Bishop Swarbrick’s Homily from Sunday Morning Mass!

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!We are given another new commandment it seems: Do not be afraid. And as with all new commandments, we must be taught just how we are to keep it.
Fear is a factor in our lives. It will play its part in our story. It works at various levels, often unsought, always unwelcome.A child will inevitably know fear, at home, in school and in the world. Adults know fear too, grown-up fear, anxieties, threats, uncertainties. Failing health, declining faculties, consequences of wrong-doing, failing in our responsibilities for others who depend on us. Then there is the fear that comes with our mortality, dying, and the unknown that will follow.Jesus knew fear and yet He says to His disciples in every age, ‘Do not be afraid. Why do you fear?’ where did He find these words in His humanity? We are led back to the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel spoke to Mary. ‘Mary, do not be afraid. You have won God’s favour.’It was a message, a moment, that profoundly affected her. It shook her to the core. It stayed with her for the rest of her life, becoming part of her learning to carry God’s Son. Undoubtedly, she knew God intimately before the Annunciation, but she still had more to learn of Him.
As I have grown up, and grown older, I’ve found myself remembering my parents partly by recalling things they said years ago, sayings they had and repeated. At the time I often thought little of it, but over the years their words have become ‘food for thought,’ a lovely phrase.Did Mary repeat Gabriel’s words to the child Jesus as she taught Him His prayers and how He should know the God of Israel? Surely she did. On one occasion they found Him sitting with the Doctors of the Law in the Temple, and they removed Him, taking Him home to continue His studies there, at the feet of His mother and St.Joseph, submissive, humble, meek. These are attitudes that enable us to learn not to fear. He learnt that we should not be afraid in our religion.And yet, in this Gospel today, He tells the disciples not to be afraid only to tell them of another fear. ‘Fear Him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell.’ It would appear that the only way to overcome one fear is to replace it with another. Can that be good? Is that healing? Are we then better off? It appears we are.

At Confirmation one of the gifts we are given is the Fear of the Lord. I suspect it is a gift that many of the confirmandi do not open. But perhaps it is the gift – out of all seven – that is the key to opening the other six gifts.

Today’s Collect uses the word ‘revere’. Grant, O Lord, that we may always revere and love your name . . . ‘ Reverence is a form of fear, but a positive fear, because it knows something. This is the fear Jesus tells us to have for God, a fear of God based not on what He can do – destroy both body and soul in hell – but based on who He is.If we find ourselves living our religion, our Faith, without this reverence we lack something essential. We become like the servant who received the single talent only to go and bury it. And it lay unused, hidden in the soil. It lay as if dead, as if never given. It is not able to do what it is designed for. You may argue, yes, but what if it is a seed? Well, if it is a seed it is unfortunately still in its plastic packaging! It stands no chance.A story is told of a family who lived isolated on the edge of a great forest. To get to town and school they had to take a winding path through the forest. When the children were young the parents would go with them to and from town or school. But as the children grew they were expected to make their own way. Children have vivid imaginations. They grew to fear the path and the forest, but the parents were busy and insisted.

The children’s fear became so great that it threatened their education, so the parents came up with a solution. They gave each of the children a holy medal. ‘Keep that with you and no harm will come to you as you pass through the forest.’ And so the children would make the journey, clasping the medals, but still full of fear in case they lost their medal or forgot it or had it taken from them. It was only a partial solution.That is not our Faith. That is not our religion.
Jesus Himself knew fear. We only need to remember His state in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knows what troubles us in this life. To overcome our fear He instructs us to replace this fear with this other fear, reverence, Fear of the Lord. It is a gift of the Spirit. Reverence will grow and deepen as we listen to Jesus’ teaching, but especially as we spend time in His company. Here I mention how delighted I am that so many of our churches have been able to open to parishioners for personal prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. This prayer in Christ’s presence will bear fruit in greater confidence. Confidence comes as we understand prayer as a constant invitation and opportunity to know the Lord who loves us more than we could ever hope or imagine.
Poor Judas knew fear after he betrayed his Master. Tragically he ended his fear by ending his life. It need not have come to that. There was another way for him as there is for us.

The prophet Jeremiah says in today’s first reading, ‘The Lord is at my side, a mighty hero.’ But even that doesn’t quite do it, there is a further step to be taken. His prayer is in the third person, as though he talks about God who is not quite near enough. What is the step that can fulfil the Lord’s command to ‘Have no fear’? Jeremiah expresses it when he goes on to say, ‘Lord, I have committed my cause to You.’ This is not saying something wonderful about the God we believe in, it is talking with God, and that is the place Jesus wants us to reach. May it be so for each of us, whatever our fears may be in these times.

May God bless you all,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Swarbrick 

 

Food for thought on Corpus Christi 2020

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

Just last week we celebrated the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. God made known to us His name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is how He wants us to know Him.This week we keep another remarkable Mystery of Faith, the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. This is one of our most distinctive beliefs as Catholics, that through the words of Consecration spoken by the priest and the descent of the Holy Spirit, the bread and wine become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. In Holy Communion the gift and the giver of the gift are one and the same. Within this miracle lies the astonishing fact that the communicant becomes one with our Blessed Lord in His saving Passion, Death and Resurrection.It’s reasonable to admit that we will never be able to fully ‘get our heads round’ this. But that doesn’t mean we can take it for granted either. It deserves an attitude of gratitude. (There’s a nice little saying!) And whilst we are about it, there is another thing deserving a pause for thought; we must acknowledge the fidelity of the Church in safeguarding, promoting and insisting on the truth of this Mystery. From the time of the Last Supper to the present, in the face of constant influences trying to dilute or distort Christ’s teaching, belief in His Real Presence in the Eucharist has been upheld.Back in the 1980s, for some months I shared a roof with Father Tom Ward – of happy memory – may he rest in peace. He told me a story from his time as Parish Priest at Blessed Sacrament, Preston. One Christmas Day afternoon he received a phone call from a parent in distress. The family was in dire need of help. Fr.Tom went round to see them. He found the house well decorated for Christmas, tree lights, tinsel, and the three children swamped in a sea of new toys and games, but there was no food in the house. All the money had gone on presents. They were hungry.Our Blessed Lord was very aware of the importance of food and drink.
The devil’s first temptation was for Him to change stones into bread.
Christ’s first miracle was to change water into wine.
He took pity on the hungry crowds, feeding them miraculously, and even showing concern not to waste the food leftover.
He was comfortable eating with tax-collectors and sinners such as Simon the Pharisee or Zacchaeus.His disciples had a reputation for eating and drinking. Many of his stories were told during meals.
He often used the image of feasts as a reference to the life to come.
After raising a little girl from the dead He told her parents simply to give her something to eat.
He understood that many of those listening to Him were dependant on good farming and good harvests to feed their families.
After His resurrection, He asked for food and ate it as a sign that He was truly risen.He provided a breakfast of grilled fish for His disciples.
He arranged that the climax of His teaching would take place within the context of a sacred meal, the Last Supper. ‘Take this all of you and eat it. this is My Body. Take this and drink it; this is My Blood.’We are under an obligation to feed the hungry and give drink to those who thirst, but Christ’s teaching takes us further than the secular. We are invited to note a distinction Christ made clear when he said, ‘Do not work for food that cannot last’. He knew its goodness but also its limitation. He knew hunger returns. He knew thirst is never satisfied. He said, ‘My food is to do the will of the Father.’ That was what nourished Him.To live we must be nourished. To live the Life of the Spirit and do the works that God wants, and find the strength needed to follow Christ, pizzas won’t do! Nor will what we see on Master Chef and such like, tasty though it may well be. We need the nourishment offered by Christ, the Bread of Life.Tragically, for almost three months, we have been denied access to the Mass. I have received a good number of messages requesting at least the opening of churches to enable private prayer in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Thank God this is now about to be possible. There are those who say, absence makes the heart grow fonder.I hope this has been the experience for most, and that in spite of wonderful efforts to take part in the Liturgy online, people will come flocking back to our churches. I pray that this has been a time of appreciating what God has given us, deepening our awareness of being unworthy but also of being in need. It remains to be seen how people have used the time. We have the Eucharist not as a personal right to demand but as a gift of Faith.We must be on our guard against attitudes of indifference, mere habit and routine, casualness and convenience. This time has put us in mind of so many millions of Catholics who ordinarily wait months for Mass because of a shortage of priests. Before we ask for more let us reflect on what we have done with all our Masses, all our Holy Communions. Are we more like Christ?In Her wisdom, the Church has, over the centuries, introduced practices designed to deepen our understanding, reverence and respect for the Most Holy Eucharist. Careful instruction and preparation, fasting, particular ways of receiving Holy Communion, silence, genuflecting, prayers of thanksgiving, trying our best to be ‘in a state of grace’. Adoration of the Eucharist should lead to us being better prepared to take part in the Mass. If it is seen as old fashioned then good! It is part of our duty to retain this belief. If we lose it we lose our sense of Sacred, and replace it with something else, something less.The Church also reminds us that the Eucharist is ‘food for the journey’, Viaticum. This world is not enough. This life is not enough. It is not an end in itself. We are given a purpose and a direction because we have a direction and a destination. ‘Father, I want those You have given Me to be with Me where I am.’ Here is a fulfilment that is not of this life. The quiet prayers of the priest during and after receiving Holy Communion make a fitting conclusion perhaps.May the Body of Christ keep me safe for eternal life.
May the Blood of Christ keep me safe for eternal life.
What has passed our lips as food, O Lord, may we possess in purity of heart, that what has been given to us in time may be our healing for eternity.Much more could be said, and I am aware that I will always fall short of what is needed, expressing inadequately our relationship to this great Mystery. We are always trying to grow, to deepen, to enhance our understanding, poor little creatures that we are. It is a consolation that in spite of our failings the Lord continues to give Himself to us not because of what the Eucharist means to us but because of what it means to Him.
Food for thought!!With my blessing for you and those you pray for,
+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

 

 

Pentecost 2020!

My dear friends in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!Gifts and presents are common at Christmas and on birthdays, but by no means restricted to these occasions. The gifts on expected occasions may be complemented by those given at so many other moments in our lives, a graduation, promotion, retirement. Moments of Faith come to mind too such as Baptism, First Holy Communion, Confirmation, Matrimony, Ordination, Religious Profession. Reflecting on our lives we notice other gifts of more profound value. These include particular relationships, friendships, wise advice, good health, privileges and opportunities that came our way as if by chance. Jesus’ gift of Himself to His disciples is recognised as the gift we value above all others. Sent by the Father through the selflessness of our Blessed Lady, He has been given to us as the Way, the Truth and the Life.

During the course of His public ministry Jesus spoke of particular gifts He gave to us. I think of His words, ‘My own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give, this is My gift to you.’ I think of Him speaking of His joy being in us. And then He says He will send us the Gift of the Holy Spirit. Through the prophet Isaiah we identify the gifts of the Holy Spirit, what we might call the gifts of the Gift; Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Knowledge, Fortitude, Piety, Fear of the Lord. ‘He will teach you everything’ said Jesus. We are told He will guide us in the whole Truth. And He will.In our economy-driven culture, we will always be inclined to value things by their financial worth. The health of our wealth cries out for the supreme place. Money is power. Money will do it for us. Financial wealth may be the secular equivalent to the Holy Spirit. Only a blossoming economy will deliver and ensure our ultimate happiness we are told.At a time when church income has taken a massive ‘hit’ we can be tempted to believe it. It is a temptation we should resist. We measure our wealth and health by other criteria. Enough funding can do wonders for individuals and achieve much for families and for a society, but in itself it can only be a means at our disposal. Without those funds we will learn to be a Church that lives by a different style from the one we have been used to. Other people have done it, many have made a great success of it, managing to be the Church with far less material wealth.As I write this, on the day of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, I am conscious of the utter havoc wreaked by the Coronavirus. It has effectively in many ways not only locked us down but ‘closed us down’. It has become a ‘dictator’ with new Do’s and Don’ts.It has robbed many of their loved ones, taken away life and health, jobs and livelihoods. It has cancelled plans and rubbed out hopes. Perhaps we should not be blind to some positive effects it is having.It has brought out of some qualities people did not know they possessed. It has raised our appreciation of simple things, kind deeds, doing what each can, conscious of being there for others, often instead of others. It is making us more honest about what we can or can’t achieve, what it is to be human.But, for all its undoubted power, this virus has been powerless to take away those gifts that mean most to us, gifts recognised by Faith. Faith recognises our God-given gifts. Faith is consoled to know that God does not take back His gifts once they are given. It is up to each of us to lose them or neglect them or ignore them, but they won’t be taken from us.A family grieve because they have lost some-one they love in circumstances they had never foreseen and never been prepared for. Their sadness is real and their distress is heavy, but need not be permanent. The gift of the Spirit enables us to sense other ways of measuring life’s value; the gift of Faith enables them to see death from another side.The Holy Spirit filled Jesus, Son of God, son of Mary. He lived in the constant presence of the Spirit. His words, thoughts, prayers and actions were Spirit-filled. He was driven by the Spirit. His life is evidence of the Spirit’s presence and power and intention. That Spirit is His gift to us, and has been poured out over the whole of creation. It inspires expression in art, music, poetry, as well as in research, imagination, reflection, decision.The coming of the Holy Spirit is not something we can ever take for granted. It forms a massive moment in God’s plan of salvation. It equips the Church for her mission of going out to the whole world and delivering exactly what is required. It is the source of our confidence that the Father’s will will be done, that sin will be overcome, that the fulness of life will put down death. In all this, I have not mentioned love. Let me end this meditation by recalling that in was out of love that God created us, out of love the Father sent His Son to redeem us, and out of love that He shares with us the Gift of His Holy Spirit. Into His love we are called, to share with Him for all eternity a life beyond all we can hope for or imagine.

As ever in Christ,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

 

 

 

The Ascension of the Lord!

 

My dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!
Lost to the world, but not to those who have Faith! Jesus, forty days after His Resurrection, ascended to His Father, and to our Father, taken from our sight, but not from the eyes of the Faithful.As a child I learnt to value this moment in the life of my Lord, primarily because we got a day off school not shared by other schools in the town. It was good to be a Catholic! It still is.These fifty days of Eastertide more than balance the rigours of Lent’s forty days. They are more than a time to look back in reflection on the Resurrection of Christ. It’s more than getting through the crisis of Holy Week, back to ‘life restored’, back to where we were. That won’t do; that’s simply not enough. Something has changed. Something has been changed. There is to be a ‘new normal’.It’s food for thought as we look to the relaxing of the lockdown. Life won’t return to what it was. We are living in a period of world history never to be forgotten. It leaves us all different. Life will be different. Brexit dominated the news from 2016 until early this year. The pandemic has dominated our lives since February. The damaged economy will increasingly dominate our personal, national and global news for a long time to come. We know all too well that some have been affected more than others, and there is more to come, the exact nature of the effect is as yet unknown.It is all too easy to relegate Our Blessed Lord’s Ascension to being some sort of side issue, but it is not; it is critically relevant, not just for people of Faith, but for all.Faith invites us to remember, or to know for the first time, that life has a purpose, a direction because it has a destination given by God. St.Paul tells us, ‘For us, our homeland is in heaven’. The modern world has forgotten that, or lost sight of it. Sadly, for many there is nothing beyond this life. If this world is all there is there is something rather desperate about life. We can talk of progress and development, but what are we progressing towards? How are we to know what development should aim at if we are free to continually change and re-choose our targets?We can rightly be criticised for being indifferent to the problems of life because ‘everything will be fine in heaven’. But belief in the life of the world to come does not give us a dispensation to be careless about the life we are called to live here and now. We do not be-little the supreme efforts of those who put their own lives on the line to care for others. When lives are lost it is not principally because someone has failed and must for ever live with that guilt. Divine Love does not know such limits.Jesus, after forty days risen, returns to His Father, to the one who sent Him. What a joy to reflect on any child being re-united with a parent after a long, difficult separation. In one sense Christ’s work was achieved in His Passion. On the Cross He said, ‘It is accomplished’. Then He made it clear that He still had work to do for us. Two tasks stand out and should be taken to heart because they give us new heart.Firstly, He said He would go and prepare a place for us, ‘so that where I am you may be too’. Knowing there is a place prepared for us is a comfort, but we may easily doubt our chances of making it. Then we can remember His second task, that of accompanying us on the journey to that place, ‘Know that I am with you always, yes, to the end of time’. ‘I will return and take you with me, so that where I am you may be too.’

With such thought as these, let us comfort one another.
May God bless you all.
+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

6th week of Eastertide.

Dear friends in Christ,

Welcome to the Bishop’s Blog!

This has not been the week I thought it was going to be. The change came about because I fell off my bicycle on Friday, VE Day. That resulted in an ambulance trip to Lancaster Royal Infirmary, where I spent two days under observation. All the NHS staff were professional, kind and attentive. In a time when we are all thanking them for their work I have deep personal reasons for standing at my gate and applauding on a Thursday evening.My only worry for them was that they all seem to suffer from bad memories; across all departments, ambulance crew, A & E staff, medical ward staff, none of them seemed to know what date it was, they were constantly asking me. I am delighted to have been able to help them whenever they asked . . . . . 10th November 1327!Of course, it was largely my own silly fault. No helmet. . . . Usually I do wear one but since I was only nipping up to the shops I thought it not necessary. I was wrong. As I cycled past vehicles parked outside the shops one driver opened the door and sent me flying. I’ve no idea who that was but I do hope the person finds out I am ok. Fortunately my head took the impact so there was no real damage caused! And then I heard that Canon Embery had fallen off his bike, breaking his wrist. Let us pray for his own steady and full recovery.Thank-you for your concern. I have received so many cards, prayers, messages, including a bottle of single malt (not vinegar), fruit, chocolate, ready-meals, jam, ginger-cake, cheese and more. I must confess it was almost worth it! And these ‘Lockdown days’ are ideal for recovery.No travel, few meetings, no visitors, no events. You could think there’s nothing to do, but then we remember that this is Eastertide, Jesus is risen. His disciples were being prepared to watch Him return home to the Father, then they must wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the birth of the Church.We are not waiting for the Spirit, unless we are not Confirmed of course. We live in the days of the Spirit, the final age before the return of Christ. In time Covid-19 and its tragic, bizarre consequences will be dealt with, and then will come new problems, whether at a personal, national or global level. There will always be something else.The Faith that is given to us raises our sights to new heights and hopes. It gives our hopes and even our griefs a particular direction in which to look, as if watching for the first rumour of dawn. As my own small personal effort to help find a way through these days I will continue to post a weekly 5 – 10 minute period of silent prayer on YouTube. It is nothing sensational or entertaining. You might even call it boring, but sometimes boring can be welcome!

 

It is simply an invitation for us to spend a short time in quiet prayer, no need for words, no need to apologise for distractions, no need for the right book, or to expect a precise answer – just you and me taking time/giving time to be with our risen Lord who knows our needs better than we know them ourselves. Delightfully simple.

With my blessing for you all, especially those in dark places,

 

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

 

Saint Joseph, the worker!

My dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!I can work the petrol mower, change a plug and light-bulb, mend a bicycle puncture, and even replace a flat tyre on the car, but I prefer to error the side of caution when it comes to specialised jobs. Some years ago in a different chapter of life, I had a problem with a brake-drum. The vehicle would only move in reverse. With no breakdown services available I managed to get back to the mission and mechanics by actually reversing for six miles. The problem was fixed quickly by an experienced man with the right tools, but I had a sore neck for weeks.Just after Easter the boiler here at Bishop’s House ‘went on the blink’. The ‘Lockdown’ was on by this stage, and I had dark thoughts of being without heat/hot water for goodness knows how long. Fortunately, the weather was clement, and my use of hot water is ‘modest’ (A parishioner in one of the out-stations once commented politely, ‘Father, you wash like a pigeon!’); there was no great crisis, but deep down I knew it would need seeing to, and I accepted it was well beyond my ability. I needed help. I know my limits.Saint Joseph is a well known and much loved Saint, husband of our Blessed Lady, step-father to Jesus. He is described as a good and up-right man. He taught Our Lord the trade of a carpenter. Saint Joseph has become greatly loved because of his role as Guardian of the Holy Family, Patron of tradesmen and artisans, and the Saint we pray to for a happy death. Let’s turn to him. Let’s use his skills.There is nothing morbid in this. He reminds us that a ‘good’ death is something we can all experience once we approach it with an active faith-life.Details of Saint Joseph’s own death aren’t recorded in the Gospels, although a tradition has been passed to us that he was blessed to die with Jesus and Mary by his side.Mary would know how to grieve with faith and profound love, equipping her to carry grief for many years without it becoming a paralysing burden. She would now be a single parent. Jesus would become the ‘man of the house’. Life would be profoundly changed for them.In these days we are constantly told to ‘Save lives’, and to ‘Protect our professional health-carers (NHS)’. We are aware that even the most skilled professionals, even when properly equipped, do not succeed in all cases. Sadly, loved ones die, and many die in circumstances that are distressing especially for family and friends, neighbours and colleagues who are unable to be present at the end. A difficult experience is made worse, and we carry the wounded memory for life.Let us learn to turn to St.Joseph the Worker, just as we look for the services of skilled professionals in other aspects of life, asking him to teach us and train us and guide us. We can ‘learn the trade’ of living with faith right up to that point when we will not need faith, because we will see, we will know. Our Catholic community has a valuable insight to offer to society at this time; the gift of believing in a loving God who has overcome sin and the power of death, and wants to welcome us into Paradise.Efforts to preserve life here matter very much. It’s not a case of telling the bereaved, ‘Never mind, there’s always heaven’. God calls us to live our lives with care and compassion in the here-and-now. He gives us each other. But ultimately, He calls us beyond this, to share the ultimate Victory, the Fulness of Life found only in Christ. Captain Tom at the age of 100 has stunned us with his fund-raising achievement, but the best still lies ahead of him. This created world has much to offer, but it runs out, it lets us down. St.Joseph reminds us that our loving God has more, and it’s better, and it will last.The difference a living faith can make was shown to me by an elderly parishioner whose wife had died. He had loved her dearly for many years and was heart-broken when she died. He was a very sad man. One day he appeared in the sacristy and was a changed man. I wondered if he had met someone else, but he explained with joy what had caused his transformation. He told me, ‘Father, up to now, each day was taking me further away from Marie. But suddenly I have realised and believe that each day that passes is actually bringing me closer to the moment I will be with her again!’ Then I understood that faith doesn’t just change death, it can change grief too.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, assist me in my last agony.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, may I sleep and take my rest in peace with you.
Happy St.Joseph’s day!

As ever in Christ,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

 

 

Save lives, yes, all lives!

Dear friends in the Risen Lord,

Welcome to the Bishop’s Blog!

I am delighted to have received a number of messages from individuals and groups around the Diocese crying out for our churches to be re-opened as soon as possible so that, please God, as restrictions begin to be relaxed, the Faithful will have opportunity to exercise their liberty and make their visits to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. Assuming that a prohibition on medium and large-sized gatherings will continue for some time, let us at least pray for this window of Grace to be opened for individuals and families.I am not exactly ‘at home’ with the wizardries of social media and IT but I accept it has its place as a servant of the Church and of the Gospel. My unbounded admiration goes out to those clergy and parishioners whose IT skills are helping to nourish faith during this ‘Lock-down’ period.As in all areas of life, wisdom and prudence and a certain discipline are needed if we are to avoid getting too carried away. The online experience should respect existing structures of Diocese and parish. We must be careful not to encourage people to ‘shop around’ for the experience they want at any particular time. It’s not a matter of having to ‘police’ people’s use of internet. Nor do I suggest we restrict ourselves from the benefits of what is on offer around the globe.I simply make the point that we should not abandon our local parish and diocesan loyalties. We could so easily enter into a competition to draw big crowds, and to be ‘a success’! Many of those who ‘follow’ us may often be drawn away from other parishes. It’s our own flock we need to have a care of first and foremost. We must also have a concern to draw to Christ those who have not yet known Him, or those who have strayed.Another point to keep clearly in mind is the large number of people, like me, who are slow to spend time with a computer or tablet. Others never even go near them. The online experience is only ‘one string to our bow’.Part of the Government’s current mantra is ‘save lives’. Official hospital death figures are moving towards 20,000. This figure is set to rise higher. Part of the distress being caused is the thought of vulnerable people dying alone, and then relatives and friends being denied the choice of how to mark their funeral.Across government and society generally we have seen commendable sensitivity and empathy towards those directly and indirectly affected. May such sensitivity grow to embrace a broader section of our communities, even more vulnerable, and being lost in much greater numbers.I am talking of those who are killed through the scandal of abortion. Since the 1967 Abortion Act they number almost 10,000,000. That is an average of 200,000 every year. Let us encourage a sense of proportion. Let us acknowledge this particular threat that continues to cause so many tragic deaths; no one there to hold their little hand as they are dying, no funeral allowed, no one to grieve for an innocent life lost.While society searches desperately for a vaccine for COVID-19, and whilst society accepts severe restrictions on personal liberties in order to ‘save lives’, why do we accept so easily this far more damaging threat to life? ‘Save lives’ is also a message for the NHS which is working so heroically to combat COVID-19. There seems to be a contradiction here somewhere when we remember that this new virus is not the only threat to life, and perhaps not the greatest threat to life in our times.What a travesty it would be if we were accused of posing a threat to life simply though choosing to go to church and pray.Christ is Risen, Alleluia! The victory is His.
Stay safe and well,
+Paul

Paul swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

The Rededication of England as the Dowry of Mary. 29th March 2020

My dear friends in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

In St.Peter’s Cathedral, Lancaster, on Sunday 29th March, I will formally take my part in the National Rededication of England as the Dowry of Mary. This will take place within the Mass Liturgy at 10.30am. Unfortunately, we do not have the facility to live-stream the occasion, but that will take nothing away from the relevance or efficacy of this act of piety.When the Bishops of England and Wales met in November 2017 and decided on this Re-dedication they could not possibly have envisaged the circumstances within which it would take place. That is possibly a very good thing because, if they had, they might well have been tempted to choose some other date when the country was less troubled.As it is, we are living at a time of national emergency within a global crisis. Our Catholic Faith is designed to cope with such times. When all around is utterly uncertain we fall back on the utter certainty of the Gospel, the Good News, the saving love of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. When we are anxious about ourselves and loved ones, and in many instances not even allowed to visit our aged parents, the priorities of life -what really matters to us – are made very clear.I see it as no coincidence that we make this act of Rededication now, in this way. God knew it would come, and Our Lord wanted us to be given again to His own Mother, ‘Woman, behold your child; child, behold your Mother.

’No ‘quick fix’ is expected. We are set to remain in these distressing times for a good while to come. We must adapt to a new way of living. We have been shaken, and continue to be tested. Mary re-assumes her prominence in the life of England, England’s Dowry, England’s true rose. Present to and with Her children we will come through this safely. Life may suffer, but eternal life is beyond the reach of CORVID-19.The Government advises us to ‘Stay at home; protect the NHS; save lives.’ Jesus instructs us, ‘Make your home in Me as I make My home in you.’ His home will always have Mary at its heart. We will willingly stay in this home.We will pray for all who form our wonderful NHS, commending them to the protection and prayers of our Blessed Lady. We will also be mindful of those who are of service to our spiritual well-being, parents, teachers, clergy and religious.We will dedicate ourselves to corporal works of mercy in order to enhance and protect lives, especially those most vulnerable, amongst whom we must count the unborn children. On top of this, we will dedicate ourselves to the spiritual works of mercy, making every effort to save souls, especially those in most need of God’s mercy.With my prayers and blessing at this time for all who read this message and stand in need of Grace.

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster.

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