As the Liturgical Year Draws to a Close

Dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

With the Feast of Christ the King this Sunday the Church’s liturgical year draws to a close. The new season of Advent and the four-week preparation for the Lord’s birth will begin next Sunday.

The liturgy is possibly the greatest teacher of the faith, and to enter into the spirit of the different liturgical “times” which mark the Church’s year is akin to a refresher course in the saving mysteries of our divine Lord’s earthly life. There is much truth in the old Latin dictum, ‘lex orandi, lex credendi’, which roughly means that the way we pray expresses what we believe.

As we leave one liturgical year behind and start another we do well to reflect on both the wonder and the mystery of time. St. Augustine famously remarked that he knew what time was, but could not explain it.  Our lives and the things we do are punctuated by time; we recall past times, and we look forward in different ways to times which lie ahead. Yet we are unable to bring back times past, or advance those times which still remain ahead of us. All we have is the present.

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When we apply time to the liturgical cycle of the Church we discover an ever present ‘now’, for the mysteries of the Saviour’s life which the liturgy sets before us become in some way actual, and do not simply belong to the past. The grace of his nativity at Christmas, that of his death and resurrection in the Easter period, and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost continue to be present and accessible to us in the liturgy, and graces which we make our own. God’s salvation in Christ comes to us ever fresh and ever new, notwithstanding the passing of time and the two millennia which have elapsed since the Son of God came among us.

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As we celebrate the the Kingship of Christ this Sunday we do well to remember that Christ now lives in glory beyond the constraints and limitations of time as we experience it. The New Testament declares that Jesus is the Lord of history and of time, and lives now forever in the presence of the Father, interceding for us. Through his almighty power those graces won by his redemptive work on the cross are still mediated to us in the liturgical cycle of the Church’s year.

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There is indeed a certain repetition in worshipping almighty God year in and year out, but that repetition is grace-filled and salvific. So on this Sunday, for example, by taking part in the Mass of Christ the King we are acknowledging the lordship of the Son of God over us and over all creation. And that act of worship allows him to enter our lives ever more as King and Lord, and be touched and transformed again by his divine grace.

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A blessed feast of Christ the King to everyone, and may the new liturgical season almost upon us see us grow, and be moulded ever increasingly into the image of Christ!

With every good wish and prayer for all those followers of this Blog in the Diocese of Lancaster and well beyond,

As ever in Christ our Lord,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

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The Bishops’ Conference Plenary Session in Leeds

Dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s reflection to the Bishop’s Blog!

Bishops' Plenary - Nov 2017

This past week the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales met in Leeds for their twice yearly conference.  These are always fruitful but demanding days, with a quite remarkably intense and open level of discussion on issues currently facing the Church and society as a whole. They also provide the opportunity for the bishops to meet and enjoy one another’s company at a social level, something not often possible in view of the geographical spread of England and Wales.

Many topics were touched upon, for example the Bishops joined our voice to all those calling for greater protection for children from the harmful materials accessible to all on the internet.

Next year’s Roman Synod in October on the vocation of young people, and Adoremus – the two-day Eucharistic Congress which takes place in mid-September in Liverpool. The Bishops fervently hope that the latter Congress will be a time of great grace for the Church and nurture in no small way devotion to Our Blessed Lord in the Eucharist.

We had reports on the extreme difficulties facing the Church in both North and South Sudan, with the overall situation there being described by one bishop who had recently visited as being ‘dire’.  As with Christians in the Holy Land, our interest and friendship are greatly appreciated by these churches, even if we may not be able to contribute greatly to the relief of their difficulties and suffering.

Another country brought to our attention was Yemen, and the Conference sent a special message to the Bishops of Zimbabwe as news of an uneasy political situation began to emerge.  There is an admirable sense of solidarity on our part with these and other Bishops’ Conferences who face their own particular challenges.

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We also had reports on the various ecumenical dialogues in which our Conference is engaged, Catholic-Anglican, Catholic-Methodist, to name but two.

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The recent Motu Proprio of Pope Francis, Magnum Principium, on the translation of liturgical texts and the increased role of Bishops’ Conferences in this regard were the subject of a lengthy reflection. As the particular resolution, which was voted on and passed, the work of ICEL, the International Conference/Body for English in the Liturgy, was commended.

At one session concern was raised and fears expressed by the Bishops about the possibility of a ‘cap’ being placed on the number of Catholic children who could be admitted to any new Catholic School. Such a move, it was felt, would place in jeopardy the long-standing and historical relationship between successive governments and the Catholic Church in England and Wales.Education Cap - Banner

As Bishops, we took careful note of the gender issues now much discussed and debated in the public forum.  Since this particular debate will be a long-running one, the Bishops stressed at this stage the primacy of respect and reverence for the dignity of the human person which must pervade every phase and action of a highly sensitive subject.

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The above gives a sample of the range of topics which occupied us as bishops and teachers of the faith in our complex and ever-changing society. The Audio recording of the official Press Conference is here. I’m sure we gave the agenda the attention and seriousness which they demanded, and left Leeds tired but satisfied!

Until next week – May God bless you all,

As ever in Christ,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

The Saints & New Life for the Church in Preston

My dear friends in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

In our Catholic liturgical calendar the month of November begins with the feast of All Saints, the day when the Church celebrates the sainthood of all those men and women passed from this life and who now enjoy the eternal vision of God in the blessedness of heaven.

I like to think of this day as one of particular honour for those ordinary men and women who faithfully followed Christ in every age, mostly in quiet and in unsung ways, and who offer us fellow-disciples in our own time example, encouragement and inspiration.

Whenever we think of saints, familiar figures for example such as Francis of Assisi, Therese of Lisieux, Mother, now St. Teresa of Calcutta, spring to mind, and those others perhaps to whom we have a personal devotion. A quick browse through the Church’s calendar reveals many more, and there are numerous other men and women whom the Church throughout her history has declared to be saints.

One thinks, too, of those on the road to sainthood – like Father Solanus Casey, the American-born Capuchin priest (pictured above) who died in 1957, who will be beatified at a 18 Nov Mass in Detroit. His somewhat hidden life, great faith, care for the sick and spiritual direction was quite extraordinary. I’m thinking, too, of more modern-day martyrs of the Church like Blessed Mariam Vattalil – in religion Sister Rani Maria (image below) – was an Indian Syro-Malabar professed religious and a social worker in the Franciscan Clarist Congregation who worked among the poor within the Diocese of Indore, India.

Yet we would do well to recall those now departed individuals we ourselves have known, and who in some way have touched our own lives for the better.  Our own list of such names could possibly include parents, grandparents, different members of our families, friends and perhaps those we have encountered on the road of life.

All Saints’ Day reminds us that sainthood is possible and even desirable for each one of us because God’s grace is ever at work deep within us – through the Holy Spirit which Christ promised he would send from his Father to his friends. Saint Paul, when he begins his letters to the various Churches often addresses the Christians as saints, those made holy by their baptism and indeed called by God to be holy, often in the midst of an indifferent and hostile world.

We instinctively shy away from being thought holy, but let us remember that the accumulative holiness of the members of the Church can only be an immense influence for good on our society and on the world at large. St. Peter urges Christians to be holy, as God is holy.

 

The celebration of Christ’s sacrifice in the Mass is a celebration of all the faithful and not only those of us who are physically present, gathered around the altar. The saints in heaven whose eternity is spent praising God also surround us as we the Church on earth honour the Father in Christ.

That great multitude of which St. John speaks in the Apocalypse stand with us at the altar, joining their great prayer and praise to God and to the Lamb. And if we could but realise it, their powerful intercession enhances and elevates before the throne of the Lamb our occasionally faltering prayer and worship.

Last week, I wrote of November being a month of remembrance for the dead and of the need to pray for them. What the feast of All Saints offers and highlights is the wonder and consolation that the saints in heaven are continually interceding for us, especially those ‘ordinary saints’, many of whom loved and cared for us in life.

It is reassuring to know in faith that such love and care have not ceased, but continue from another and a greater shore.

