Dear friends in Christ,
Welcome to this week’s Blog!
The Pilgrimage was a time of Grace and rich Blessings not only for the pilgrims who travelled to Lourdes, but for the whole Diocese. We carried the intentions of you all, particularly those who suffer poor health, and those who dedicate themselves so generously to the care of the sick.On arrival at Manchester airport early on the Friday morning we suffered one set back when one of our pilgrims had a fall and had to be taken to hospital. We carried her with us in our hearts and prayers for a steady and full recovery.Cloud and showers marked the first days, but no harm was done, no discouragement to our zeal. For many this was a return to a very special place of prayer. We welcomed several new faces, refreshing us with their surprise and joy at being in Lourdes and the Blessed Grotto of St. Bernadette for the first time.Following the International Mass on Sunday morning we processed to the Grotto behind the relics of St.Bernadette. I found it moving to think of those who followed her on the same journey when she answered Our Blessed Lady’s call to meet her at the Grotto. Now it was our turn to accompany her and sense the presence of Holiness.Our youth section was a credit to the Diocese. Someone told me that they stand out amongst all the Dioceses for their behaviour and respect and reverence. Many evenings after the torchlight procession I went down to the Grotto and saw our young people standing or sitting in quiet prayer. I wasn’t spying on them! It was uplifting for me to see them.Quiet conversations were had between pilgrims. Deep subjects were touched on. Light was given. Problems were worked through or seen to be not so bad once the Light of Lourdes shone on them. The High Stations barefoot in gathering gloom. There is a nasty middle section that can catch you unawares, especially nasty for the soft-soled – or should it be the soft-souled?The Mass of anointing, the Mass with the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Holy Hour, the blessing of the candle, and pious objects, all went into our prayers for the Diocese and for the Church’s mission. the Liturgies were beautifully and reverently celebrated. My thanks go to the seminarians, Stuart and Philip for ensuring all was as it should be.My profound gratitude goes to the people who planned and made possible this year’s pilgrimage, to the company who got us there and back, to all who proved such agreeable companions. To Father Peter, Linda and Nikki and organisers of the youth, and all I should have mentioned – thank-you.Now, almost a week later, we are back home, clergy and Religious and lay Faithful. We each carry something of that blessed time, sharing it with those who have welcomed us home. Let us look forward to next year’s pilgrimage.
Sincerest good wishes and prayers,
Bishop of Lancaster