Sunday, 30 November 2008

First Sunday of Advent

The first candle of the Advent wreath is lit, and a new litrugical year has begun. It's tempting to see the Advent wreath as a sort of 'countdown to Christmas', but this misses the meaning of the season. Advent is not just about preparing for the great feast of the Lord's birth; it is really an invitation to prepare for the second coming of Christ, and to make ourselves better prepared for all the ways in which we meet God in our day-to-day lives.

It's a fairly chilly start to the new year, with Lancaster's temperature seemingly a little below freezing point today!

The west side of Cathedral House, still in shadow this morning, very definitely proclaims that winter is here. The season brings its own beauty, however, as can be seen below. Perhaps the long shadows of winter - and the Advent wreath - remind us of the great theme of Advent: the rising light of Christ, the coming of the One who 'visits us like the dawn from on High' (Lk. 1:78).

Saturday, 29 November 2008

A new look for a new year

As the season of Advent starts, a new Church year also begins. For the Cathedral it is our 150th, and will be marked by an array of events. The parish newsletter has a revised look as the 150th year gets underway. The front page is pictures above; the full version of the newsletter, updated weekly, can be seen in pdf format here.

The Cathedral's website has also been updated, with a new-look front page and a revised 150th section. Blog readers (at least those who dislike change!) will be pleased to find that the format remains unaltered, aside from the 150th logo appearing on the right hand side beneath the 'blog archive'. There's also some good news for Blog readers with an interest in history. Running throughout 2009 there will be an 'historical blog' featuring old pictures and reports of events at the Cathedral in bygone years. It's called 'Billington's Blog', in homage to Canon Billington, who wrote the original parish history (published 1910), and will launch in January. We'll post the new blog's address with a reminder nearer the time.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Homemade Craft Fair

Today we feature a couple of images from our annual Craft Fair, which took place a week ago. Many local artists and craftspeople had stalls at the fair, which was advertised as part of Autumn our events series. As last year, the fair was a great success, with a good number of visitors, many of whom managed to do some early Christmas shopping. Keep an eye out for next November's date - if you're in the Lancaster area it's well worth coming along.

Monday, 24 November 2008

An appeal for help

Now for something completely different! The Cathedral is a magnificent building and many people comment on how attractive it is. Much work goes on behind the scenes to ensure that it is worthy of its name, and barely a week goes by without some maintenance or repair work taking place. On the Blog we normally try to show images of the Cathedral at its best; today, however, we highlight some of the areas needing attention, as part of a drive to make the church look at its best for next year's 150th anniversary.

There are now a number of places where paint is peeling fairly badly. This image is from the north transept, which is now in need of complete repainting. The south transept was repainted a few years ago, but the cost - as a result of the need for scaffolding - runs into many thousands of pounds.

It is a particular shame that the Lady Chapel has suffered - the peeling paint here detracts from the fine decoration elsewhere in the chapel.

The height of the Cathedral poses particular problems with funding repair work. Here one of the chandeliers is out as a result of some electrical problems. Unfortunately the work requires scaffolding; it is hoped that the repair will be carried out over the next few days, but there will be a hefty bill.

Around the apse there are some very rare - perhaps even unique - paintings. Their interest lies in the fact that they are painted on linoleum, which was manufactured locally in the nineteenth century. A conservation expert who visited the Cathedral some time ago was unsure of how restoration work might be done, but the need, as can be seen in this picture, is very urgent.

Some of the stained glass windows also need attention. On this window (again, at a considerable height) there is a hole just above and to the right of the head. Although the Cathedral is structurally very sound, the work that needs to be done is always greater than our financial means allow. Hopefully at least some of these areas of work can be completed before the anniversary next year. From today visitors to the Cathedral's website can make donations online, so that those who cannot be physically present but support the Cathedral's work may offer help as we seek to make this House of God ever more worthy of His presence. If you'd like to know more about helping the Cathedral, or would like to make a donation, please click here.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King

On this, the last Sunday of the Church's year, we celebrate the feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King. Christ is the King who reigns from the cross; crowned with thorns, He shows His sovereignty not by oppression but by giving His life for His people. This image is taken from the Cathedral's window of the English martyrs. It shows Christ, King of Martyrs, crowned with thorns and yet reigning in glory.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Father Andrew Dawson

Our warmest congratulations and good wishes go to Fr Andrew Dawson, who was ordained to the priesthood in the Cathedral this afternoon. A large number of priests and people were present to mark this joyful day in the life of the Diocese. Fr Andrew is currently based at St Mary's parish, Cleator, where he will preside at Mass for the first time tomorrow. The pictures show Fr Andrew giving his first blessings - a tradition for newly-ordained priests - after the ordination Mass.

Saint Cecilia, patroness of musicians

Our man in Rome sends us these pictures, taken today at the church of St Cecilia in Trastevere. A church dedicated to Cecilia has existed on this site since the fifth century. She is one of the early Roman martyrs, and patron saint of musicians.

Inside the church the shrine is decorated for her feast, with pilgrims visiting and praying there.

Music is extremely important in the life of the church, and especially in the life of cathedrals. More about Lancaster Cathedral's music provision can be found on the main website, click here. Meanwhile, today's feast is an occasion of particular rejoicing: this afternoon Rev. Andrew Dawson will be ordained priest in the Cathedral. There are also two priets being ordained today at Westminster Cathedral - all in all, a good day for the Church in England. Please keep them in your prayers. Ad multos annos!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Real and Virtual Visitors

The Cathedral welcomes an ever-growing number of visitors through its doors. Tourists, people coming in to pray or light a candle, parish and school groups form a steady stream of non-parishioners passing through the doors. In the last week or so there have been eductaional tours for a whole school - Dean Gibson Primary School, Kendal - and a catechetical tour for confirmation candidates from St Augustine's, Carlisle, the most northerly parish of the Diocese. For those who can't physically get here, the Blog today draws attention to a couple of features of the Cathedral's website - the guide (click here) and the 'virtual tour' (pictured).

This virtual tour was produced by a company called ipix photos, and is hosted on their website. Visitors can select a part of the Cathedral (from the 'select and go' box below the image) and then pan around, looking up or down using the mouse. The tour was produced a number of years ago - it is not new! However, with an ever-growing number of people visiting the Cathedral's website and blog, it seems good to highlight this feature for those who cannot physically get here. The virtual tour can be found by clicking here.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Quo Vadis? Considering the priesthood?

This image, taken from one of the Cathedral's windows, shows an event which tradition recalls taking place near the end of St Peter's life. Fleeing Rome fearing execution, Peter meets the Lord on the road. "Quo vadis, Domine?" - "Where are you going, Lord?", he asks. Jesus tells him: "I'm going to Rome to be crucified again." At this point Peter's faith and courage are restored and he returns to Rome where he is put to death. Now the Diocesan Vocations Service is putting the same question: "Where are you going?" to some of the young men of our Diocese, with a day called 'Quo Vadis?' taking place at the Cathedral on 6th December, 10:30am-4pm. The day is for any man (minimum 17 years old) who is considering becoming a priest. It's a chance to meet some of our seminarians, ask questions and pray together. If you're interested, please call the Vocations Director, Fr Manny Gribben, on 01946 810324 or email

Friday, 14 November 2008

The Cost of Making Music

In the midst of a season featuring a number of orchestral concerts, the Cathedral tonight hosted a concert featuring just two musicians: acclaimed cellist Jamie Walton and concert pianist Daniel Grimwood.

The pair, who frequently work together, gave a stunning performance of works by Chopin and Rachmaninov. Something of a talking point has been the cost of the cello - apparently it is worth an amazing £890,000! It is surely a relief now that it is off the Cathedral premises, but hopefully Jamie and Daniel will return to give further performances here in the future.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

2009 Diocesan Directory

Earlier this week the Cathedral took delivery of our parish copies of the 2009 Diocesan Directory. The directory gives information about parishes, clergy and agencies of the Lancaster Diocese. This year's cover features a picture of our two Bishops outside the Cathedral, while inside there is an article marking the Cathedral's 150th anniversary. It is an early marker for the great events planned for next year - keep an eye on the blog over the next few weeks for full details of our 150th celebrations. Copies of the Diocesan Directory are on sale in parishes throughout the Diocese from this weekend.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Life Appeal

Over the weekend Masses the Cathedral parish held an appeal for Life, a charity which works to promote the value and dignity of human life from conception to natural end. A speaker at the end of each Mass talked briefly about the four main areas of Life's work: caring (consisting of non-judgemental counselling for pregnant women and for women who have had an abortion, plus help and financial support for families with young children), education (discussing life issues in schools), housing (providing accommodation for pregnant women and those with small children) and fertility (helping couples to conceive by natural methods). The appeal was designed to raise interest in and funds for a new local Life group and a centre which is being established in Morecambe early next year. The appeal raised over £450, and there is a further opportunity to learn about the work of Life at a meeting in the Diocesan Pastoral Centre (next to the Cathedral on Balmoral Road) this Thursday at 7pm. More about Life can be found on their website, here.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

The Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

Today the universal Church celebrates the feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, the Cathedral Church of Rome (and therefore, in a certain sense, the Cathedral Church of the World). It is also Remembrance Sunday, when we pray for those who have died in conflict. The feast of the Lateran Basilica reminds us of our worldwide communion, the faith of the Church united with the Pope across all ages and in all places. May our prayers today bring eternal rest to those who have died in war and may they bring a greater peace and unity to our world.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Mozart's Requiem

Last Sunday we welcomed back the excellent Skipton Camerata, who came to perform Mozart's Requiem. This popular work drew a good audience, and the performance certainly did not disappoint them. The work was chosen to conincide with the commemoration of All Souls on Monday, and the beginning of this month of prayer for the dead. Although these large musical Mass settings no longer have any place in the Church's liturgy, it still seems right that they be performed at the appropriate time of year.

The camerata were joined by the Leeds University Liturgical Choir, who gave a stunning performance. The Skipton Camerata perform regularly at the Cathedral (next concert 6th February 2009); hopefully the choir will soon be back as well. The next big choir to perform is the Lancaster Singers, performing Handel's Messiah on 29th November at 8pm.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

All Saints' Day Vespers

Today and tomorrow the Blog takes a look back at the weekend, beginning with some pictures of Vespers for All Saints' Day. The combination of the feast day and some visiting clergy gave us the chance to celebrate Vespers with extra solemnity.

Rt Rev. Geoffrey Jarrett, Bishop of Lismore, Australia (mentioned in yesterday's post) presided at the liturgy, with our own Bishop O'Donoghue in choir. Bishop Jarrett left the Cathedral this morning after a few days with us; more information about him and his diocese can be found on their website, click here. Deacon Andrew Dawson, who is to be ordained to the priesthood here in a couple of weeks, was also passing through and agreed to help out. He is sat to the right of Bishop Jarrett, while our own deacon, Jim Wood, is nearest the camera.

As the feast celebrated the Communion of Saints, it seemed appropriate that we were led by a bishop from far distant lands - a reminder of the communion of the universal Church.

As takes place every Sunday, Vespers ended with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Having sung God's praise in the psalms and canticles, it is the Lord Himself who gives us His blessing as we go on our way.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

November Chapter Mass

The Cathedral's Chapter of Canons ordinarily meets twice a year, in May and November. The meeting at this time of year is always accompanied by a requiem Mass offered for the deceased clergy of the Diocese; the Mass was offered earlier today.

In his homily, Bishop Campbell spoke of praying for the dead as "a holy practice which resonates with our deepest instincts", reminding us that our task is not to grieve, but to reaffirm our faith in the resurrection of the Lord and the hope it offers us (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). He also quoted St Paul's reassurance that nothing can ever come between us and the love of God (Romans 8:38-39). The Bishop described the Mass as "the greatest of all memorial acts", saying that in this requiem for deceased clergy, "we make our deceased brothers in holy orders part of that sacred remembering. Today, through our commemoration, the fruits of the Lord's Passion fall upon them in a unique way." The full text of Bishop Campbell's homily can be read here.

Alongside our own Bishops, we were joined by Rt Rev. Geoffrey Jarrett (seen here on the right), Bishop of Lismore, Australia. Bishop Jarrett has been staying in Cathedral House for a few days, having met Bishop O'Donoghue at the World Youth Day in Sydney earlier this year.

At the end of Mass the clergy and people walked up to the Cathedral's cemetery, where prayers for the dead were said.

It always feels especially fitting to pray for the dead in a cemetery. The stones which recall those who once lived on earth become signs of hope when accompanied by the faith of today's believers. The Cathedral cemetery is home to the mortal remains of all our former Bishops, along with many priests and lay people.

Prayers for the dead are offered throughout the month of November - a fitting practice for the last month of the Church's liturgical year, and also one which ties in with civil commemorations of the war dead taking place this month.

During the Mass Bishop Campbell noted that today also marks the anniversary of Bishop Thomas Edward Flynn, second Bishop of Lancaster, who died on this day in 1961. May he and all the faithful departed rest in peace.

Monday, 3 November 2008

All Souls' Day

There will be more on yesterday's celebrations for All Saints' Day later in the week. Today, however, the Church dedicates herself to praying for those who have died, assisting them on their final journey to eternal life. Mass will be celebrated in the Cathedral at 12:15pm and 7:30pm, with the evening Mass remembering particularly those who have died during the last twelve months. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

The Saints Rejoice in Heaven

Today we celebrate the feast of All Saints, remembering all those - known and unknown - who have reached eternal salvation in heaven. To mark the feast today's post features images from the Cathedral's magnificent 'Te Deum' window. Made by Hardman of Birmingham in 1888, it dominates the west end of the church. The central figure is Christ, exalted and enthroned in heaven; around Him angels and saints sing His praise, forming a circle-like pattern (representing eternity) around His throne (see picture above).

The window takes its name from the great hymn of praise, the 'Te Deum', attributed to Saint Ambrose and St Augustine of Hippo. This hymn is used on great feast days (and, as we saw earlier in the year, at episcopal ordinations), and speaks of those gathered around God's throne: "The glorious band of apostles, the noble company of prophets, the white-robed army who shed their blood for Christ all sing Your praise". Last year the Cathedral revived in this part of the world the tradition of singing this hymn at Vespers on New Year's Eve, in thanksgiving for the year as it draws to a close.

There are many identifiable figures represented in the window. Above, Old Testament figures include King David (in green; a crown shows his kingship and the harp demonstrates his link with the psalms) and Isaiah (holding the large saw, by which (according to some ancient texts) he was martyred.

New Testament figures are joined by later saints: here Saint Joseph is seen (bottom right - a lily, representing his purity, can just be seen at the bottom centre of the picture); kings and bishops are also visible, among them the 16th century cardinal Charles Borromeo, whose feast day is kept on Tuesday this week.

The window is an outstanding feature of the Cathedral and an inspiration to us as we, with the help of the saints' prayers, make our own journey towards heaven. Click on the image above to enlarge it - it's well worth a look.