The strange ways of God heals our brokenness

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Welcome to the Bishop’s Blog!

The month of March, and the season of Lent, are racing by towards their end. If you think about it, March ‘gets us out of winter’ and delivers us to the threshold of Spring (at least for us here in the northern hemisphere). Lent delivers us to the threshold of Easter, the threshold of Our Lord’s empty tomb. The hardships we go looking for through the discipline of Lent have this purpose.During the past week we celebrated a Requiem Mass for our late Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue. It was held in the Cathedral on the evening of St.Patrick’s Day. I presided at the simple Mass, under the familiar Covid regulations, together with the majority of the Cathedral Chapter, the Cathedral clergy and Father Billing. Father Billing preached a moving and uplifting homily, inspiring hope as he recalled the personality and leadership of Bishop Patrick. That homily must have taken a considerable amount of thought, effort and time to compose. To deliver it may well have made even greater demands, but demands which I hope were richly rewarded.Elsewhere in the Diocese, on a different day, a Requiem was celebrated for another faithful servant of Christ, Anthony Finnerty. I was not able to be present, but know that Anthony had touched many lives throughout his years, drawing them closer to Christ.They were very different characters, united in one cause. I have every confidence that their work is bearing rich fruit in these testing times in the lives of those who knew them. Whenever we gather to mark the passing of someone who has been important to us, we can remember that we are still grieving for so many others whose deaths occurred perhaps long ago. We’ve not yet finished missing them. That’s not a bad think to remember. We shouldn’t try to ‘move on’ too quickly. March and Lent and our personal griefs take time to do their work, delivering us to the threshold of Spring, the threshold of the empty tomb, and the threshold of eternal life. Perhaps I’m lacking something, but I rarely find grief depressing or a ‘bad’ experience.Lucky me! I realise that is not the case for everyone, and that our griefs can differ. You might even find yourself doing surprisingly well, but then, all of a sudden, it hits you, out of the blue. The gap left in your life when a loved one dies, the silence because their voice is no longer heard, the sense of having been left behind, can leave us crippled, less than we were. Not being able to hold or to be held by someone is a strange experience of grief in this pandemic, a grief even for the loss of the living. Very strange . . . . But hopefully that too can work to deliver us to a better place and a happier time. The Lord knows all about it.One simple thought has often helped me; to reflect on how those I miss coped with their own losses. It would seem that a big part of what made them such special people for us was the way they had learned to let grief do its work. When I lost my father, I remembered back to the time in my childhood when he lost his dad. That has become a source of comfort and strength for me. May something similar be so for you in your own trouble.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I fear no evil for you are with me” Psalms 23:4

As ever in Christ our Lord,


Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster