A few thoughts …

My dear friends in  Jesus Christ,

Welcome to the Bishop’s Blog!

It is hard to believe that just one week ago we learnt of the death, in Nazareth House, Cork, of Bishop emeritus Padraig O’Donoghue. Ireland is noted for arranging funerals very soon after death. It contrasts remarkably with how things are here in England, where a wait of two weeks is not uncommon. In fact, Mgr Jimmy Hook’s funeral took place on 22nd Jan, almost four weeks after his death.We have a huge debt of gratitude to Bishop Padraig for all he did whilst here. Our Diocesan Voice newspaper will dedicate much space to his memory in its next issue. In our current circumstances it is difficult to arrange a fitting Diocesan Requiem for him. I did celebrate midday Mass at the Cathedral on the day of his burial, but I believe we should gather at some point to celebrate Mass for him with fitting dignity and solemnity, and in keeping with his personality, with a joyful spirit.I am aware of elements in society that are ‘anti-vaccine’. I wish to repeat what has already been made public by the Vatican and by our local Episcopal Conference, that the Church gives every encouragement to you to have the covid vaccine. Statements can be found on the Vatican website and the website of the Bishops’ Conference. Some may have praiseworthy concerns about the origins of various vaccines. Reassurance will be found in the statements designed to allay such anxieties. We are not abandoning our campaign to defend unborn lives.On Tuesday we celebrate the beautiful Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, otherwise known as Candlemas. Cribs may then be put away, and cards and whatever other Christmas decorations still festoon our homes. I’m well aware that for most of you this would have already happened long ago! This year I have kept them out up to The Presentation because we need encouragement and evidence of faith.It also struck me that so many households go mad on putting up their Christmas lights long before Advent, but pack them away so quickly afterwards. Christ is the gift we need to hang on to for as long as possible, hopefully for ever! So, as we look to next year, let’s make an effort to balance the early-lighters by keeping Christmas going until the Presentation.

 

With my Blessing,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

Blog for week of Christian unity!

Dear brothers and sisters, 

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!I have taken a decision to not be present at an ecumenical Vespers on Sunday. It was a kind and welcome invitation, and initially I had agreed to be there. I have full confidence in the host providing a strictly compliant environment and a liturgy that will adhere to necessary protocol. So why withdraw? Idleness? Snooker? (There’s a big snooker tournament on tv that evening!) It will go ahead (Vespers) and witness to our pro-active desire to work for a healing of divisions between the churches. The Catholic Church will be present through local representation. And I will be on-board at a ZOOM event later in the week involving my ‘opposite numbers’. Ecumenism isn’t something we have permission to withdraw from.Mid week we heard of the untimely deaths of Archbishop Tartaglia of Glasgow, and retired Scottish Bishop, Vincent Logan and Bishop Moses Haamungole of Monze Diocese, Zambia. Archbishop Tartaglia and Bishop Moses had both tested positive for Covid around the new year.Bishop Moses’ death struck me particularly hard. He was only 53 years of age. He generously came for my episcopal ordination in 2018, and was a wonderful host when I visited Zambia in 2019. News of his death brought back memories of another Bishop of Monze, Paul Lungu S.J. who was tragically killed in a road accident in 1998. He, too, had been in his early fifties. Heavy losses for those they leave behind, taken too early, with so much still to do. My prayers are with them all.Pope Francis has dedicated this as a year of special devotion and prayer to St.Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church. Many of you already have a strong devotion to him. He deserves more attention from all of us. He is called on in prayer to help us prepare for a ‘happy death’. A key to this is learning how to grieve for those we have lost.The Holy Family would have been no strangers to grieving, it was part of their culture, as it is part of every culture and society. Sadness, loss, grief are things we must all learn to live with. St. Joseph will help us to grieve with hope. He will explain how he grieved and did not let it rob him of his Faith in a loving God, nor would it rob him of joy. There’s something to work on for the year ahead.

 

With my blessing,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster 

Be at peace with 2020

My dear friends in Christ,

Welcome  to the Bishop’s Blog!We are hardly off to a roaring start! In some ways it seems like ‘so near and yet so far . . .’. Schools are of particular concern. What will be the lasting effect on our young ones? Whilst we struggle to manage the pandemic itself one aspect that we do have more control of is how we individually respond to our circumstances. I’ve heard of the media inviting people to ‘write a letter’ to 2021, expressing their hopes. What may also be a worthwhile exercise is to work at some sort of reconciliation with the past year, 2020. It will go down in global history as a BAD year, obviously, but it risks doing us damage twice, once as we passed through it, and a second time as we struggle with its memory. That could be with us for the rest of our lives.So, it robbed us of our plans, our loved ones, those who died and those we could not visit or hug. It robbed us of our health, our education and our businesses. It robbed us of our freedom, our peace of mind, our jobs. Tragically, it robbed us of Holy Mass, worship, and of the freedom to live our Sacramental Faith. We could probably say much more as we look back on a year we never saw coming, an experience we never want again, and something that hasn’t finished with us yet.

Even though all this is true, I sense a need for us to try and be at peace with 2020, even with the harm done, otherwise that year becomes like a Corona-virus itself, infecting and spreading its poison into the rest of our days.

One thing it did not rob us of is our belief that Our Lord has been with us every step of the way, every moment of every day. We have been given opportunity to know what is most important. We have seen what we had previously taken so much for granted. We have come to know that the best things in life can never be taken as convenient.At this start of a new year let us try to be at peace with 2020 despite the harm it has done. Let us lay it to rest, with the bad and the good that we found in it.

With my blessing on you all as we progress into 2021, especially those of you who feel most fragile.

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick 

Bishop of Lancaster