Laetare Sunday (4th Sunday of Lent)

Dear  friends in Christ,

Welcome to another post of the  Bishop’s Blog!It is the most beautiful Spring day! You can almost hear the grass growing in response to the sun’s warmth. Of course, that does not do away with the fact that we are experiencing the early stages of a global pandemic. We must all help to manage this threat to life and give our NHS workers a chance to cope.Across society we also mark the tradition of Mothers’ Day. It’s a good time to think of our mums and thank God for them. (I will be sneaking out to visit the grave of my own mum later today.) In times of difficulty we instinctively think of them.Many of us took them for granted. Only with the passing of adult years do we come to know them better, often recalling advice they gave years ago, or remembering their example of ‘being there’ for us.I thank mothers living far away whose children now live here, working and living by our side, fulfilling roles that make life better for us. Their children are a tribute to them. So many of them provide strong examples of faith.I have been reading a little about early Irish monasticism, and the influence the Egyptian desert fathers had on it. These were times that predated St.Benedict and his monastic Rule that has gone so far to shape monasticism as we know it.Two early saints of particular influence were St.Anthony of Egypt and St.Cassian. This St.Anthony should not be confused with the better known St.Anthony of Padua. We all know him well because he helps us find things when we lose them. St.Anthony of Egypt is likely to tell us we are better off without whatever it is we’ve lost! He lived a very spartan life, with practically no belongings apart from what he wore.St. Cassian grew as a strong guide to prayer. He pointed out that every individual prays differently, personally. He pointed out the great obstacles to prayer; sin, anxiety, pride, an absence of tranquillity. He taught that in spite of different ways of praying all prayer comes together in resolution, penitence, intercession and gratitude.He was a moderate man who discouraged all exaggerated forms and extremes of religious experience. No need to constantly striving for another ‘personal best’. Let the Good Lord achieve that in us if He so chooses.Interestingly for these current times, St.Anthony of Egypt is looked to as the patron Saint of contagious diseases. You may wish to explore this further.We are instructed to observe social isolation, but we do well to remember we are given other ways to keep in touch and remain in social contact. The wonders of modern communication are at our service for our good. Use them well.And don’t forget that the Saints and the Holy Souls are part of our social network too. Long before the internet was invented we had this tradition of social communication with the saints in heaven, and the Holy Soul awaiting entry into the fulness of Life. No need for sophisticated IT equipment to reach them. All that is needed is the simple ability to spend time in prayer. No one is truly alone.I also encourage us to remember our guardian angels in these times. When we pray for those in the front line let’s include them too.

With my prayers for you all,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster