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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