Friday 29 February 2008

The Stations of the Cross

The Stations of the Cross are a familiar feature of Catholic churches, and are used especially in Lent. Fourteen stations hang on the walls of the Cathedral, and people walk around them, pausing at each one to pray and reflect on a different aspect of Our Lord's last journey. In this way we unite ourselves with Jesus, showing that we are prepared to 'take up our cross' and follow Him; we also learn to better appreciate the sacrifice He made for us. The Stations are prayed three times each week at the Cathedral during Lent: on Sundays at 4pm, Wednesdays at 6:30pm and Fridays at 11:45am.

Monday 25 February 2008

New Concerts Programme

The busy strings of the Skipton Camerata were too fast for our camera when they first performed at the Cathedral last October. Recently they returned for their winter concert, and will be back again on 11th April, performing works including 'Spring' from Vivaldi's Four Seasons. The new concert programme for the Cathedral is published on the web today. As ever, it's a varied programme, including Freckleton Brass Band (4th April), pianist Roman Rudnytsky (13th June), a capella group Il Suono (21st June) and the Greater Manchester Police Male Voice Choir (9th August). We also welcome back Lyra (8th May), with a programme of sacred and secular music, following their superb concert in the Cathedral last year. The full programme can be seen in pdf form here. The Cathedral is delighted to host so many concerts, and so contribute to Lancaster's cultural life.

Saturday 23 February 2008

The lucky few hundred

Phase one complete... several hundred letters have now been sent out to those invited to Fr Campbell's ordination at the end of March. All the bishops of England and Wales have been invited, as have priests and deacons of the diocese. Alongside these, Fr Michael's personal guests, members of his order, local civic leaders and leaders of other denominations, diocesan employees, headteachers and representatives from every parish and religious house in the diocese. The replies have begun to come in - all we have to do now is find space to put everyone!

Monday 18 February 2008

Longer Days...

The days are getting longer - literally and metaphorically! This wonderful sunset rounded off a busy day - preparations for Fr Campbell's ordination are now in full swing, with much planning to be done before invitations go out, hopefully within a few days. There is much work ahead - but the great event will be worth all the preparation. 42 days to go!

Friday 15 February 2008

Welcoming the Bishop-Elect

Yesterday the Cathedral was pleased to welcome our Bishop-elect, Fr Michael Campbell OSA. He stayed in Cathedral House last night - his first visit to the Diocese since the announcement was made on Tuesday. It was an early chance for him to meet with Bishop Patrick, and to begin to make arrangements for his ordination.

Bishop Patrick and his successor posed for a few photographs in and around the Cathedral. There has been a fair amount of interest in the appointment, both from local press (here and in London) and the national Catholic newspapers.

Strolling in the garden on a bright but breezy day... no doubt this is one of the first of many conversations to take place over the months ahead!

Tuesday 12 February 2008

A New Bishop!

Announced today, a new bishop for the Diocese of Lancaster. Fr Michael Campbell OSA (seen here with the Cardinal), known to many in the diocese from his years in Carlisle, has been appointed coadjutor with right of succession. Bishop-elect Campbell will work alongside Bishop O'Donoghue for a little over a year before the present Bishop retires in 2009. The Cathedral will have the great pleasure of welcoming Fr Michael - he will be ordained here, probably sometime during the next few weeks. More details to follow in the coming days.

Monday 11 February 2008

Our Lady of Lourdes

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the patron of our Diocese of Lancaster. Having already made a day-pilgrimage to Cleator and completed a novena in preparation for the feast, the celebration takes place in the Cathedral today. A sizeable congregation came to the 12:15pm Mass, including many children from the Cathedral Primary School. Mass ended with a procession to the Lady Chapel, where a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes is decorated with flowers. Sung Vespers at 6pm today will also end with a torchlight procession, in the tradition of Lourdes.

Today's feast is especially significant because this day marks 150 years since the first appearance of Our Lady at Lourdes. Back then the Cathedral was but a shell, still under construction. The photo above is probably taken during the period of the apparitions. Mary appeared 18 times at a remote spot just outside of the small town of Lourdes in South-West France. Only one person saw her - a young girl called Bernadette Soubirous. Bernadette was plagued by ill health and struggled greatly at school, yet was God's chosen instrument in bringing the message of Lourdes to the outside world. That message is one of conversion - Mary told Bernadette to do penance and to pray for sinners. Her message is especially apt in this season of Lent.

Today Lourdes is a much larger town, built on the banks of the River Gave, dominated by hotels where millions of pilgrims stay each year. This anniversary year promises to be particularly busy, and one of the pilgrims this year will be the Holy Father, Pope Benedict.

Our Lady asked that a chapel be built at Lourdes, and her request has been granted several times over. Several large churches have been built, including a vast underground basilica (above), where the blessing of the sick takes place each day. The sick have a particular place of importance in Lourdes. There have been several thousand unexplained healings, with 67 recognised by the Church as miracles. These miracles are signs of the many types of healing (physical, emotional, spiritual) which take place in Lourdes.

Mary also requested that pilgrims come to Lourdes in procession. Between Easter and October each day thousands of people process from the grotto to the square in front of the Rosary Basilica. In the evening candles are carried in the famous 'torchlight' procession.

Our Lady of Lourdes was made patron of Lancaster when the diocese was established in 1924. Each year a few hundred people travel to Lourdes on the diocesan pilgrimage. The photo above shows Mass being celebrated in the grotto in 2005. The eagle-eyed might be able to spot Bishop Patrick behind the altar, and our own Fr Andrew (in his pre-Cathedral days!)

Sunday 10 February 2008

The First Sunday of Lent

Advent has the wreath, Easter the Paschal Candle, and Christmas the crib. Lent, by contrast, is marked more by the absence of things normally present: there are no flowers in the church, the Gloria is not used at Mass, nor is the word 'Alleluia' heard at any point between Ash Wednesday and the Easter Vigil. Music is also much more low-key throughout the season. The Cathedral looks much plainer than usual today, the first Sunday of Lent.

The one addition is this banner - one of a series which are now familiar to regulars - giving a little background information about Lent for those who visit the Cathedral during these 40 days.

Saturday 9 February 2008

The Rite of Election

This afternoon people came from many parts of the Diocese for the annual Rite of Election. In this service some of those who will become Catholic at Easter are formally accepted by the Bishop at this important stage in their journey of faith.

The names of Catechumens (those who are to be baptised) and of Candidates (those already baptised but not Catholic) are registered in the 'Book of the Elect', which is presented to the Bishop. Their names are then read out, and they are invited to stand with their sponsors, who commit themselves to helping the candidates.

Each then comes forward to briefly meet the Bishop, and then stands on the Sanctuary until all are present. The people invited to this day are following the RCIA programme (the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults), but there are many others around the Diocese preparing to become Catholic in a more informal way. During Lent especially, we keep them in our prayers, along with children and young people in our parish preparing to receive the sacraments of Reconciliation, Holy Communion and Confirmation later this year.

Friday 8 February 2008

Opera at the Cathedral

Tonight the Cathedral welcomed a sizeable audience for the second of four concerts given by the Skipton Camerata. Each concert includes a section of Vivaldi's Four Seasons -tonight Winter. Tonight's concert was a bit different, however, as opera made an appearance in the form of a full performance of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas.

The Cathedral's main concert seasons run September-December and Easter-July, so this was a special treat. Earlier in the day over 150 children from local schools had come in to hear an open rehearsal; the musicians were excellent in engaging the children, hopefully deepening their knowledge of and enthusiasm for music.

A busy few days at the Cathedral continues... tomorrow many people from around the Diocese will come for the annual Rite of Election for those who will soon join the Church (more details tomorrow), and on Monday we celebrate 150 years since the first apparition of Our Lady at Lourdes. Kepp watching this space!

Thursday 7 February 2008

Lourdes Novena

All this week, at 6pm, devotions to Our Lady of Lourdes are taking place in the Cathedral Lady Chapel. This novena (nine days of prayer) leads up to the 150th anniversary of the first apparition at Lourdes, which took place on 11th February 1858. A day-pilgrimage to the diocesan shrine at Cleator took place at the start of the novena (see here).

These photos were taken at the devotions a few days ago, and show how beatutifully the Lady Chapel has been decorated. A statue of Our Lady of Lourdes has been placed there, surrounded by flowers - a rare chance for the Cathedral's flower arrangers to show off their skills during Lent! The chapel itself is very fine, and much underused because of its size, so this is a welcome opportunity to make use of it.

The devotions are accompanied by Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, reminding us that true devotion to Mary always leads us closer to her Son. Each day there is a particular prayer intention. The Rosary is prayed, followed by the Litany of Our Lady of Lourdes and a novena prayer. Each evening the prayers end with Benediction, imparting Christ's blessing upon us as we go forth.

Wednesday 6 February 2008

Ash Wednesday

A bowl of ashes in the sacristy before today's lunchtime Mass. Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the season of Lent. This is a season of penance, of repentance; we are encouraged to pray, to fast and to give generously to those in need. In this way we show our sorrow for our own faults, and find strength to turn back to God. The Cathedral was close to capacity at today's lunchtime Mass, as people came forward to have their foreheads marked with ash as a sign of repentance. Another Mass with distribution of ashes takes place at 7pm today.

Tuesday 5 February 2008

Auction of Promises

This evening a modest but determined crowd gathered in the Social Centre for our Auction of Promises. A wide range of pledges had been made: offers to cook meals and do washing, provide tuition in languages, drama, maths, juggling and making mulled wine, those who had offered to make cakes, items of clothing or gifts - the list goes on.

This being Shrove Tuesday, pancakes were provided before the bidding began - the old custom of using up dairy products before Lent still survives!

Some people even made bids over the phone! An intitial count-up suggests that close to £1000 was raised - an amazing total and a real testament to the generosity of those who bid and those who offered their time and talents. Well done!

Monday 4 February 2008


This evening people came from various parts of the Diocese for a Mass marking the completion of the 'Echoes' course. The course was run by the Diocesan Education Service in association with the Maryvale Institute, and is designed to help catechists as they seek to deepen the faith of those they serve. Fr Luiz Ruscillo, head of the Education Service, was the celebrant.

At the end of Mass many were presented with certificates to show that they had completed the course. It was wonderful that nine people from our own parish were amongst them. Our catechists do a great deal of work within the parish, particularly in preparing children for first reconciliation and first Communion, and helping young people to prepare for Confirmation. All of these preparation programmes are now underway for this year: there is a busy time ahead!

Cantemus ad Dominum

"Cantemus ad Dominum" (let us sing to the Lord) - the words which adorn the logo of the Cathedral's new music trust, recently established to provide funds so that music here can be properly resourced. With the trust established, a Director of Music, Damian Howard, has been appointed. He has already been able to appoint Rachel Lee as Assistant Director of Music and Cantor, and has enlisted John Williams as Organ Scholar. These exciting developments will greatly help music here, both for the parish and for diocesan occasions. Our new musicians are warmly welcome!

Saturday 2 February 2008

The Cleator Lourdes Grotto

Nine days from now we celebrate 150 years since the first apparition of Our Lady at Lourdes. It is an important anniversary for our diocese, as Our Lady of Lourdes is the principal patron of Lancaster. Over these nine days there will be Marian devotions each evening in the Cathedral at 6pm, with solemn Mass and sung Vespers on the anniversary, 11th February. Today a coach-load of parishioners headed north to Cleator, where there is a Lourdes Grotto at the church of St Mary.

We were welcomed by the parish priest, Fr Manny Gribben, and by Fr Jim Burns, known to many in the Cathedral parish as he served here a few years ago. They spoke to us about the work of the shrine and the recent re-ordering of the church. Two seminarians resident at Cleator spoke to us about the work of the diocesan house of formation, set up there a few years ago to help those considering or training for the priesthood.

The day included Mass, Benediction and a procession to the Grotto, where we each lit a candle, entrusting our intentions to the prayers of Our Lady. A great day was had by all - and we were lucky with the weather! Many thanks to everyone at Cleator for their generous hospitality.