Dear friends in Christ,
Parish processions during the month of May and around the feast of Corpus Christi, familiar to an older generation of Catholics, are becoming once again a noticeable feature of Catholic life – and even with younger people.
In the Diocese of Lancaster processions have taken place recently both in Preston and Blackpool, and which were well attended by both children and adults on both occasions.
Last Sunday after celebrating Mass in St. Walburge’s splendid church, I crowned the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes before leading the congregation in procession in Mary’s honour around the church grounds.
Such expressions of popular religious piety and devotion do seem to meet a deep need in Catholic souls.
Pilgrimages and processions are inseparable. In our own diocese, for example, we have the annual Lancaster diocesan pilgrimage to the ancient shrine of Ladyewell, close to Preston on Saturday 8 July, followed by the annual Lancaster diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes, beginning on 21 July – young people are still welcome (contact here)!
The shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes at Cleator, West Cumbria, hosts its annual pilgrimage on 10 September and the season concludes with a four day Lancaster diocesan pilgrimage to the equally ancient and hallowed shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham, which starts on 26 September.
Such places of pilgrimages, and of course there are many others, are always places of prayer and spiritual renewal. Taking the time to go on a pilgrimage, be it simply for a day or longer, is never without its reward, and pilgrims return refreshed and content that they have made the effort.
So I encourage people to go on pilgrimage. As I have written previously, pilgrimage and spiritual quest have a long tradition, both within Sacred Scripture and in the great faiths, such as Judaism, Islam and our own Catholic faith.
To walk with other believers in procession means leaving our daily routine behind for a while, and allowing ourselves to be touched by grace of God so as to see our lives and our concerns from a different perspective.
The united prayers of so many in procession during a pilgrimage will without doubt, in the words of the sage, ‘pierce the clouds of heaven.’ Nor should we forget the words of the Lord himself who assured us of his presence where two or three are gathered in his name.
The busy and ever-changing pace of modern life imposes many demands on us. When we go on pilgrimage or even walk locally in a parish procession we become more aware of others, and of our common humanity, and it is through the simple act of going in procession that we get a glimpse of another and more spiritual world.
In turn, we are touched by something and Someone greater than ourselves, and can only be better for the experience.
Until next week, may God bless you all and a blessed Feast of Pentecost,
As ever in Christ,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster