Dear Friends in Christ,
Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog – the last now until September!
The richness and diversity of our Catholic faith was brought home to me on Sunday when I took part in two quite different liturgies in Preston.
The first was my celebration of Mass in the Extraordinary Form in the splendid St. Walburge’s shrine church (a Grade 1 listed building), now in the care of the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest.
Those of us who belong to an older generation will recall from our childhood days Mass being offered in this way, and which in fairly recent years under Pope Benedict XVI has been again permitted and approved, and caters for Catholics who prefer the worship and liturgy of the ‘Latin Mass’.
The strains of Gregorian chant and periods of sustained silence which are a feature of the “Extraordinary Form” hold out an appeal to those who cherish an older tradition as expressed in the Church’s ancient chant, said to go back to Pope Gregory the Great in the fifth century, a plainchant which can be quite haunting as well as being creative of an evocative and reflective atmosphere.
The increasing number of those, especially the young, who attend Mass in the Extraordinary Form is indicative of a wish to be in touch with this rich seam of the Church’s long and honourable tradition of worship, and find that it suits their particular preference to worship God at Sunday Mass.
The Institute carry out with care and dedication the traditional liturgy in the quite magnificent surroundings of St. Walburge’s, and it is wonderful to see this building again in daily liturgical use for the worship of God and the benefit of his people.
An even older form of the Divine Liturgy is that preserved in the Indian Syro-Malabar Church. This Church proudly traces its origin to St. Thomas the Apostle, who brought the faith to Kerala, South India, just after 50 AD.
I attended their Mass in the church of St Igantius. Preston for the new Personal Parish St. Alphonsa on Sunday afternoon as the parishioners celebrated the joint feasts of St. Thomas and St Alphonsa.
A Keralan Bishop, Bishop Joseph, was the celebrant of the Mass, joined by two priests, and at which I presided. Their liturgy lasts longer than we are accustomed to, yet is marked by congregational participation and an intensity of singing in their Malayalam language, hallowed by long centuries of usage.
The Syro-Malabar communities in our Diocese are a powerful reminder to us of what the word Catholic means, i.e. having a universal dimension. We in the West form part of a much bigger Church, as the presence in our midst of so many of our Syro-Malabar brothers and sisters testifies.
Following their liturgy, the community put on a wonderful cultural evening, distinctively Catholic and Indian at one and the same time. To me, it presented a fine example of faith- inculturation. The long Asian tradition of colourful dress, with dignified and expressive dance and movement, conveying a thoroughly Christian message, was a pleasure to see.
Reflecting at the end of a long day, I thought of just how rich our Catholic religious culture is. My day began with the time-honoured Latin liturgy whose roots date back more than fifteen hundred years, and which has helped preserve and hand on the doctrines of our faith, and concluded with a profoundly Asian expression of our Catholic faith in the Syro-Malabar liturgy.
When we pause to think, we have much to be grateful to the Lord for, and equally as Catholics to be proud of.
As ever in Christ our Lord,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster
P.S. The Bishop’s Blog will return in September.