We know and experience the care of the Lord and his saints on occasions like last week, the House of Discernment was inaugurated for the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest at St Walburge’s, Preston – may St Francis de Sales and St Jane Frances de Chantal pray for us and the four young men who have begin their discernment there. May many young men follow them!

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Tomorrow, Sunday 12 November, I look forward to welcoming the The Sisters Adorers of the Royal Heart of Jesus Christ Sovereign Priest – the female branch of the Institute who are making a foundation at St Augustine’s presbytery, Preston.

We thank Monsignor Gilles Wach. Prior General of the Institute, for his work to bring the Sisters to the Diocese and we welcome the Sisters Adorers among us and pray for the success of their mission!

They promise to be a powerhouse of prayer and a great witness to religious life in the heart of Preston.

On Thursday, I blessed and opened with Bishop Mar Joseph Srampickal a new Propaedeutic Seminary at the restored presbytery of Preston’s Cathedral of St Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception for the Syro-Malabar Eparchy of Great Britain. Three young men have just started there.

Both the Institute and the Eparchy have done wonders with these large and historic buildings – under the Lord – and  all for the Lord and His Holy Catholic Church and her saving mission! We are blessed as the Diocese of Lancaster to have such a close collaborative and fruitful relationship with both.

All you saints of God, pray for us and may Blessed Mary Our Mother, under the title of the Immaculate Conception, protect and intercede for us!

Let us continue to pray for one another.

As ever in Christ our Lord,

 

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

Remembering our Faithful Departed this November

Dear Friends in Christ – within and beyond the Diocese of Lancaster!

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

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In the Catholic world the practice of remembering the dead and praying to God for them is widespread. This is particularly true on the 2nd November, All Souls Day, and throughout this month.

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A very human explanation for this is the duty and debt we owe to those who have gone before us, whose goodness and example we recall with gratitude. The moving services of Remembrance which take place at cenotaphs and war memorials in many places at this time, focus on the gratitude due to our armed forces who fought on our behalf.

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Our Catholic tradition has, moreover, long recognised the truth that our prayers, devotions and Masses offered for the dead can assist them on their way to God. Today our sense and appreciation of Purgatory has weakened, and many now find it difficult to square this state of ‘punishment’, however temporal, with the notion of a loving, and all-forgiving merciful God.

Yet when we try to rationalise what happens in the afterlife or to comprehend the eternal God we quickly discover our human limitations, and ultimately our inability to fully understand things which surpass our intellect.

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In a celebrated passage in his Confessions, (written around 400AD) St. Augustine of Hippo movingly describes the death of his mother Monica in Ostia as they were about to return home to North Africa. In her last words to her family, Monica enjoined them not to be concerned about where her body would be laid to rest.

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The only thing she asked was that they remember her at the altar of the Lord, wherever they may be. Saint Monica’s request shows how the tradition of praying for the dead was already firmly established in the early Church.

The visits to cemeteries, with the laying of flowers and lighting of candles, which take place this month in so many countries speak of what theologians call “sensus fidelium”, that deeper appreciation of the truths of the faith on the part of ordinary believers inspired by the Holy Spirit, and the conviction that the dead should be remembered and prayed for.

The prophet Isaiah was overwhelmed with his experience of the holiness of God in the Jerusalem Temple (Is.6), and the chorus of the angels he heard singing ‘Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts’.  The young prophet, we read, was aghast and became acutely aware of his own sinfulness in the presence of the all-holy God.

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One simple explanation given for the existence of Purgatory was the need of souls to be purified of all fault and traces of sin before passing finally into the presence of the triune God and his holy angels.

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What should sustain and reassure us in this month as we pray for our deceased brothers and sisters is both our natural inclination not to forget them, and the Church’s practice and long conviction that, in the words of the book of Maccabees, ‘It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be released from their sins’ (2Macc.12:45).

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Finally, we do believe that our prayers always reach the merciful ears of the Lord, and in ways we do not understand, they benefit those we have known and loved on this earth, and have now made the journey into eternity.

Until next week, may God bless you all,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster