The Bishop’s Blog: Our Lady Vulnerata- Pray for Us

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Welcome back to the Bishop’s Blog!On the opening day of the Vatican Summit on the Protection of Minors in the Church we held a clergy in-service training day on Safeguarding. The day was well attended, expertly delivered, and actively engaged in by the participants.The day opened with a simple reflection on the statue of Our Lady Vulnerata, the original of which is found in the English College, Valladolid, Spain. It is worth taking time to know the story of this devotion.Our Safeguarding Officer mentioned that she has adopted devotion to this Madonna in her work. It speaks of the tragic damage done to infants, children and the vulnerable as well as the pain caused within the Church by abuse in whatever form it takes. This devotion deserves to be better known and used, particularly in an age when there is so much hurt in life, and much of it hidden.As your Bishop I have accepted to take the ‘hot-seat’ in matters concerning the safe-guarding of minors and vulnerable adults. I must take whatever comes. One consolation is the dedication of my immediate predecessors in establishing a competent safe-guarding regime within the Diocese, very ably assisted in this by Fr.Billing. It is a precious inheritance which must in turn be appreciated, invested in and developed. I have dedicated each Friday morning to Safe-guarding matters. Regular attention to files, reading and being available to listen to whoever has need seems an essential duty for any Bishop these days. Of course, I do not limit my availability to this time only, nor should you assume that whoever sees me on a Friday morning has a Safe-guarding issue; they may simply be coming to tell me it’s about time I cleaned my car!Sex-abuse scandals are inevitably going to define the Church in this age. But it opens the way for a response which will be part of that definition too. Action, reform, penance, fasting and prayer must become prominent and long-lasting. There can be no quick fix to the damage done. We have to live with these wounds, and recognise the wounds that we and the Church have caused in others.Having said that, it is no insignificant thing that the risen Christ still carried the wounds of the Cross. When He showed them to Simon Peter He could have said, ‘Look. This is how much you hurt me.’ Instead He said, ‘Look. This is how much I love you.’ It is the wounded one who will speak first, when ready and able. It is for us Bishops to listen in deep humility and shame and do penance, and believe that somehow Love will prevail.

As ever in Christ,

+ Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

P.S. Please remember in your prayers Canon Tom Dakin, ordained for the Diocese in 1951, who died last Monday.

An outstanding priest, gentleman and a scholar. May he rest in peace.

 

 

 

The Bishop’s Blog: Seeking the Light

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

‘The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’ These reassuring words from the Gospel of St.John find clear expression on the Feast of the Lord’s Presentation, Candlemas.I restrict this week’s Blog to two invitations I received for that Feast Day, both taking place on the Fylde coast. Every invitation I receive holds an element of excitement. I don’t always know what I am ‘letting myself in for’. This was never more true than accepting to join Faith and Light for their annual Mass and get-together at Our Lady Star of the Sea, St.Anne’s. This would be my first experience of Faith and Light, and it was delightful. Mgr Aiden Turner acted as guide.How misleading to describe these people as having learning disabilities, as though the rest of us don’t. When it comes to celebrating the Mass with whole-hearted reverence and joy they left me standing. What a moving re-enactment of the Lord’s Presentation. What enthusiastic singing, and what a tangible spirit of faith in the Lord of Life. Caring for those less able to care for themselves will draw out of us depths of love and self-giving we did not know we possessed.Tea and cakes following the Mass meant that we were nourished in body and soul.My second invitation was to St.Cuthbert’s parish, South Shore, Blackpool, for the opening of a Novena of prayer in honour of Our Lady of Lourdes (Patroness of the Diocese together with St.Cuthbert). The Novena prayers were followed by Solemn Benediction. In the company of Our Blessed Lady we knelt to worship the Lord of Life. My thoughts were full of those special ‘Faith-and-Light’ people whose company I had enjoyed just a little earlier. A darkness crept into my mind as I reflected how our present culture is inclined to place such lives at risk. We can eradicate such disabilities, judging them to be defective or an unwanted burden on families. It can be couched in terms suggesting we are doing everyone a favour by preventing or disposing of such ‘less than perfect’ people. But when we do that we dispose of something of ourselves. Christ teaches us another way of measuring life’s value, the way of love.Guard against being led by the norms and trends of society which can be so inconsistent. And yet, we are reminded all too often of the inconsistencies and imperfections within the Church herself. There is no room for complacency in our efforts or boasting of our achievements. We need a Saviour. To find and defend Life we must follow the Light!

Sincerest good wishes and prayers,
+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

P.S. Prayerful Birthday Greetings  to Mgr. Slattery Francis!

 

The Bishop’s Blog: Signs of healing within the Body of Christ

My dear friends in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

Christian Unity Octave expanded to include a Churches Together in Cockermouth and Area gathering on 30th Jan. I was invited to join them for prayer and speak to the assembly. This is a revitalised group, showing strong evidence of different Christian traditions working and worshipping together. A Quaker asked me what does a Catholic Bishop do? The simple answer is that I follow Christ’s call. I am a disciple. Beyond that, I safeguard the continuity of Christ’s teaching and the proclaiming of His Gospel to the world. There must have been towards 100 people present, including some welcome faces I knew from my years in Workington.An evening of prayer at St.Joseph’s, Skerton brought together local Christian groups to meditate on the life of St.Paul on the day celebrating his conversion. Again, it was a joy to be part of this local initiative providing evidence of the healing of divisions within the Body of Christ.
At the weekend I was privileged to attend part of the AGM for the British Lourdes Medical Association. Hosted by Lancaster Lourdes, and held at the Village, Blackpool, this was my first such event. The vigil Mass was celebrated at St.Cuthbert’s Blackpool where I had served as a curate in the 1980s.The highlight for me was to be in the company of Sr.Bernadette Muriau, declared in 2018 to be the 70th official miracle of the Shrine. Now 80years old, she is the picture of good health and a joy to be with. At the heart of her story is her love for the Blessed Sacrament and faithfulness to prayer of adoration of Jesus in the Eucharist. Do please commit yourselves to such prayer and adoration. When we kneel before Jesus, present in the Most Holy Eucharist we could be described as being in ‘the healing zone’.Amongst so many other ‘bits and pieces’ over the past week I took time out to visit Coniston. The Knights of St.Columba (Carlisle) have taken on a project to develop the presbytery as holiday accommodation suitable for families. Nearing completion now I was delighted to have this sneak preview and enjoy the company of Peter Campbell KSC who is dedicated to seeing the project through. So many of our Lakeland parishes have no resident priest and fewer active parishioners than in former times.Yet we must find imaginative ways of keeping a vibrant, welcoming Catholic presence in the small communities of the Lake District. We must be part of the abiding beauty for locals and visitors. Do keep Coniston in mind for family and group holidays. Details are available from the KSC in Carlisle..
On a sadder note, we have heard of the death of Fr.Aelred Grugan, parish priest of St.Mary’s, Kells. In recent years Fr.Aelred had been living in Scotland partly due to his declining health. Our prayers go out to his family, friends and his beloved parishioners in Kells.

As ever in Christ,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster