Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Catholic Writers' Guild

There are many notable authors whose work has been inspired or informed by their Christian faith; examples include C. S. Lewis, Evelyn Waugh and G. K. Chesterton (pictured). Today the Cathedral plays host to some of today's Catholic writers in a private event for the Catholic Writers' Guild. Bishop Patrick will speak to them at a meeting this evening. The website of the Catholic Writers' Guild can be found here.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Faith and Philosophy

The Church has always been given great thinkers, those who can deepen our understanding of God and help to explain or defend it in difficult times. Amongst the greatest of these is St Augustine of Hippo (354-430AD), pictured above. Over the next few weeks the Cathedral is offering local young people the chance to learn about their insights in a series of sessions entitled 'Faith and Philosophy'. Four early evening meetings will explore themes such as arguments surrounding the existence of God, science and religion and the relationship between knowledge and belief. The sessions have been advertised through local sixth form colleges, but are open to anyone who is around sixth-form age. More details can be found on a poster, available in pdf form here, or email: thinkers@lancastercathedral.org.uk.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Two sides of the same story

Yesterday the remaining pipes and soundboards were taken from the Swell department of the organ, marking the beginning of the last major stage of this huge restoration project. From the outside this side of the organ looks no different (see above). The 'pipes' on the outside are actually dummies; inside it is an empty shell. The parts have been taken to Liverpool for restoration at the Henry Willis & Sons workshop; updates may be seen here.

On the other side, the restored pipes are now being put back in place as work on this part of the organ nears completion. Here the external pipes are actually part of the organ, and will be replaced when the internal work is complete. There is then a 'settling-in' period to be observed and a fair amount of testing to be done, but the bulk of the work here is over.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Curious about the Eucharist?

Tonight we begin a season of talks on the Eucharist, the latest in the Cathedral's 'Curious about?' series of catechesis. The programme is structured around Pope Benedict's document Sacramentum Caritatis ('Sacrament of Charity'). Mirroring the structure of that document, it is divided into three sections: a mystery to be believed (examining the Church's faith in the Eucharist), a mystery to be celebrated (looking at how we celebrate Mass and what the elements of the Mass mean), a mystery to be lived (exploring how the Eucharist both compels and strengthens us to live lives of love). All the talks are free and open to everyone; they take place on Tuesday evenings in St Walburga's (the Cathedral 'day chapel', accessed from Balmoral Road). There are six talks before Christmas, four in Lent and four in Eastertide. More information can be found here, or download in pdf format the poster here or flyer here.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Wecloming Students

These days the city is home to two universities: Lancaster University and the University of Cumbria. Students form a fairly high percentage of Lancaster's population during term time, with many living in the city centre, though the majority live on campus. Last night the Cathedral held its annual 'welcome meal' for students, marking the start of the academic year.

A great number of students from many parts of the world came along to the meal, which was prepared and served by members of the parish 'Impact' group. The Impact group meets fortnightly and gives young parishioners the chance to do practical work to support the Church and those in need. Alongside the students we were joined by the Lancaster University chaplaincy team: Fr Hugh Pollock, Sr Ella Flynn and Rev. Jim Wood, our own Cathedral deacon.

Students are well supported by chaplaincy services at both universities; the Cathedral works alongside the chaplaincies to welcome and support students, particularly those who live in the city itself. Students (even those only here for a brief period) are very welcome to get involved in parish life: for more about what we offer students, click here.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Blessed Louis and Zélie Martin

This morning Louis and Zélie Martin, parents of St Thérèse, will be beatified at a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins at the Basilica in Lisieux. It is the first time in history that a married couple have been beatified together, and the first time that the parents of a saint have been beatified. Beatification is the last stage en route to being recognised as a saint of the Church.

It would be all too easy to think that the couple are to be beatified simply because of the celebrated holiness of their daughter. The truth is, however, that both Louis and Zélie were models of holiness. Both considered the religious life, but God's plan for them was somewhat different. He was a clockmaker, she made lace. They were married in 1858 and went on to have nine children, though only five survived infancy. Their youngest daughter, Thérèse, was canonised in 1925; by this time there was much interest in her profound spiritual writings. As these writings contained many memories of family life, they prompted greater interest in all the Martins. Thérèse's words, combined with the witnesses of her sisters and others, led to the consideration of Louis and Zélie Martin for sainthood.

In Lisieux itself there is much interest in the beatification. Flyers, such as the one above, are widely available...

...while even the town notice boards advertise the event alongside concerts, festivals and even car rallies.

For the last fifty years the bodies of Louis and Zélie Martin have rested in a garden behind the Basilica in Lisieux. Recently they were removed and will now be placed in the crypt of the Basilica for veneration by those who visit the shrine.

A small plaque marks the spot. Thérèse herself said of her parents, "God has given me a mother and father more worthy of heaven than of earth". Although only 24 when she died, Thérèse had already lost both her parents: Zélie died of breast cancer when Thérèse was just four, and Louis died in 1894.

The names of Louis and Zélie are still to be found around the town of Lisieux, for example in this pilgrim hostel near the Basilica.

This image of them is taken from an exhibition about their family which was recently staged in the town. Their beatification today is a strong reminder of the importance of family life, and this will be recognised when the relics of St Thérèse come to the Cathedral next September. More details of that visit can be found here, and more on the beatification of her parents can be found here.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

The Union of Catholic Mothers

The Cathedral often plays host to groups from around the Diocese. Recently the Society of St Vincent de Paul came for their Annual General Meeting; today it was the turn of the Union of Catholic Mothers (UCM). The UCM is national organisation but works very much at a local level, allowing women to meet together within parishes, to support each other and to strengthen family life by their prayers and their work. Today UCM members from across the Diocese spent the day at the Cathedral, holding their annual meeting, attending Mass and enjoying a lunch prepared by Cathedral parishioners. Apparently a good day was had by all! The national website of the UCM can be found here.

Feast of St Luke

Today the Church celebrates the feast of St Luke. Luke wrote over a quarter of the New Testament, his work being contained in two volumes: his account of the Gospel and his account of the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles. He is often represented in symbolic form by a winged ox; the image here is taken from the Cathedral's 'Te Deum' window, which contains the symbols of all four evangelists. Many of the best-loved passages of the New Testament are owed to Luke's writings, including the accounts of the Annunciation and Visitation, some details of the birth of Jesus, some parables including the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son, the story of the road to Emmaus and the accounts of the Ascension and Pentecost day. As we celebrate his feast we thank God for the revelation He has given us in the work of St Luke.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

A Universal Faith

One of the great joys of being Catholic is that it draws us into a worldwide community of faith. Throughout the world hundreds of millions of people come together each Sunday to hear the same readings and pray the same prayers, in their own language or in the languages of the Church's liturgy. Earlier this week we were sent these pictures from a church in a village in Slovakia, in response to the recent posting showing Exposition on the day of the Dedication (see here). All the elements are recognisable: our faith and its symbols know no territorial boundaries. Thanks to Maria for sending these pictures to us.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

New Diocesan Website

Yesterday the Diocese relaunched its website. The new site has a smart new look and many new features. Alongside information about the Diocese visitors can also read the latest news and find our more about the Catholic faith. There are also a number of links to other websites within the Diocese, including (of course!) the Cathedral. The site can be found at a new address: www.lancasterdiocese.org.uk, and is also accessible from the links to the right of this page.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Inside the organ

In days of persecution priests would hide in small 'priest holes' hidden behind walls, so as to escape being caught by the authorities. The conditions were cramped and often priests would remain there for days or even weeks. Today Fr Andrew got the opportunity to try something similiar (albeit in a much less threatening environment), with a visit to the very cramped interior of the Cathedral organ.

The ongoing restoration programme has seen a number of significant moments over the last few weeks. The wind has been reconnected and last week the organ made its first sound in well over a year. There is still much to do, but the progress is encouraging. Today another milestone: the first pipes were taken from the Swell, to be sent to Liverpool for restoration. The holes in the soundboard mark the spots from where the first few pipes have now been taken. Each is labelled and wrapped ready for the journey to the workshop. The picture above also shows just how much cleaning is required, and how cramped the conditions are - the wooden plank in the centre is the only place for the organ builder to stand as he works.

Looking out through some of the larger pipes in the organ case, a variety of tools can be seen. Also visible is a test console, which is due to be linked up to the Great organ in order to check that everything is in working order. Over the next fortnight or so all of the pipes on the Great and Pedal departments are due to be reinstalled and the pipes and soundboards on the other side will be taken for restoration. It will still be some time before the organ is up and running, but it will certainly be worth the wait. The work is being carried out by Willis and Sons (Liverpool) - click here for more.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Hedy Epstein

Last night a sizeable crowd came to the Cathedral to hear a talk given by Hedy Epstein. Hedy grew up in Nazi Germany but survived the horror of the Holocaust. Now she campaigns for justice for the Palestinian people. Her talk, one of several she is giving in the UK during her visit, was followed by an opportunity for questions.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

In memory of Mgr B. K. O'Neill

Last weekend, to mark the feast of the Dedication of the Cathedral, we were given this grand piano by Mr Frank Watson. It is the work of the famous German piano makers Bechstein, and we are delighted by this gift. The piano is given in memory of Monsignor B. K. O'Neill, a former priest and Vicar General of this Diocese, who died in 1985. May he rest in peace.

Friday, 10 October 2008

A word from the Pope

A couple of weeks ago Bishop Campbell was in Rome, taking part in a meeting for newly-ordained bishops from all around the world. As part of the meeting he had an opportunity to meet Pope Benedict. The Holy Father asked him who he was and where he was from. The Bishop replied by introducing himself as Bishop Michael Campbell from Lancaster, to which the Pope said, "Send my greetings to everyone there." Each bishop must visit the Pope every five years, so that the Holy Father receives regular updates from the Church across the world. It is wonderful to know that, however briefly, his thoughts and prayers were with the people of our own Diocese of Lancaster. Bishop Campbell told the story of his meeting on a recent visit to the Cathedral Primary School; a report on the visit can be seen here.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

The Eucharist: an exhibition

Last weekend, in the midst of all the Dedication celebrations, we launched a new mini-exhibition on the Eucharist. The display is part of the Cathedral's catechetical programme 'Curious about the Eucharist?', which begins this month and runs until next June.

This small exhibition is held in 'Inspire', the Cathedral's exhibition space under the bell tower. Various objects associated with the Eucharist are on display, and there are backlit information panels with images and quotations from Scripture.

There are a number of information panels around the Cathedral. At each point (and in this display) the aim is not simply to provide information as at a museum; rather, the displays should inform while also leading people to better understand our Catholic faith. These exhibits are not museum pieces but reminders of the living faith for which the Cathedral exists. Here, for example, the information alongside the chalice and paten speaks of the Church's faith in Christ's Eucharistic presence.

Alongside this display the 'Curious about the Eucharist' programme will feature fourteen free talks (Tuesday evenings, beginning 21st October), weekly reflections on the Cathedral newsletter, booklets and leaflets being made available and a chance to visit the sacristy to learn more about the significance of the vestments and vessels used at Mass. People from outside the parish are very welcome to come along. For more information on the talks, click here. The whole programme will conclude with the 40 Hours Exposition and the feast of Corpus Christi next June.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

The Month of the Rosary

October is traditionally the month of the Rosary, and the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary was celebrated yesterday. This wonderful prayer is often misunderstood; esentially it is a prayer of meditation, inviting those who pray to reflect on the mysteries of Jesus' life and the role of Mary in God's plan of salvation. St Luke's gospel tells us in several places that Mary 'pondered' the events of Jesus' life in her heart. In her we see an image of someone who thought deeply about God's action in the world, someone who considered what the events of Jesus' life on earth mean for us. The Rosary invites us to join her in pondering the same mysteries, revisiting them again and again so that we may appreciate them more fully. The Rosary is prayed publicly in the Cathedral every Sunday at 4pm; there are leaflets available at the back of the church explaining how it is prayed. Children and staff at the Cathedral Primary School are also making a special effort to pray the Rosary this month, as can be seen here.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Vespers of the Dedication

Every Sunday Vespers - the evening prayer of the Church - is sung in the Cathedral. For the feast of the Dedication, Vespers was celebrated with added solemnity.

After the morning Mass the sanctuary was transformed to make it ready for Vespers. The Cathedral looked particularly fine on Sunday - the sun put in an appearance, giving the church a even brighter feel. The new banners hanging behind the sanctuary were used for the first time at this feast; their vibrant colours complimenting the surroundings.

At 4pm the Rosary was prayed, as it is each Sunday, with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. After the Rosary there was time for private prayer in Christ's presence, before Vespers began at 4:40pm.

It was wonderful to see so many people come for Vespers. Bishop O'Donoghue presided at the liturgy, with Bishop Campbell and some of the Canons in choir. Canon Stephen and Fr Andrew acted as cantors, leading the singing of the psalms and canticles, with the congregation also in good voice.

At the end of Vespers there was Benediction; here the assembled people received God's blessing as the day's celebrations drew to a close.

In the Cathedral library after Vespers, the Bishops again had the chance to meet some of the people who had come together for prayer. Vespers is celebrated with Benediction every Sunday at 4:40pm; everyone is welcome to attend.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Mass of the Dedication

Yesterday was the feast of the Dedication of the Cathedral, the annual celebration of the day when St Peter's was first consecrated as a house of prayer. The main celebration was at 10:30am Mass.

A large congregation joined our Bishops and the Cathedral clergy for the Mass. Fr Robert Billing, the Bishops' Secretary, also concelebrated.

After the Gospel, Bishop O'Donoghue blessed the people with the Gospel book. This gesture is a symbolic prayer, asking that God may bless us as we listen to His Word; it also reminds us of the sacredness of Scripture.

Bishop Campbell preached at Mass and at Vespers during the afternoon. At Mass he reminded us that the Cathedral only comes to life through the presence of God's people, who are united with Christ as living stones, making a spiritual house (cf. 1 Peter 2:5). On this point he quoted the words of St Augustine: "This is the house of our prayers; we ourselves are the house of God." He also spoke of the witness of the Lancaster Martyrs, saying, "By their martyrdom for the faith of Christ they have passed on to us a precious inheritance which we must not squander." The full text of Bishop Campbell's homilies for Mass and Vespers can be viewed in pdf format, click here.

Children from the Cathedral Primary School played an important part, welcoming people, serving at Mass and reading the intercessions. Here some of the children can be seen bringing forward the bread and wine and presenting them to Bishop O'Donoghue.

Mass is celebrated on this altar every day, as the Eucharist is the centre of the Church's life. When the Cathedral was consecrated on 4th October 1859, it was given to God as a place where this sacrifice and the prayers of God's people would be offered. The celebration of Mass on this feast invites us all to renew our own dedication to the Lord.

This year it was a particular joy that both our Bishops were able to be present. The Cathedral is the church of the diocesan Bishop - technically it is he (not the Dean) who is the parish priest. The presence of our Bishops reminds us of the role the Cathedral plays not just as a parish church, but as a spiritual home for all the people of the Diocese.

As the procession left the Cathedral at the end of Mass, a new year in the life of the Cathedral began. Now St Peter's begins its 150th year as a house of God- many celebrations are planned to mark the 150th anniversary in 2009.

The Mass was also notable because it was the first time that Bishop Campbell has been at the Cathedral for a Sunday Mass. Afterwards he was able to meet many of the parishioners before going to the Social Centre for the parish lunch, laid on by a dedicated team of volunteers. Tomorrow the Blog takes a look back at Vespers of the feast.