Dear friends in Christ,
A warm welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!
An interesting and varied week began for me last Sunday evening at Lancaster University Catholic Chaplaincy with the opening Mass of the academic year – a Mass to the Holy Spirit.
The Mass was well-attended by a good number of new undergraduates, and the liturgy was considerably enhanced by a local amateur choir who sang a Mass setting by Palestrina, as well as pieces by Tallis, Byrd, and an especially haunting concluding hymn to the Blessed Virgin by Rachmaninoff.
The singing extended the length of the Mass somewhat, but it was a treat to listen to such sublime music, and the reverential, meditative silence throughout the Mass was indicative of a deep appreciation on the part of all present.
One traditional benefit of a University education is to open the human mind to a wide and diverse range of subjects, and the young undergraduates and others on Sunday night were undoubtedly exposed to the richness of sublime religious music.
The students had earlier prepared refreshments which we all enjoyed afterwards, and allowed us all to mingle and converse, building on and extending the lovely Eucharistic celebration which we had just shared.
It was reassuring for a Bishop to see such a healthy number of young students attending the chaplaincy Mass and being part of a wonderfully graced occasion. There is a great deal to thank almighty God for!
The people of Our Lady and St. Wilfrid’s, Warwick Bridge, remembered their dead at a Mass which I offered in the Extraordinary form last Monday evening. Warwick Bridge, close to Carlisle and pat of the Parish of Our Lady of Eden, might be described as ‘citadel of the faith’, with its centuries of Catholic tradition, and its adjoining cemetery being the final resting place of those members of long established Catholic families. At the conclusion of the Mass there was sense of a pious duty discharged for the souls of the faithful departed of this area.
A setting of an entirely different kind for the celebration of Mass was Kirkham Prison on Tuesday morning when I was joined by a number of chaplains, staff, and prisoners to mark the Jubilee Year of Mercy. I was touched by the warmth of the welcome extended to me by the prisoners who played a full part in the Mass, and whose attitude and sense of reverence were striking.
There are four of Her Majesty’s Prisons within the Diocese of Lancaster, and at the conclusion of Mass I blessed an icon for each, a powerful reminder especially to those in prison of the love and mercy of Christ for each person, irrespective of their condition. I was pleasantly surprised and somewhat moved to be presented afterwards with a most attractive icon painted by one of the prisoners. It was a lovely gesture.
Refreshments were on offer afterwards at which everyone mixed freely – chaplains, prisoners and staff. The atmosphere was simple and friendly, and it was humbling to feel at ease where one might have expected otherwise. Christ, I reflected, can be found in many places. It was also a reminder to me to pray for prisoners and their families, as they struggle with the ups and downs of life. They can be easily forgotten.
Our bi-annual Council of Priests meeting took place on Wednesday, when the clerical representatives of the deaneries gathered to reflect on topics of practical pastoral concern and share their experiences.
Whatever the outcome of debate and discussion, it is always worthwhile for priests to be together and share a meal.
The young people of St. Catherine’s Parish, Penrith, have been preparing for Confirmation for the past twelve months, and on Thursday evening I had the pleasure of conferring the sacrament on them. The warmth of the liturgy and the joy of the occasion in a full church, contrasted with the dark cold November weather outside. This was a grace-filled moment for all who attended the Confirmation Mass and a really happy occasion. The Holy Spirit never leaves anyone untouched!
The church of the Blessed Sacrament, Preston, marks its 60th anniversary this year, and I joined the parishioners and priests of the deanery for a concelebrated Mass of Thanksgiving on Friday evening. Catholics have a deep attachment to their local church, and the people of Blessed Sacrament are no exception.
A church building embodies so many memories of present and past generations, and a Diamond Jubilee brings those memories together and affords parishioners the opportunity to reflect and pray before the Lord of us all. A number of those present recalled the building of the church all those years ago in which members of their family were actually involved. The sense of belonging to a building was perceptible, and the beautifully refurbished sacristy is a commendable tribute to the care and love the people have for the church.
The reception afterwards in the parish centre allowed the sharing of memories to continue and brought to a fitting close another page in the history of the Blessed Sacrament church.
Until next week – with every good wish and prayer,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster