The Bishop’s Blog: My Homily on the Solemnity of All Saints Day

 

My dear brothers and sisters,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

As in all things, the first voice we must listen for is Christ’s. Why? Because He knows. But, so often, His is not the first voice we hear. Others are louder, closer and more intense. Even so, we must ‘tune in’ to the voice of Jesus.This feast of All Saints is given to us as we in the northern hemisphere are moving into the winter. Nature is going to sleep, slowing down, changing its habits, its cloths. It appears to be dying. But notice – there is so much beauty in it! It is different from the beauty of summer, and that is a clue to a mystery, is a door opening to us. It is a servant of the Gospel too. The summer may have gone, but God hasn’t.All Saints. Happy forever! It seems far-fetched. All the jobs done, the list completed. It seems to us impossible. And yet, that is what God the Father wishes for you. That is what Jesus Christ came to tell us, and show us the way. That is what the Holy Spirit puts- within my reach.
This Feast must give us encouragement ….. and we all need plenty of that! Even Jesus needed that. What does encouragement do? It changes something inside us for the better. It is a beautiful thing to watch happen in a person’s life. It makes us not give up. It gives us hope for better times, for ourselves and for others.When I was a child growing up I learnt about the saints but I didn’t really know them. I knew stories about them and some I liked better than others. But I could never, imagine being with them. To be very honest, I don’t think I wanted to be. It was a bit like being told about heaven and I thought I don’t want to spend forever there-it’s like being in church ALL THE TIME! Fun?As I’ve grown older and thought about things more and learnt about what’s important and seen how people live, I’ve come to believe that we don’t need to know much about the details of heaven. Leave that to Jesus. He knows what is needed. He’s prepared a place for you. He’s not trying to keep us out because he knows your taste in music or that you like garlic or you have a weird sense of humor or you go to the wrong school. He wants you in!!

And remember the Good Thief. Imagine being a good thief! He stole a place in heaven right at the end-in the last minute of extra time.
Remember what he said: ‘we’ve done wrong: we know it. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom’. Remember what Jesus said: “Today you will be with me in paradise!”
Now we have to do a little risk assessment. The risks are these. We could miss out. 3 main ones.
1. We give up before we’ve even started. We don’t even try. St. Peter nearly did that when he said to Jesus: ‘Leave me Lord, I am a sinful man.’
2. Another risk is that we can’t be bothered. We are too busy with our own plans to fit in with anyone else. That happens a lot.
3. Another risk is to be careless. It’s like having a ticket for a pop concert but we forgot where we put it.
We cannot imagine eternal life, eternal happiness. We don’t have to. We just have to set our hearts on knowing Jesus and staying close to Him. Leave the rest to Him.

Sincerest good wishes and prayer,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

 

The Bishop’s Blog: Visits to the Eternal City and Remembering Three Great Pastors- Fr.Gerard Dunn,Fr. Jock Maley and Deacon Malcolm Green

Dear friends in Christ,

Welcome back to the Bishop’s Blog for this week!

What better moment to resurrect this Blog than on my return from a funeral? I first met Fr. Gerry Dunn in February 1982 in St. Edmund’s Parish, Carlisle. He had agreed to take me as a Deacon for the few months before ordination to the priesthood in July. Gerry was ordained the year I was born. How fitting that the year I was ordained Bishop Gerry should receive the ultimate vocation – to go to God.

He has left us with memories of a dedicated, prayerful, self – effacing priest who knew his duties and carried them out with a pleasantness and lightness of touch that always belied any sense of burden.
It was immediately after the Requiem Mass, in the refreshment stage, that one of his mourners asked if I was ever going to get round to re-start this Blog. I sense that it has Fr. Gerry’s blessing: I sense that he gave me his blessing.

Much has happened since my last Blog.Lourdes Pilgrimage, then August and my ‘keeping a low profile’. Then time out of the Diocese in September with two visits to the Eternal City, first on  a course for new Bishops, and second on the Ad Limina Apostolorum visit with the Bishops’ Conference. Both were powerful, moving and worth-while experiences.The first was rich in variety, putting a face to the Universal Church. How humbling and uplifting to meet Bishops from all over the world, to share their stories, to celebrate Mass with them and spend time before the Blessed Sacrament with them. Our Ad limina visit was altogether more intimate, conscious of the life of the Church in Lancaster and nationally. We had a beautiful two and a half hours audience with the Holy Father, Pope Francis, coming away strengthened in our service of the Lord.No sooner had I returned to Lancaster than I was off again, on the Diocesan Pilgrimage to Walsingham . This is its third year. Each year has seen our numbers increase. We took the Diocese of Lancaster to Our Lady of Walsingham.Since then we have laid to rest Deacon Malcolm Green and Fr. Jock Maley, both gone to receive their reward for their labours in the Lord’s vineyard. May they rest in peace. But it is back to Fr, Gerry Dunn now, and memories of his service as a priest of the Diocese. He was a great countryman with a keen eye for the lessons God gives us through the seasons and the beauty of nature.As we go deeper into Autumn, and the month of prayer for the Holy Souls may we be re- assured that the Lord is faithful.

God bless you all.

As ever in Christ,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

Bishop’s Blog: A Homily at Lourdes

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, fellow pilgrims, this morning look where our pilgrimage has brought us – we are at the very heart of Lourdes, in two senses. Firstly, because we are here at the Grotto, in the Grotto, a sacred place in which St.Bernadette, little more than a child, was privileged to behold the face of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She heard her speak, and was able to converse with her, here in this very place where you and I now stand. This is a sacred place. We must respect it. Let us take a moment of silence now to do just that.The second way in which we are at the heart of Lourdes is because we are gathered at Mass, privileged to hear God Himself speaking to us, privileged also to meet and welcome Jesus who wishes to enter into your own sacred place, your soul, and to remain with you that you may bear much fruit.The purpose of any Pilgrimage is to unite us more closely with our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. If this does not happen then even if we have had a good time our efforts have been wasted.But it is not easy to achieve this goal. You are far from home, and your usual habits and routines. You are engaged in activities here that you will leave behind in just a few days. How will you be changed? What progress can you sense in your personal journey into the life of God? We all need signs and reassurance because our Faith is often weak. At this morning’s Mass we are given great encouragement.St.Bernadette was chosen for a particular favour at a particular time. Dare I say that we too are chosen to be here today for a very special favour?It is not Mary that we will see but the object, the subject, of her own adoration, our Lord, Jesus Christ Himself. He will appear to us in just a very short time. He is the One Mary wanted St.Bernadette to see, to know, to love and to serve.

He is the one who, in a very short time, will appear, at that moment in the Mass when those beautiful words of His will be spoken,
Take this, all of you and eat of it,
For this is my Body
Which will be given up for you.Just as we have a purpose in our pilgrimage, just as our Blessed Lady had a purpose in coming to this Grotto, so Jesus has a purpose in coming to us. Do you want to know what His purpose is? It is this – He wishes to make His home in you, and that is not all. . . . He dares you to make your home in Him. To do that we have to trust Him. We must let Him enter our heart. To do that we must find the door to our heart, we must open it and welcome Him not as someone who has come to inspect and criticise and find fault. He comes to make His home within us not as a stranger but as a friend, a carer, a brother and a Saviour.When I first heard that we would be blessed to share this occasion with fellow pilgrims from Wales and Scotland I was tempted to try and think of a joke about an Englishman, a Scotsman and a Welshman. Then it got even better and we were joined by the Irish pilgrims! Thankfully I could not think of a joke. And let us reflect, this is neither the place nor the occasion for jokes; there is too much in our lives and our world in need of serious attention, too much that is damaged, too much to put right. Let our jokes be for another occasion and another place. Rather, whilst we are in this sacred Grotto of Lourdes, let us call to mind another grotto hewn in the rock, the tomb of Christ, the tomb from which He rose from the dead so that He could meet us here, enter into us, and make His home with us.We are people of faith even if we are still sinners. We have been given wonderful people to inspire us, not only our Blessed Lady herself, St.Bernadette, St.Bridget of Sweden, our own national and local saints. Each of us can call to mind certain individuals we have in a sense been ‘given’. They are known to you and have been part of your life’s journey. Probably, some may have gone. But one grace of any pilgrimage is to be given new companions whose stories and example somehow lift us, and help us know the love of Jesus, at home in us, bearing good fruit in our lives..
Let us be encouraged here at the Grotto of St.Bernadette on this beautiful July morning, whatever burdens we face or carry. Let us be closer to God because we are here in this sacred place, and because we know He has created that other sacred place where He longs and loves to be, the soul of each of us. Let us know the closeness of the Holy One. That is the purpose and goal of our pilgrimage, and now it is so close . . . .It is the desire of St. Bernadette that we share the joy she found.
It is the desire of our Blessed Lady that we know the joy of life with her Son.
It is the desire of the heart of each of us to welcome Jesus in the home that lies within, and to find our home within His Heart.

It is the miracle of Lourdes that, so far from home we find our true home with our true Lord.

With every good wishes and prayers for the week ahead,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

 

Bishop’s Blog: Feast of Eight Lancashire Martyrs

Dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome to the Bishop’s BlogI’m actually cheating by writing this one on the 19th July, a day before we set off on the Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes. Today in the Liturgical calendar we celebrate the witness of eight Lancashire martyrs, Saint John Plessington, Saint John Wall O.F.M., Blessed Thomas Cottam S.J., William Harcourt S.J., William Marsden, George Haydock, John Sandys and George Beesley. St.John Plessington was from Garstang. On my coat-of arms I included the martyr’s palm in memory of him, my fellow Garstonian.

Few properties in the town date back to his era, but he would have known the river Wyre, the familiar outline of the Bleasdale fells to the east, the woods and brooks of Barnacre, the site of the distant Lakeland hills seen to the north – on a clear day – from the top of Bowgreave.
His birthplace, Dimples Hall, still stands although much altered. As a child no doubt he attended Mass locally as and when it was safe and available. It came to mean something deep to him. He learnt its value and eventually gained courage to become a priest so that the Mass might be offered and Christ might be worshipped and others might discover the love of God that overcomes all our sins and woes. What a marvellous moment it is when we bow our heads before the Lord and find that He raises us to Glory!Lourdes is a much younger tradition, dating from the mid 19th century and so wasn’t on the pilgrimage map for our local martyrs. But Ladyewell was, and Holy Well was as well as other local shrines perhaps including the ruined monasteries. The Adoremus congress in September will borrow various items from the Diocese closely associated with the martyrs. (I hope we get them back!) Some time ago the BBC put a fascinating programme on Radio 4 entitled A History of the world in 100 objects, presented by Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum.What a challenge it would be to produce a history of a parish or a school or of the Diocese in 100 objects (and you could include places, and views and sounds perhaps. . . . . the imagination could run riot!)

May God bless you all

As ever in Christ,+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

Bishop’s Blog: Our Diocesan Family MATTERS

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Welcome to this week’s Blog!

The first meeting with the new Council of priests, the Diocesan Pilgrimage to Fernyhalgh, a visit to The Sisters at Hyning monastery, the annual Mass celebrated in memory of Blessed Edward Bamber with a very pleasant gathering at St.Winifrede’s, Bispham, interviews of applicants for the permanent Diaconate, a day of recollection for and with the priests, and all the bits and pieces in-between.

One elderly priest in the seminary advised us to try to avoid being known as ‘busy’ priests. His point was that if people saw us as always so busy they’d feel less able to approach us. Transfer that to the world of the family. Try not to be known as a busy parent, otherwise your little ones will perhaps fear you don’t have time for them. However, the danger is that if you aren’t busy people may think you are lazy, leaving it all for others to do. You can’t win can you!

We know the story of Martha and Mary. We also know that our God gave us a commandment to rest regularly. Try it . . . without feeling guilt.One of the joys of getting around for the various celebrations and events is simply finding time to meet parishioners and school-children, and whoever. Our parishes and schools rely on a vast amount of goodwill and personal sacrifice. Even those in paid employment often go much further than simply doing their duty. It is humbling to sense the motivation and prayer underlying so much goodness happening so quietly around us. Thank-you for showing the world evidence of the Lord’s presence, particularly when it involves getting dirty or hurt or misunderstood. Thank-you for remaining faithful when it is inconvenient or uncomfortable. That is when it most closely mirrors the love Christ has shown us.

May God bless you all.

As ever in Christ,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

 

 

The Bishop’s Blog: Be Still for the Holy One is Here.

Hello dear friends in Jesus Christ,

This week’s the  Bishop’s Blog reaches out with a reflection on Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament!Soon the schools will be closed for the summer. We have already had what seems an over-dose of beautiful weather. Can there be more to come? Will it fit our plans? We are free to speculate. Removed from all our uncertainties and speculating is the utter certainty of the Lord’s intimate affection for us, and His desire to draw us back, deeper into the heart of the Father. Jesus has given us the way to follow. Through the centuries His disciples have constantly and consistently found that way in the Eucharist.In September, in Liverpool, during the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage and Congress, the Catholic Church of England and Wales will give public witness to our core belief that Jesus is present with us, to us, and for us, in the Blessed Sacrament.Our Faith can seem to ask many things of us. It can be natural to be overwhelmed at times by a sense of inadequacy or frustration or even loss of heart. Again and again we come back into the presence of Jesus, and slow down and simply sit or knee, and slow down some more, and wait and listen and break through that temptation to try and sort everything out ourselves. We surrender all to Him, and allow Him to slow us down even more, to the point where we don’t need to fight or strain anymore. We abandon hope of achieving peace because we have found the One who is our peace.Pope Francis recently wrote, ‘An essential condition for growth in discernment is a growing understanding of God’s patience and God’s timetable, which are never our own.’ (Gaudete et Exultate on the call to holiness in today’s world. para 174) A lesson I am forever having to re-learn is how I must have confidence that the Lord knows what He is doing. As I visit and meet and listen it is clear that many of you know this better than I do. Thank-you. Let us pray for the success of the National Eucharistic Congress in September.

Until next week -we pray for each other.

As ever in Christ,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

 

 

Bishop’s Blog: Different in Gifts United in Christ

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!
The great solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul saw me back in the Cathedral for a midday Mass celebrated with parishioners and the Cathedral school of St.Peter’s. Time was limited but Mass was not rushed. How blessed we are with the example of these two great Saints standing not as individuals but as men united in a common purpose, able to agree to work together for the sake of Christ’s Gospel. Note their different characters, strengths and weaknesses, styles and out-looks. What a joy it is to appreciate that there is room amongst the disciples of Jesus for such diversity. His followers take many forms brought together for one mission, that Jesus Christ may be known and welcomed, worshipped and followed as Son of God who gave Himself up for our salvation.Following Mass we were treated to a feast in the school grounds. Pupils, teachers, parents and parishioners indulged in burgers and ice-cream! What could we do but cancel the rest of the day?! Thank-you to all who worked to make it happen. Let’s remember and celebrate our Saints!On Saturday there was a Mass celebrated at St.Bernadette’s, Lancaster, gathering together many of those preparing to go on the Diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes. Following Mass we took refreshments and mingled. Nothing happened to ‘put me off’! We have a rich assortment of humanity blessed with Faith. The Pilgrimage itself must take a considerable amount of time and effort to organise, and relies on a great deal of good-will. The purpose of the Pilgrimage goes far beyond being a social event. It aims at helping us follow Jesus more closely and more generously. May it be an occasion of Grace for the Pilgrims, the Diocese and for all those we pray for.Mindful of Father Sony’s return to India at short notice to attend his mother’s funeral, over the weekend I offered to cover his Masses at Claughton and Goosnargh. I appreciate that ‘fuss’ has its place, but it was a delight to pretend for a short time that I was ‘just a priest in a parish’ What a beautiful vocation.Fr.John Moriarty and Castlerigg had invited me to celebrate Mass and join the out-going gap year workers for lunch on Monday. Time goes so quickly. Where was I this time last year? Where will I be a year from now? We paused to give thanks to God for the past year, with all the good that has been done. The life of each person who has been on a Castlerigg course is special to the Lord, and these young people have been part of His blessing for them. Thank-you to all of you who have served at the Manor during this past year. May the Lord bless each of you with the gift of strangers further along your way of life, just as you have been there for others.
Then there was the rest of the week . . . . . .personal conversations, surprise encounters with old friends, the odd bike ride as opportunity permits, the steady rhythm of prayer and Mass, a significant birthday (and cake!), and of course Meetings! Please God, this is part of our way to heaven.With every good wishes and prayers from the Diocese of Lancaster,

+ Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster