Bishop’s Blog: Feast of Eight Lancashire Martyrs

Dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome to the Bishop’s BlogI’m actually cheating by writing this one on the 19th July, a day before we set off on the Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes. Today in the Liturgical calendar we celebrate the witness of eight Lancashire martyrs, Saint John Plessington, Saint John Wall O.F.M., Blessed Thomas Cottam S.J., William Harcourt S.J., William Marsden, George Haydock, John Sandys and George Beesley. St.John Plessington was from Garstang. On my coat-of arms I included the martyr’s palm in memory of him, my fellow Garstonian.

Few properties in the town date back to his era, but he would have known the river Wyre, the familiar outline of the Bleasdale fells to the east, the woods and brooks of Barnacre, the site of the distant Lakeland hills seen to the north – on a clear day – from the top of Bowgreave.
His birthplace, Dimples Hall, still stands although much altered. As a child no doubt he attended Mass locally as and when it was safe and available. It came to mean something deep to him. He learnt its value and eventually gained courage to become a priest so that the Mass might be offered and Christ might be worshipped and others might discover the love of God that overcomes all our sins and woes. What a marvellous moment it is when we bow our heads before the Lord and find that He raises us to Glory!Lourdes is a much younger tradition, dating from the mid 19th century and so wasn’t on the pilgrimage map for our local martyrs. But Ladyewell was, and Holy Well was as well as other local shrines perhaps including the ruined monasteries. The Adoremus congress in September will borrow various items from the Diocese closely associated with the martyrs. (I hope we get them back!) Some time ago the BBC put a fascinating programme on Radio 4 entitled A History of the world in 100 objects, presented by Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum.What a challenge it would be to produce a history of a parish or a school or of the Diocese in 100 objects (and you could include places, and views and sounds perhaps. . . . . the imagination could run riot!)

May God bless you all

As ever in Christ,+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

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Bishop’s Blog: Our Diocesan Family MATTERS

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Welcome to this week’s Blog!

The first meeting with the new Council of priests, the Diocesan Pilgrimage to Fernyhalgh, a visit to The Sisters at Hyning monastery, the annual Mass celebrated in memory of Blessed Edward Bamber with a very pleasant gathering at St.Winifrede’s, Bispham, interviews of applicants for the permanent Diaconate, a day of recollection for and with the priests, and all the bits and pieces in-between.

One elderly priest in the seminary advised us to try to avoid being known as ‘busy’ priests. His point was that if people saw us as always so busy they’d feel less able to approach us. Transfer that to the world of the family. Try not to be known as a busy parent, otherwise your little ones will perhaps fear you don’t have time for them. However, the danger is that if you aren’t busy people may think you are lazy, leaving it all for others to do. You can’t win can you!

We know the story of Martha and Mary. We also know that our God gave us a commandment to rest regularly. Try it . . . without feeling guilt.One of the joys of getting around for the various celebrations and events is simply finding time to meet parishioners and school-children, and whoever. Our parishes and schools rely on a vast amount of goodwill and personal sacrifice. Even those in paid employment often go much further than simply doing their duty. It is humbling to sense the motivation and prayer underlying so much goodness happening so quietly around us. Thank-you for showing the world evidence of the Lord’s presence, particularly when it involves getting dirty or hurt or misunderstood. Thank-you for remaining faithful when it is inconvenient or uncomfortable. That is when it most closely mirrors the love Christ has shown us.

May God bless you all.

As ever in Christ,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

 

 

The Bishop’s Blog: Be Still for the Holy One is Here.

Hello dear friends in Jesus Christ,

This week’s the  Bishop’s Blog reaches out with a reflection on Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament!Soon the schools will be closed for the summer. We have already had what seems an over-dose of beautiful weather. Can there be more to come? Will it fit our plans? We are free to speculate. Removed from all our uncertainties and speculating is the utter certainty of the Lord’s intimate affection for us, and His desire to draw us back, deeper into the heart of the Father. Jesus has given us the way to follow. Through the centuries His disciples have constantly and consistently found that way in the Eucharist.In September, in Liverpool, during the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage and Congress, the Catholic Church of England and Wales will give public witness to our core belief that Jesus is present with us, to us, and for us, in the Blessed Sacrament.Our Faith can seem to ask many things of us. It can be natural to be overwhelmed at times by a sense of inadequacy or frustration or even loss of heart. Again and again we come back into the presence of Jesus, and slow down and simply sit or knee, and slow down some more, and wait and listen and break through that temptation to try and sort everything out ourselves. We surrender all to Him, and allow Him to slow us down even more, to the point where we don’t need to fight or strain anymore. We abandon hope of achieving peace because we have found the One who is our peace.Pope Francis recently wrote, ‘An essential condition for growth in discernment is a growing understanding of God’s patience and God’s timetable, which are never our own.’ (Gaudete et Exultate on the call to holiness in today’s world. para 174) A lesson I am forever having to re-learn is how I must have confidence that the Lord knows what He is doing. As I visit and meet and listen it is clear that many of you know this better than I do. Thank-you. Let us pray for the success of the National Eucharistic Congress in September.

Until next week -we pray for each other.

As ever in Christ,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

 

 

Bishop’s Blog: Different in Gifts United in Christ

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!
The great solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul saw me back in the Cathedral for a midday Mass celebrated with parishioners and the Cathedral school of St.Peter’s. Time was limited but Mass was not rushed. How blessed we are with the example of these two great Saints standing not as individuals but as men united in a common purpose, able to agree to work together for the sake of Christ’s Gospel. Note their different characters, strengths and weaknesses, styles and out-looks. What a joy it is to appreciate that there is room amongst the disciples of Jesus for such diversity. His followers take many forms brought together for one mission, that Jesus Christ may be known and welcomed, worshipped and followed as Son of God who gave Himself up for our salvation.Following Mass we were treated to a feast in the school grounds. Pupils, teachers, parents and parishioners indulged in burgers and ice-cream! What could we do but cancel the rest of the day?! Thank-you to all who worked to make it happen. Let’s remember and celebrate our Saints!On Saturday there was a Mass celebrated at St.Bernadette’s, Lancaster, gathering together many of those preparing to go on the Diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes. Following Mass we took refreshments and mingled. Nothing happened to ‘put me off’! We have a rich assortment of humanity blessed with Faith. The Pilgrimage itself must take a considerable amount of time and effort to organise, and relies on a great deal of good-will. The purpose of the Pilgrimage goes far beyond being a social event. It aims at helping us follow Jesus more closely and more generously. May it be an occasion of Grace for the Pilgrims, the Diocese and for all those we pray for.Mindful of Father Sony’s return to India at short notice to attend his mother’s funeral, over the weekend I offered to cover his Masses at Claughton and Goosnargh. I appreciate that ‘fuss’ has its place, but it was a delight to pretend for a short time that I was ‘just a priest in a parish’ What a beautiful vocation.Fr.John Moriarty and Castlerigg had invited me to celebrate Mass and join the out-going gap year workers for lunch on Monday. Time goes so quickly. Where was I this time last year? Where will I be a year from now? We paused to give thanks to God for the past year, with all the good that has been done. The life of each person who has been on a Castlerigg course is special to the Lord, and these young people have been part of His blessing for them. Thank-you to all of you who have served at the Manor during this past year. May the Lord bless each of you with the gift of strangers further along your way of life, just as you have been there for others.
Then there was the rest of the week . . . . . .personal conversations, surprise encounters with old friends, the odd bike ride as opportunity permits, the steady rhythm of prayer and Mass, a significant birthday (and cake!), and of course Meetings! Please God, this is part of our way to heaven.With every good wishes and prayers from the Diocese of Lancaster,

+ Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster