Dear Friends in Christ,
Welcome back to the Bishop’s Blog – my weekly opportunity to share with you something of my ministry as Bishop of Lancaster.
Each year, on the Sunday closest to Our Lady’s birthday St. Mary’s parish in Cleator, West Cumbria, hosts a pilgrimage to the Lourdes grotto situated in their extensive church grounds.
A large crowd of pilgrims from the Diocese of Lancaster and beyond gather for what is always a worthwhile spiritual occasion, and this year was no exception.
As bishop, it was good to be part of this pilgrimage and to mingle and greet afterwards the many who made the journey to be there.
The presence of a group of our young people from across the Diocese who set out from our youth centre at Castlerigg Manor the day before to join the pilgrimage was much appreciated. The heart of the pilgrimage is the celebration of Mass followed by Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
The prevailing weather on the day usually determines if we can have the Mass outside or in the lovely St. Mary’s church, originally designed by one of the Pugin family. The strong wind and damp ground meant that we were inside the church this year.
Priests from the local deanery and those having associations with Cleator parish joined me in the concelebrated Mass.
It was obvious to me at the conclusion of the Mass on Sunday just how happy people are to be part of a pilgrimage, be it for a brief afternoon or perhaps for a longer period.
There is a sense of satisfaction in people coming together as a faith community, in a holy place dedicated to Our Lady, and where petitions are made, prayers heard and answered, all within the context of the greatest and most powerful prayer we have – the sacrifice of the Mass.
In this Year of Mercy we were also made aware in a particular way of God’s infinite mercy which reaches out and touches each single one of us.
A pilgrimage allows us to catch a glimpse of our true worth before God, that each one of us does matter, and that our seemingly small and ordinary concerns are God’s as well.
Underlying all of this is the sense that we belong to the Church and form part of something bigger.
We leave a pilgrimage with a sense of our faith being renewed, and perhaps a little like Peter, James and John on the Mount of Transfiguration, we can in truth say “It is good for us to be here!” So we took our leave of Cleator at the end of our short pilgrimage with a quiet but deep sense of satisfaction.
We were encouraged in our faith and, hopefully, offered some encouragement to our brothers and sisters in the faith.
Most important of all, we came away as pilgrims with the conviction that we had encountered the risen Lord in the Scriptures and in the breaking of bread, as did those two disciples on the first Easter Sunday afternoon on the road to Emmaus.
Until next week – may God bless you all,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster