Tuesday, 21 August 2007

An Episcopal View II

Some more photographs taken from the Cathedral tower yesterday. These ones show views of the regions beyond Lancaster, but within the diocese. Above, the city of Lancaster and the river Lune, with Morecambe Bay in the background, and the hazy form of the southern Lake District beyond. It is an execptionally beautiful view. Below, another photo looking across the bay, but this time the hazy form is not hills but buildings. The shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness is clearly visible across the water.

Looking further south, the image below shows the Fylde plain visible over the water. On a clearer day, buildings in Fleetwood and Blackpool (including the famous tower) are clearly visible to the naked eye.

The height of the Cathedral tower, coupled with its hillside location, combine to make this a wonderful viewing point.

No wonder he's smiling: he has the best view in Lancaster!

Monday, 20 August 2007

An Episcopal View I

A cathedral is a bishop's church. The word 'bishop' comes from the Greek episcopos, literally meaning 'overseer'. It seems appropriate, therefore, that the Cathedral has a fine view not just over the city of Lancaster, but also over many parts of the diocese. Tomorrow a few long-distance images will be posted; for today, views of Lancaster and its surroundings taken from the Cathedral tower this afternoon. Above, a fine view over the city; below, our neighbour to the north: the church of St Joseph, nestling amongst trees and terraces.

The city comes to an abrupt halt (below) making way for the rolling countryside out towards Hornby and, further still, Cumbria.

Below, a view of a very different kind. Heysham Power Station helps to keep Lancaster lit...

... while various shipping traffic passes through Heysham port, often carrying goods and people to and from Ireland.

We are lucky to have such fine views from the tower, though it is a shame that, because of the narrow (and slightly precarious) staircase, so few people can enjoy it. Below, a sign half way up the tower provides a stern warning to go no further:

'JP' in this case is likely to mean John Pye (long-time keeper of the tower and chief bellringer, who recently celebrated 65 years service on the bells), rather than it being a decree given by the late Pope John Paul!

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Mass in the Cemetery

On Friday evening we celebrated Mass in the Cathedral cemetery. Although November is the usual month for praying for the dead, it seemed a good opportunity to use the lighter (and hopefully drier) evenings to celebrate Mass for those who were buried in the cemetery, and for deceased families and friends of parishioners. One of the older tombs served as an altar - it may seem strange, but it recalls the early days of the Church in Rome, when Christians gathered in the catacombs, surrounded by the remains of those who had died. Many of the significant figures from the history of the Cathedral and diocese are buried in the cemetery, including all four former bishops. After Mass, the priests joined families at the graves of their loves ones, where prayers were said for their eternal rest.

As usual, Fr Andrew was able to spot the camera!

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

The Assumption of Our Lady

Today the Church celebrates the Assumption of Our Lady - that feast which recalls how Mary, the mother of Jesus, was taken up to heaven to share in Christ's glory. It reminds us that God calls us to follow, to one day share His life in heaven. The feast is being marked in the Cathedral by the presence of a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, elevated on the Sanctuary, decorated with flowers and candles.

The Cathedral also has a stained glass window depicting the Assumption (below), made by the renowned Lancaster firm Shrigley and Hunt. The phrase at the foot of the window - Assumpta est Maria in coelum, gaudent angeli - is taken from the liturgical texts for the feast: "Mary is assumed into heaven; the angels rejoice".

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Martyrs Processions

Following the first celebration of the Lancaster Martyrs' feast on Tuesday (see below), a number of interesting old photographs were brought in. When the Martyrs' Memorial was blessed, there was a procession (above) from the Castle to the execution site, following (roughly) the route that the martyrs would have taken. The photograph shows the procession on Moor Lane; the Golden Lion pub would have offered a final drink to the condemned.

These two photographs show events marking the canonisation of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. They were declared saints by Pope Paul VI in 1970; amongst the forty were St Edmund Arrowsmith and St Ambrose Barlow, both executed in Lancaster, and St John Southworth, imprisoned for a time at Lancaster Castle but executed at Tyburn. His body rests in Westminster Cathedral (see various entries on Westminster's site, click here and scroll down). In Lancaster there was a procession (above) and a service at the execution site (below). The Cathedral spire can be seen (above the trees at the back, right in the middle).

Friday, 10 August 2007

Mind the Gap

Gas enginners have been with us today, installing a new pipe to supply parts of Cathedral House. In these health-and-safety-conscious times, a sign has been erected to warn pedestrians of their safest route, even though the area concerned is only a small lawn outside the Bishop's apartment. The only figure in any immediate danger appears to be the small statue of Our Lady of Lourdes!

The work will be completed on Monday. Thanks to the engineers for their stirling efforts today.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

A mini-pilgrimage

Lancaster Castle, where the martyrs were imprisoned, and the site of the executions are both within the Cathedral parish, so today's feast is of particular importance to us. This afternoon a group walked from the Cathedral up to the execution site, about half a mile up the hill.

It was a sort of mini-pilgrimage, a journey to a place made holy by the faith of those who died there.

The executions took place in a very beautiful spot overlooking Morecambe Bay and the southern fells of the Lake District - the natural beauty of the site contrasting the ugliness of the human potential for cruelty and destruction.

Once assembled, we prayed the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary. The names of the martyrs were read out - this time, not as criminals but as examples of faith and endurance. A stone, placed here in the early 1990s, marks the spot.

When the martyrs were taken to their place of death they must have wondered whether Catholics would ever be free in England again. It is wonderful that we were able to pray freely at the place where they died; wonderful too that the Cathedral spire, a permanent symbol of the faith they lived, can be seen from that place where they passed between earthly pain and heavenly glory.

The Martyrs of Lancaster

Today, for the first time, the Church in this diocese celebrates a feast of the Martyrs of Lancaster. Many Catholics were imprisonned in Lancaster Castle; a number were executed (usually hung, drawn and quartered) on the hill above the Cathedral. On the Sanctuary at the Cathedral there is a plaque bearing their names. Today, for their feast, it is decorated with flowers and candles.

Fourteen of those who died are recognised as martyrs: Blessed John Finch (died 1548), Blessed Robert Nutter (1600), Blessed Edward Thwing (1600), Blessed Thurstan Hunt (1601), Blessed Robert Middleton (1601), Venerable Lawrence Bailey (1604), Blessed John Thules (1616), Blessed Roger Wrenno (1616), Saint Edmund Arrowsmith (1628), Blessed Richard Hurst (1628), Saint Ambrose Barlow (1641), Blessed John Woodcock (1646), Blessed Thomas Whittaker (1646), Blessed Edward Bamber (1646). In 2003 a donor paid for a window depicting St Edmund Arrowsmith to be installed in the Cathedral entrance.

St Edmund is seen in his vestments (he was a Jesuit priest), carrying a cross and a martyr's palm (a sign of victory over death). Behind him is Lancaster Castle, where he was imprisoned up to the day of his execution in August 1628.
The feast is kept with Mass at 12:15pm; Exposition 5-6pm with sung vespers at 5:30pm. This afternoon a group of parishioners will walk up to the site of the execution to pray the Rosary there at 3pm.

Monday, 6 August 2007

After hours

A sight few people get to see: the Cathedral after lock-up. A few shots taken this evening in the wonderful natural light. The lack of electric lighting dramatically alters the Cathedral's atmosphere.

Much of the light is filtered through the spectacular 'Te Deum' window at the west end of the church (pictured below). The evening light is wonderful - not exactly the brilliant shining of the Transfiguration (today's feast), but still giving a warm glow to much of the building.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Flood Collection

Today, mercifully, it is bright and clear - a welcome change from recent weather. Yesterday it rained for most of the day, though not as heavily as we've come to expect! This photograph dates from a couple of weeks ago. Taken from Cathedral House, it shows the edge of the car park and Balmoral Road (temporarily turned into a river). Lancaster has been fortunate compared to some parts of the country, however, and the 500 or so regular Mass-goers of the parish have collected £1340 to be sent to help those in some of the worst-affected areas. Let's hope that the extreme weather is now behind us.

Friday, 3 August 2007

1970s Gala Days

Here's another photograph recently sent in to the Cathedral office... though rather different from most of the old black-and-white photographs being sent in for the 150th celebrations (yes, please keep them coming!). This one shows one of the Cathedral Gala Days (believed to be 1975/6). The events were held in the grounds of Nazareth House but the fesitvities began with a fancy-dress parade through the city, beginning at the Cathedral. This year the theme was the hit TV show 'the Magic Roundabout'. Why can't we still do things like this?!