Saturday, 27 February 2010

St Martin Fund

The story of St Martin, the fourth-century Bishop of Tours, tells us that as a young man he saw a man in need of clothing, and shared half his own cloak with the poor man. Last weekend the Cathedral parish launched a new 'St Martin Fund' as part of our charitable work. The fund will be used to support local families who are struggling to make ends meet. It will give practical help, rather than money directly (for example, it may pay for a gas/electricity card to be 'charged up') and will hopefully prove to be of assistance to those in great need. Parishioners have the opportunity to contribute to this fund at the end of each Sunday Mass during Lent.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The return of the Curious

We're now less than 40 days away from the greatest week in the Church's year. Holy Week is the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the very heart of our Christian faith. The Liturgy of Holy Week is the most powerful of all the Church's actions, and is rich in symbolism. A series of five talks on the liturgy of Holy Week gets underway this evening. The talks take place each Tuesday leading up to Holy Week, and begin at 7:30pm in St Walburga's (the Cathedral 'day chapel', accessed from Balmoral Road). There's no charge and everyone is welcome. This is the latest in our series of 'Curious about...' talks, which have built up something of a following in recent years. If you'd like to know more about the talks, click here.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Friday evening devotions in Lent

Yesterday our Lenten Friday evening devotions got underway. Each Friday during this holy season there will be Stations of the Cross at 7pm (followed by Exposition), a 15-minute meditation on the Passion of the Lord at 7:45pm, and sung Compline (night prayer) and Benediction at 8:15pm. The idea is that people can come for the whole time (about one and a half hours) or for any part of the evening. The meditations focus on the role of different characters in the Passion narratives. Last night's text looked at St Peter; still to come are Judas and the Pharisees (26th), Pontius Pilate (5th March), Simon, Veronica and the Holy Women (12th March), The Secret Disciples (19th March) and finally Our Lady (26th March). You are most welcome to join us for any of these Friday evenings. If you'd like to read last evening's meditation on St Peter's role in the Passion, you can find it here.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Cathedral School organ visits

A couple of weeks back many of the children at the Cathedral School had the chance to visit our newly-restored pipe organ. Guided by the Cathedral's Director of Music, Damian Howard, who also teaches music at the school, they learnt about the workings of the instrument. The children then had the chance to play a few notes, giving them a brief 'hands on' experience. Hopefully the visit will have deepened the children's appreciation of music in general, and - who knows - maybe it will have inspired some organists of the future! The Cathedral School Blog, which is regularly updated, has a couple more photos: click here to visit the site.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Ash Wednesday

Today, Ash Wednesday, the great season of Lent begins. It is a time of year that calls us to repentance, and its message seems to echo in the experience of the faithful. Each year, large numbers of people come to Mass on this day and are marked with ashes on their forehead.

Even before Mass it was obvious to those arriving that we are entering a new season. The Cathedral looks very bare: no flowers, some of the decoration removed. The starkness of Lent stands in stark contrast to the vibrancy of the Easter feast which follows.

After the Gospel reading, the Bishop blessed the ashes. He then knelt down as he received the ashes on his forehead, the first of those present to be marked with this sign of repentance.

The Bishop then marked the foreheads of the concelebrating priests; here the Cathedral Dean, Canon Stephen Shield, receives the ashes. This symbol is a Biblical sign of repentance and of sorrow for sins; it also reminds us of our mortality ("you are dust, and to dust you shall return") and therefore calls us to use well our time on earth.

The congregation then approached the Bishop and the priests to receive their ashes...

... forming queues in the central aisle and side aisles as they each symbolically declared their contrition for their failings. It is perhaps surprising - and also encouraging - that within the rites of the Church's year, it is not only the great feasts and celebrations to which people respond; this penitential act also draws people in great number.

After each person had been marked with the ashes, the Mass continued as usual. So it is that the great season of Lent is underway, and for the weeks ahead we keep a 40-day feast, following the example of Our Lord at the beginning of His ministry. If you haven't yet been to Mass, it's more than likely that your local parish has an evening celebration. The Cathedral's last Mass of the day is at 7:30pm.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Deacon Nolan with the Pope

Here's a little moment of joy, before the rigours of Lent set in tomorrow. A few weeks ago the students and staff of the Pontifical North American College, Rome, had a private audience with the Holy Father to mark the college's 150th anniversary. As well as listening to Pope Benedict's address, many of those present had the chance to see him close up. Deacon Nolan Lowry, who has strong ties with the Cathedral parish (he was last with us at Christmas), is seen here greeting the Holy Father. You can read more about the audience, and see some pictures and a short video, on the North American College website: click here for the relevant page.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Archbishop Oscar Romero

Next month many events will take place to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was assassinated while celebrating Mass in March 1980. From the time of his appointment as Archbishop of San Salvador he began to show great concern for the poor and oppressed of his country, and this concern led him into conflict with the government of the time. This conflict ultimately resulted in his death, and his cause for canonisation is currently under consideration.

Yesterday our own Cathedral hosted events marking the anniversary of the Archbishop's murder. Although the anniversary is still a few weeks away, it has been marked now so that it does not interfere with the liturgy of Lent. Bishop Campbell celebrated the Cathedral's main Sunday Mass, at which the Archbishop was remembered. You can read the Bishop's homily on the diocesan website: click here. After Mass Jan Graffius of Stonyhurst College, a member of the Romero Trust, gave a fascinating talk about his life and the context in which his work took place. A good crowd turned out to hear her words, as can be seen in the picture above.

Pupils at Our Lady's Catholic College in Lancaster got involved in the events, which were organised in association with the Lancaster Diocese Faith and Justice Commission and Cafod Lancaster. The pupils produced this replica of Archbishop Romero's coat of arms, with his motto - Sentire cum Ecclesia - clearly shown. The motto, taken from St Ignatius' writings, encourages us to 'be one with the mind of the Church'. You can find out more about Archbishop Romero's life and death by visiting the website of the Romero Trust: click here to take a look.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Decorated for Our Lady's feast

As mentioned in the previous post, last Thursday was the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, principal patron of the Diocese of Lancaster. Our flower ladies (who will shortly have a bit more time on their hands, as Lent is approaching!) did a fine job decorating a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, which was placed in the Lady Chapel for the feast. At the end of both Mass and Vespers on Thursday there was a procession to the chapel, where the Litany of Our Lady of Lourdes was said. This small shrine remains in place for those coming to the Cathedral this weekend.

In the evening the Bishop led the Rosary and presided at Vespers. In his homily at Vespers he invited us to ask Our Lady's intercession for the Diocese, for all who are sick, and for priests. You can read the full text of the homily on the diocesan website: click here.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us

This banner hangs at the back of the Cathedral along with the Bishop's coat of arms and an image of St Cuthbert. Today is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, principal patron of the Diocese of Lancaster. The feast is celebrated in the Cathedral with a sung Mass at 12:15pm; this evening the Bishop will lead the Rosary (with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament) at 7pm, then preside at sung Vespers at 7:30pm. Vespers will end with a short candlelit procession in the Cathedral. It's our diocesan feast, and all are most welcome to come along.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Cathedral 150 Club

Here's a simple and fun way - open to all blog readers - to support the Cathedral. Our '150 Club' was launched in April 2007 with the intention of raising money for the Cathedral's 150th anniversary celebrations. When those celebrations came to an end, most of the club members decided they wanted to carry on with the club, so new money raised by the club now goes towards paying for the upkeep of the Cathedral. It's very simple: members pay £1 per week for each ticket, and each week there is a £50 prize. If the number of tickets exceeds 200, we'll add a second weekly prize of £20, so the chance of winning is increased. To date the club has generally been only for parishioners, but now we'd like to open it to Cathedral supporters wherever they are. You can pay by standing order or by cheque. If you'd like to take part, it's simple: just download the form (available here in pdf format) and send it back to us by post. If you'd like more details, please contact us and we'll be happy to help. The winners are published each week on the parish newsletter, available online here.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Pope Benedict addresses the Bishops of Scotland

Yesterday it was the turn of the Scottish bishops to meet with Pope Benedict, as their Ad Limina visit takes place. The Holy Father spoke on a number of issues, including two important challenges facing the Church at present: supporting faith schools and promoting the sanctity of human life. He also encouraged the bishops to promote vocations to the priesthood and to work effectively with lay people, and as expected he confirmed that his forthcoming UK visit would include a trip north of the border. You can see a short video summary of the Pope's address by clicking on the image above, and the full text can be found here.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Impact Presentation

Back in November, young people in the parish Impact group had a collection at St Thomas More's after the Sunday Mass and raised around £85. A donation from the group's subs brought the total up to £100, and last Sunday Phil McGrath, General Secretary of Lancaster's YMCA, came to accept the cheque and to speak a little about the organisation's work. He told the group members that it costs YMCA around £200 per week to house a young person who might otherwise be homeless, so money is greatly needed to support the work. The parish Impact group, which meets fortnightly, works to help those in need, promoting acts of charity and good works inspired by faith. If you're a young person in the area in school year 9 or above, you would be most welcome: contact us to find out more.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

And for the rest of the month...

With the Ad Limina now over, we turn our attention back to life closer to home and - slightly later than usual - a look at the month ahead. The image of penitents seen here is from the Cathedral's Chapel of St Charles Borromeo, and serves as a reminder that Lent is nearly upon us. Ash Wednesday begins this holy season, and this year takes place on 17th February. Before that we have the feast of our diocesan patron, Our Lady of Lourdes, which is celebrated on 11th. There will be a sung Mass at 12:15pm, and the Bishop will then join us in the evening to lead the Rosary at 7pm and then preside at sung Vespers at 7:30pm. This is a diocesan celebration, and it would be wonderful to see a good number of people there, so please come along if you can. The 30th anniversary of the death of Archbishop Romero will be marked at the 10:30am Mass on Sunday 14th (which the Bishop will celebrate); the Mass will be followed by a talk about the Archbishop, in the Cathedral Social Centre (12:15pm). Once Lent is underway, there will be additional times of prayer and some catechetical talks. On Fridays there will be Stations of the Cross at 7pm, followed by a meditation on the Passion at 7:45pm and sung Compline (night prayer) at 8:15pm. You can come for all or any part of the evening. And, as noted earlier, our 'Curious about Holy Week' talks begin on Tuesday 23rd. You can find more details here. Add to that the Diocesan Rite of Election (on Saturday 20th, and a fairly busy time is ahead of us. The full diary for February at the Cathedral is available on our main site: click here to take a look.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Ad Limina: the photographs

Today we wrap up our coverage of the Ad Limina visit with a few images showing the Bishops with the Holy Father. The picture above shows the successors of the Apostles listening to the successor of St Peter, delivering his address which was detailed in the previous post.

After their audience, the Bishops posed with Pope Benedict for a souvenir photograph. You can enlarge each image by clicking on it.

If you're really keen-eyed, you might spot Bishop Campbell, second from the right on this image.

He's much more visible on this image, just a to the right of the Holy Father. All of the above images are (c) L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's newspaper, and are used with permission.

The Vatican's photographic service carries a few images of the Bishop's private audience with the Pope, which took place last Thursday. Note the map of Britain on the table - no doubt each bishop had the opportunity to show the Pope the geography of his diocese. Copies of photographs in the archive can be purchased from the service: for details, and to see other pictures, click here. (If necessary, click the option 'English Version' at the top of the page, then 'Simple Search' over on the left hand side. Typing 'Lancaster' into the 'page caption in Italian' section seems to bring up a few images of the Bishop's private meeting with His Holiness).

This final image shows the Bishops gathered for a photo during their visit, and is from the Bishops' Conference website ( You can see a good selection of other images from the visit on the Church's Flickr site: click here to take a look.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Ad Limina: Pope Benedict's address

Today we feature a series of short quotations from Pope Benedict's address to the Bishops of England and Wales, which he delivered yesterday at the Vatican. The images are screenshots taken from Vatican television. Many news websites have always picked up on the first official confirmation of the Holy Father's forthcoming visit to Britain, which was mentioned near the beginning of the Audience. Referring to the faith of people in our land, he said, "On the occasion of my forthcoming Apostolic Visit to Great Britain, I shall be able to witness that faith for myself and, as Successor of Peter, to strengthen and confirm it. During the months of preparation that lie ahead, be sure to encourage the Catholics of England and Wales in their devotion, and assure them that the Pope constantly remembers them in his prayers and holds them in his heart."

He then turned to a matter which has clearly been discussed by the Bishops during their visit: that of religious freedom. The Holy Father said, "Your country is well known for its firm commitment to equality of opportunity for all members of society. Yet as you have rightly pointed out, the effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs." There is a clear concern that some recent legislation has unfairly restricted religious liberty in our society.

Developing his argument, Pope Benedict spoke of the Gospel's "right to be heard" in our country: "Fidelity to the Gospel in no way restricts the freedom of others – on the contrary, it serves their freedom by offering them the truth. Continue to insist upon your right to participate in national debate through respectful dialogue with other elements in society. In doing so, you are not only maintaining long-standing British traditions of freedom of expression and honest exchange of opinion, but you are actually giving voice to the convictions of many people who lack the means to express them: when so many of the population claim to be Christian, how could anyone dispute the Gospel’s right to be heard?"

There was a powerful call to unity, which - the Holy Father noted - is even more important at a time when there are great challenges before us. It is important for all members of the Church to work together: "Make it your concern, then, to draw on the considerable gifts of the lay faithful in England and Wales and see that they are equipped to hand on the faith to new generations comprehensively, accurately, and with a keen awareness that in so doing they are playing their part in the Church’s mission. In a social milieu that encourages the expression of a variety of opinions on every question that arises, it is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate. It is the truth revealed through Scripture and Tradition and articulated by the Church’s Magisterium that sets us free."

It seems highly likely that the Pope will beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890) when he visits Britian (probably in September), and he made reference to the Cardinal in his address, linking him with the current 'Year for Priests': "Much attention has rightly been given to Newman’s scholarship and to his extensive writings, but it is important to remember that he saw himself first and foremost as a priest. In this Annus Sacerdotalis, I urge you to hold up to your priests his example of dedication to prayer, pastoral sensitivity towards the needs of his flock, and passion for preaching the Gospel. You yourselves should set a similar example. Be close to your priests, and rekindle their sense of the enormous privilege and joy of standing among the people of God as alter Christus."

The Holy Father ended his address by entrusting our country to its patrons: "With these thoughts, I commend your apostolic ministry to the intercession of Saint David, Saint George and all the saints and martyrs of England and Wales. May Our Lady of Walsingham guide and protect you always. To all of you, and to the priests, religious and lay faithful of your country, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and joy in the Lord Jesus Christ." These brief extracts give a sense of some of the issues the Pope - and no doubt our own bishops - wanted to highlight, and perhaps a flavour of some of the concerns that the Holy Father will speak about when he comes to our country. The full text is quite short and is well worth reading. You can find it here. It's also worth taking a look at Archbishop Nichol's greeting to the Pope, the text of which can be found on the Bishops' Conference website, here.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Video: Pope Benedict addresses our bishops

Just posted on the Vatican's YouTube channel, this short video gives a summary of the Holy Father's address to the Bishops of England and Wales, which he delivered earlier today. Already the headlines are centred around the fact that he made reference to his forthcoming visit to Britain (thereby giving the first official confirmation of the trip), but there is a great deal else to consider in his words. We will have more on the address tomorrow, but you can find out more by watching the video (click on the image above) and by reading the Pope's address in full - click here for the full text, from the Vatican website.

Ad Limina: the Bishops at Mass in St Paul's

As you may know, we normally begin the month with a look at the forthcoming events, but our 'diary' post will be a little delayed to make space for other entries. It will appear later in the week, but meantime don't forget that tomorrow is the feast of the Presentation of the Lord (Candlemas), and there will be an extra Mass, beginning with a candlelit procession, at 7pm in the Cathedral. For now, though, we head back to Rome to catch up on the Bishops' Ad Limina visit, which is already past the half-way point.

The pictures here show the Bishops at Mass in the Papal Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls; the Mass took place last Wednesday. Our own Bishop can be seen second from the left on the front row.

The principal celebrant at the Mass was Archbishop Bernard Longley, recently installed as Archbishop of Birmingham (see our post on the installation here). Red vestments are being worn; presumably a votive Mass of St Paul was celebrated, as the altar here is only a few yards from the Apostle's tomb.

Here are the priests who concelebrated the Mass. Fourth from the left on the front row is Mgr Mark Davies, who will be ordained coadjutor Bishop of Shrewsbury on 22nd February. Mgr Davies was granted an audience with the Holy Father earlier in the week, along with the current Bishop of Shrewsbury, Rt Rev. Brian Noble, who hails from our own Cathedral parish. Also in the picture above (third from the right) is Darren Carden, a seminarian for our Diocese, who is currently studying at the Pontifical Beda College just across the road from the Basilica. Thanks to Darren for sending in these images. After the Mass the Bishops were treated to a meal at the Beda. We'll have more from Rome over the next few days, when the Pope addresses our Bishops as the meeting draws to a close. Meanwhile, if you'd like to see more on the Basilica, an earlier post shows images of the Cathedral parishioners' visit on our pilgrimage last October.