John Bradburne: The Vagabond of God

My dear friends in Jesus Christ,

Welcome to this week’s  Bishop’ Blog!I’ve never had leprosy, but I have met people suffering from it. I recall stretching out my hand to offer the sign of peace to some elderly women in a rather dark corner of the bush chapel, rural Zambia, getting hold of what was left of their hands. They were delighted; I was startled. Another parishioner was Paul Maambo. He was always one of the first to arrive at Nkonkola, waiting for people to gather for Mass. He’d walked two miles on his crutches. He had no feet – a rather good excuse for missing Mass, I’d have thought. “Bless me Father for I have sinned. It is several months since my last confession, and I accuse myself of missing Mass.” “Why did you miss Mass?” “Because I’m old, because I have TB, because I have two miles to walk, . . . and because I have no feet . . .” “Good excuse!” The Mass obviously meant so much to him that he made the effort. He must be a saint. He remains one of my heroes.By the time I arrived in Africa John Bradburne was already counted amongst the saints, gone to God. It was some time before I learnt of him and his inspiring life, his early childhood just up the road in the north-west of England, in Cumbria, in the tiny village of , in the shelter of Cross Fell and the northern Pennines. ‘Beyond Shap’ carried a profound sense of remoteness – other-wordliness even – prior to the coming of the M6, and yet it was the Vale of Eden, God’s own country, worth a look if you can get there. Best to find a guide, or thank the Lord that a guide has found you, to guide your adventure, your exploring.Being ‘locked down’ is bad enough; being ‘locked out’ is something else. I guess that’s what leprosy does to you, locks you out of life, closes your world down, confines you robs you, ostracises you. John found Mutemwa and its discarded residents. They became his guides to heaven.Seen by some as lepers, to him they became companions for the journey . . . who happened to have leprosy. It slowed them down so that he could catch up. He never let their affliction define them. He never let their restrictions restrict them. He saw them and saw more than we see because he saw them, made in the image and likeness of their Creator. They were never less because there was ‘less of them’.At times such as these when the world becomes more complex, John, Servant of God, comes to us as a welcome friend. We may not have leprosy, but most of us feel terribly afflicted. The beauty of any Servants of God is that they do not stand between us and the Lord, as though obscuring our sight of Christ. Their gift is to enable us to see Him more clearly, to sense Him as closer to us.

I commend this man’s life to you, particularly at this time, particularly in your present circumstances. May his cause prosper because it is of God. It is Beatitude. May the work of the John Bradburne Memorial Society flourish.


Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster


Prayer Intentions

My dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ,

Welcome to the Bishop’s Blog!I ask your prayers for Philip Wrigley. Today he is formally accepted as a Candidate for the Priesthood for our Diocese. This may come as a surprise to same of you, aware that he has been in the seminary at Oscott for a number of years.It serves to remind us that those who are selected for seminary formation are drawn into a process of discernment, exploring just how the Lord is calling them to follow Him, with the possibility that they may be called to serve as ordained priests. Candidacy marks the moment of transition from the possibility to the probability of being called to the priesthood.It marks a moment of growing confidence and clarity in a man’s personal relationship with Christ. But it is always more than a confirmation of someone’s personal choice ‘to be a priest’. Firstly, it must be accepted as a response to God’s initiative, ‘You have not chosen me; I have chosen you’. We also recognise that Ordination is not the destination. Diaconate or priesthood becomes the way to heaven.I ask your prayers also for Stuart Chapple, to be ordained to the transitory Diaconate tomorrow at St.Mary’s, Oscott. He has completed several years of formation, study, pastoral experience. Those concerned with his formation have given me the confidence to accept Stuart for ordination. If all continues to go well, please God, in another year he will be ordained to the priesthood for Lancaster Diocese. Our formation is not complete as we complete our years in the seminary. Formation as disciples of Christ is something that must continue up to death, the moment when we receive that ultimate call/vocation, leaving this world, our loved ones and loved things and places, hoping to be received into the fulness of God’s eternal life.I ask your prayers for Father Stephen Talbutt and his brother Michael. Their mother, Yvonne, died in the past few days. Her funeral will take place – following the necessary restrictions – at the Cathedral on Thursday. May she find the rest and peace only to be found in the Lord.Losing our parents is always going to be a difficult experience, even if they were people of great faith and were ‘ready’ to go. They take much of ourselves with them; we feel as though we are missing part of ourselves. And yet, something of them remains with us, and can remain a source of great comfort in future years.Monday and Tuesday mark two Feasts appropriately combined; The Triumph of the Cross, and Our Lady of Sorrows. They offer us food for thought as to how victory and sorrow somehow are with us at one and the same time. Until we reach our salvation there is always the chance of things going wrong. Let us pray and live in such a way as to lead others closer to Christ, the man of sorrows, but also the cause of our joy.Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us.
Saint Cornelius and Saint Cyprian, pray for us.
Saint Robert Bellarmine, pray for us.
Saint Theodore of Canterbury, pray for us.

Paul Swarbrick,

Bishop of Lancaster.


Saint Cuthbert

Dear friends in Jesus Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

Today we mark the Feast of Saint Cuthbert, a saint of Lindisfarne, of Durham and chosen to be the second patron of our Diocese.His story is worth knowing. We must thank St.Bede for much detail of his life and ministry. I recommend that you make time not simply to know about St.Cuthbert, but to try and actually know him. His companionship will bring you strength and encouragement.I must confess, he has come into my own life mostly unlooked for, but no less welcome for that. He was chosen to be the patron of the seminary I attended from 1976 – 1982. I also had the good fortune to be appointed to St.Cuthbert’s parish in Blackpool, sharing my time there (1984 – 1990) with Father Larrie Wells, Father Pat Doyle, and latterly Father Tom Ward, all now gone to God.St.Cuthbert never saw himself as a saint. That is one of the frustrating things about many saints; they saw themselves as great sinners, but that can make them more attractive to us, once we realise they were sincere.One fascinating part of his story is the way his body was carried by monks on a long journey around the north of England not so much for local people to venerate but rather to protect it from the Vikings. There are several sites across the Diocese associated with this journey, notably Lytham and Workington.I visited Ushaw and Durham last year with some old friends. In the Cathedral bookshop -after compulsory coffee and cake in the undercroft – I found a small booklet entitled ‘St.Cuthbert’s corpse: a life after death’ by David Willem (Sacristy Press 2013). It is well worth a read, not just as historic detective work, but as something to provoke devotion.
Saint Cuthbert, pray for us.
With my blessing,+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster