Reflecting on the Past Week

My dear friends in Christ,

Welcome to another post of the Bishop’s Blog!

The events of the past week were tragically overshadowed by the Manchester bombing outrage with such devastating and lethal impact on so many innocent young lives and others. We in the Diocese of Lancaster offer our sincerest sympathies to the families affected, especially to the bereaved, and pray for the eternal repose of those whose lives have been so violently cut short.

May the good Lord comfort and be close to those struggling with their injuries and the trauma of it all. We stand by them in solidarity, and they have the assurance of our prayers and thoughts now and in the difficult and challenging days ahead.

Last weekend I travelled to Co. Cork, Ireland, to join my immediate predecessor as bishop, Patrick O’Donoghue, as he celebrated his golden jubilee of priesthood in the same church where he was ordained all 50 years ago. The church, dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel, Annaleentha, lies within the parish of Mourne Abbey, near the town of Mallow, and was looking its best for this significant occasion.

Bishop Patrick was joined by his siblings and extended family for the Mass at which the chief celebrant was the Bishop of Cloyne, William Crean. Joining me also as concelebrants were Archbishop Malcom McMahon of Liverpool, a long-standing friend of Bishop O’Donoghue, Archbishop Coveney, a retired Cork-born Vatican diplomat, as well as a good number of priest friends of the jubilarian, including Lancaster and Westminster. My Mass homily is here.

The atmosphere at the Mass and throughout was one of happiness and thanksgiving for Bishop Patrick’s long and dedicated service to the Lord as priest and bishop, first in the archdiocese of Westminster, then as Bishop of Lancaster, and finally serving in the parish of Bantry, Cork, until his return to his own native parish in Mourne Abbey where he is now retired.

During the very well attended reception afterwards many generous tributes were paid to Bishop Patrick, from his family, Archbishop McMahon, priest friends and others.

The whole occasion was in effect a celebration of priesthood, and thanksgiving for Bishop O’Donoghue’s fidelity to his priestly vocation, with particular emphasis on his concern for the poor and marginalised down the years. In one of the bidding prayers at the Mass, the Lord appropriately was asked to grant his Church more vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

As we celebrated the long ministry of one faithful priest, we do indeed pray that the Lord will answer our prayers in this regard!

I joined the Canons of the Cathedral Chapter in St. Peter’s Cathedral on Tuesday for their bi-annual Mass. The Chapter meets twice in the year and discuss matters of diocesan concern. Towards the end of their meeting I reflect briefly with them and answer questions which may have arisen in their reflections.

Midday Prayer in the Cathedral is followed by a concelebrated Mass and lunch afterwards. Any gathering of priests has its own unique spirit, something which is particularly true when the senior priests of the diocese meet.

Yesterday, in the Syro-Malabar cathedral of St. Alphonsa, Preston, I joined Mar Joseph Srampickal and many of his priests and faithful for the blessing of the oils. Following their own liturgical calendar, the Mass was that of the Ascension of the Lord. Interestingly, the only oil Mar Joseph consecrated was that of Chrism, as different provision is made for the other oils, that of the sick and catechumens.

A Syro-Malabar liturgy is inevitably rich in colour and accompanied by considerable singing and chanting on the part of bother priests and people. To those of us accustomed to English in our Roman liturgy, it is strange to hear another and totally different language used in worship. However, the prayers and gestures of this Church which claims descent from the apostle Thomas are, I believe, very rich in biblical allusions, and convey a sense of the majesty of God and of the worshipper’s involvement in some mysterious way in the heavenly liturgy.

I was also reminded of the great Eastern liturgical tradition where time hardly seems to matter, and the worship of God is carried out in a profound and almost other-worldly way.

With every good wish and prayer for the week ahead,

As ever in Christ,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster