The conviction that the Church may be likened to a field-hospital governs the Holy Father’s observations on those men and women in difficult situations, who feel that they do not attain fully to the ideal of the Christian life, and find themselves is so-called irregular unions of one kind or another. No one need despair; every baptised person – no matter their personal situation – has their place within the body of Christ, and enjoys their own unique share of grace given by the Holy Spirit.

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Pope Francis is acutely aware of the complexities of modern life and of customs and situations which can vary from country to country. He is conscious of the fact that ‘one size doesn’t fit all’ in family life today.

Throughout this papal exhortation great emphasis is placed upon pastoral sensitivity to those in difficulties, and parish and diocesan structures must aim at supporting families at every state of their journey, those preparing for marriage, the newly-wed, and expressing in a concrete manner the rich Church teaching on the family.

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In the final chapter of this exhortation the Pope appealingly reflects on the spirituality of the family and its design in the plan of God for the world. The family is the place where we first find ourselves, where we learn to grow and to love, to live with others and be educated in those virtues required for mature living afterwards, such as forgiveness, tolerance, and acceptance of difference in others Pope Francis highlights the humanity of the Lord Jesus and the importance of his own Jewish family background.

From another perspective the Pope remarks on the family and Trinitarian dimension at the baptism of Jesus in the river Jordan, when the Father’s approving voice was heard and the Spirit seen to descend on him in the form of a dove. Jesus came from an eternal family and became part of a human family.

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In this Apostolic Exhortation we can discern a concerned and genuine pastor looking out for the welfare of his flock, for those in particular who may have strayed or failed to keep up with the others. Each one of the flock matters. Christ the Good Shepherd died for all, and Pope Francis is endeavouring to prove that through his words and actions as we see in this important teaching document on the family.

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Until next week – we pray for each other in the family of the Church.

As ever in Christ,

+Michael G Campbell OSA

Bishop of Lancaster