Friday, 30 November 2007

Fishers of Men

Today the Church keeps the feast of St Andrew, one of those fisherman called by the Lord to become a 'fisher of men'. Andrew, with the other Apostles, followed the Lord during His life on earth and preached the Gospel after Pentecost. Today the Church continues to pray for new 'fishers of men', particularly for priests to minister to and guide God's people. Seven crosses, blessed by the Bishop in September, are being taken around the diocese to remind us of the need to pray for vocations to the priesthood. Today, appropriately, one of them came to the Cathedral.

The cross has been placed in the small chapel of St Charles Borromeo. A cardinal in Milan in the 16th century, St Charles was a leading figure in the Church during the troubles times of the Reformation. Working for authentic reform within the Church, he established seminaries for the training of priests and is now one of the patron saints of seminarians.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King

Today, the last Sunday of the Church's year, the feast of Christ the King is celebrated throughout the world. This wonderful image is from the centre of the Cathedral's 'Te Deum' window. Christ sits enthroned in majesty, with the orb in His left hand symbolising His kingship. He still carries the marks of His passion (the holes in His hands made by the nails) - a link with today's Gospel, in which He hangs on the cross alongside two thieves. Here His kingdom is acknowledged by one of the thieves, who requests of Him, "Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom". Today, the members of the universal Church make that prayer their own.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Still Curious?

Tonight the last talk of the current 'Curious About Scripture?' series took place. Over the last few weeks there's been a lot of background input, looking at the formation of the Canon of Scripture, the meaning of 'divine inspiration' and styles of literature in the Bible. Tonight Caroline Hull, who is Cathedral events co-ordinator and runs the office, gave a talk on the history and geography of the Old Testament. She has recently written an atlas of the Bible lands, which will be published soon. It is encouraging that a good number of people has attended each talk. There's a break for Christmas before we start looking at the content of the Old Testament on February 12th.

Friday, 16 November 2007

The Sound of Music

No concert this Friday, but music-making of a very different sort: the people rise to their feet for a parish sing-along night.

Fr Stephen worked the piano...

...the people worked their vocal chords and lungs...

...all fuelled by themed refreshments, such as tea, a drink with jam and bread...

...and schnitzel with noodles (are you spotting the theme?). A further sing-along night is planned, probably for early in the new year.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

To the Eternal City

Two years from now, we could be amongst those crowds - tonight we held the first information evening for those interested in the 2009 pilgrimage to Rome. The trip will form part of our 150th anniversary celebrations, and will be a great chance for us to explore sites associated with our patron, St Peter. All being well we'll also attend an audience with his successor, Pope Benedict. The saving up begins now!

Sunday, 11 November 2007

We will remember them

A sight not seen in the Cathedral for the best part of 40 years - until today. The liturgical reforms after the Second Vatican Council dramatically changed the form of Mass; now the Pope has relaxed restrictions on the celebration of the Tridentine ('extraordinary' form), and today this form was celebrated in the Cathedral for the first time in decades.

As it is Remembrance Sunday, a Requiem Mass was celebrated. At the foot of the altar stood the catafalque, representing a coffin and so symbolising the numerous dead we remember on this day.

There are many similiarities between the two forms, particularly in their structure; yet the difference in feel is extraordinary. In the Tridentine form there is much more silence; the Mass is celebrated entirely in Latin (the sermon is given in English, but this is understood as being outside of the Mass, and so is bracketed with the sign of the cross); except when directly addressing the people, the priest faces east with them, as a sign of him leading the people towards the rising sun, a symbol of the resurrection of Christ. At a Requiem Mass, incense (pictured above) is not used until the offertory.

It was heartening to see a large number of people attend the Mass - about 140 in total. Many of them were too young to remember the days when this form of the Mass was always celebrated, and yet came to experience this ancient way of celebrating the Roman Rite. Amongst those who came was Fr Michael Docherty, assistant priest at the Cathedral until about 18 months ago; it was a pleasure to welcome him back.

At the end of Mass there were prayers of absolution said at the catafalque, just as these prayers would be used next to the coffin at a funeral Mass. The Cathedral also prayed for the war dead at the main 10:30am Mass and at Vespers this afternoon. The local Latin Mass Society have requested that further Masses in the extraordinary form be celebrated here; a low Mass will be said on Christmas Day at 12:15pm. The Canon did forget to remove his maniple before the prayers of absolution - but then, he doesn't get much practice at celebrating this Mass!

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Then and Now

Several decades ago, for reasons that are not entirely clear, the door leading out of the Cathedral's north transept onto the primary school playground was bricked up. Over the last few months it has been re-opened. It unquestionably looks a lot better than it did, but the benefits of this work have been more practical than aesthetic. Links between the Cathedral parish and school are very strong, and the children often visit the Cathedral for Mass and educational work. Now they can get in without having to go off the premises or cross ground used by cars, so clearly their journey is easier and safer.

From inside, the open door reveals a clear view up to the Cathedral cemetery gates (under the archway in the distance), allowing easier access when a cemetery visit follows immediately after Mass (for example, the recent procession after the Chapter Mass). From outside there is a view right to the back of the Cathedral: on the photo below, the bottom left corner is the 'Te Deum' window is visible.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Singing for Pleasure

Tonight the June Baker Singers returned to the Cathedral for another concert under the heading "Singing for Pleasure". Indeed they are - not only the pleasure of their audience, but also for their own love of music. They take no fee for their work, so that all the money raised goes towards the organ fund. Their love of music helps the Cathedral to make music for many more people to enjoy.

Tonight they sang a wide variety of tunes, including many well-known and well-loved songs. Among the singers (we are proud to say) is our very own Dorothy (pictured below) - actually a parishioner of St Bernadette's, but well-known to many at the Cathedral for attending Mass here. She also often works at the ticket desk for concerts - a job she had to delegate this evening!

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

November Chapter Mass

Today the Chapter (the canons) joined the Bishop for Mass in the Cathedral. They celebrate Mass together twice a year, with the November Mass offered for the deceased bishops and priests of the diocese.

After Mass the Bishop, priests and members of the congregation processed to the Cathedral cemetery, where prayers for the dead were said.

It is fitting here to remember all those who have died, but perhaps especially those who are buried here: amongst them, all four former bishops of the Diocese. May they rest in peace.

Monday, 5 November 2007

A Light for the Gentiles

Lancaster this evening sounds like a war-zone, as fireworks light the night sky. Also contributing to the evening brightness is the Cathedral, a silent but powerful reminder of the presence of God and the Church in this city.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

80% of the way there

Another milestone reached this week: the Cathedral Organ Restoration Fund has now reached £80,000. The fund was launched in 2005 with the aim of raising £100,000 for a full overhaul of the organ, including new bellows, a new console, restoration and cleaning of the pipework.

The bellows (effectively the 'lungs' of the organ, they provide air to the pipes) had been in place since the organ was built in 1889, so they were certainly ready to be replaced! The old leather was in very poor condition, allowing a lot of air to escape and therefore reducing their effectiveness. The new bellows have now been completed and were delivered to the Cathedral on Thursday. At the moment they are in storage (above) while the work on the pipes takes place. The restoration work is being undertaken by Henry Willis & Sons of Liverpool. More information and pictures from the workshop can be seen on their website, here.

Friday, 2 November 2007

The Faithful Departed

Today is "All Souls' Day", when the Church throughout the world prays for those who have died and still await eternal life with God. The whole of November is devoted to prayer for the dead; we pray for those who have died, just as we hope that the saints pray for us. During this month the Cathedral Book of the Dead stands on the sanctuary.

Next to the Book of the Dead, the Paschal Candle stands. This symbol of Christ's resurrection reminds us that we are called to follow where He has gone; "the sadness of death gives way to the bright promise of immortality" (Preface of Christian Death I).