Monday, 31 March 2008

Bishop Michael Campbell OSA

Newly-ordained, Bishop Michael Campbell is the first Augustinian Bishop in England since the reformation. Two Cardinals were amongst those who came to witness this historic event. Pictured above with Bishop Michael are Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor (Archbishop of Westminster) and Cardinal Keith O'Brien (Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh).

Thirty other bishops attended, and can be seen with their mitres on the sanctuary in the above picture.

Every inch of the Cathedral was filled, and a small number even gathered outside to see the procession going in and coming out. These photos are just a few of those taken; many more will appear here over the coming days, so keep an eye on this space!

Saturday, 29 March 2008

The Day in Pictures

Walking around the Cathedral with a camera today, it was possible to see: the big seven candles on the screen being changed...

...replacing the burnt-down ones that just won't do for an occasion such as the ordination...

... the folding and stapling of the last of 1125 booklets which will be used on Monday...

... chasubles, kindly on loan from Leeds Cathedral, ready to be used by the 30+ bishops who will be present...

... folders containing music for the ordination...

... the Cathedral's dedicated team of flower arrangers...

... busily working to prepare flowers around the Cathedral...

... and seemingly with more to do tomorrow!

Friday, 28 March 2008

Practice makes perfect - hopefully...

Tonight in the Cathedral a highly important, if somewhat low-profile, event is taking place. The Bishop, Bishop-elect, deacons and servers are joining the MC and his assistants for a full practice for Monday's ordination. The deacons and servers also had a practice earlier in the week - there is a lot to learn! Last night the choir were rehearsing in the Cathedral, which has been much used over the recent days. Behind the scenes, a great deal of frantic work is still taking place but, finally, it seems things are starting to come together. We'll know for sure on Monday!

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

A surge of interest

Anyone who has been in Cathedral House recently knows that the phones and the email inbox have been significantly busier than usual, with many enquiries being made about Monday's episcopal ordination. The Cathedral's website tells a similar story: above is a graph showing usage of the site on each day in February. On 12th - the day that Fr Campbell's appointment was announced - there was a huge surge in visits to the site, as people looked for information and pictures about the bishop-elect. There is also a smaller surge on Friday 15th - perhaps from priests looking for information before the weekend newsletters were printed!

February as a whole showed a fairly big increase in the number of people using the site. By the end of the month the March figures may have caught up! It is encouraging to see a steady climb in visits over the last year.

The Cathedral's main website contains much information about the building, the parish, the visits programmes and ways to get involved. There is also some essential information about the ordination on the front page. If you'd like to take a look, click here.

Monday, 24 March 2008

The Paschal Candle

The Paschal Candle is the great symbol of the resurrection of Christ. It was blessed and lit from the Easter fire on Holy Saturday night, after which it led the congregation into the dark Cathedral, dispelling the darkness and proclaiming the light of the risen Lord. It now towers over the sanctuary, and is a little difficult to see close-up, hence a few pictures here! The date is printed around a cross, while five grains of incense in gold studs represent the five wounds of the Lord on the cross. Just as the risen Lord still bore the marks of His suffering (see John 20:27), so also the candle symbolically carries these marks.

The candle is decorated with grapes, figs and olives. Grapes (above) remind us of the Eucharist, the memorial of Jesus' suffering and the means by which He remains always present in His Church.

Olives point to the Garden of Olives, the place where Jesus suffered before His arrest. They may also remind us of the sacraments, as the oil used in baptism, confirmation, ordination and the anointing of the sick comes from this plant.

At creation, the man and woman sewed fig leaves together after they had turned from God, in order to cover themselves as they became embarrassed to be naked (see Genesis 3:7). The figs therefore point us to the 'happy fault' of which the Exsultet speaks, the Fall which made Christ's incarnation, death and resurrection necessary.

The Paschal Candle now stands on the Sanctuary, where it will be lit for all liturgy in Eastertide. After that it will be moved to the font, and lit only at baptisms and funerals. In this way it shows that the beginning and the end of our Christian lives are marked by hope in the resurrection of Christ.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

The Lord is Risen!

The Lord is risen, Alleluia! The Easter Vigil and first Mass of the resurrection have been celebrated. People gathered outside the Cathedral around the Easter fire, before being led into the dark church by the Paschal Candle. Readings and psalms were followed by the Gloria and the solemn Alleluia - a word not heard in the Cathedral since before the beginning of Lent. The water of the font was blessed, ready for all those who will be baptised in the coming year. The Cathedral looks magnificent, thanks to the work of so many people who have given their time to prepare it. Happy Easter to all!

Saturday, 22 March 2008

The last hours of darkness

Throughout the day people have been working in the Cathedral, changing the dull, lifeless scene of Passiontide into the bright, living image of the resurrection. The Cathedral is now ready, though still in darkness. The darkness will only be dispelled at the Easter Vigil, when the Paschal Candle, the symbol of Christ's resurrection, leads the congregation into the church. At the Gloria the Cathedral will be flooded with light - a potent sign of Christ coming from the tomb, the end of the reign of darkness over our world. It is undoubtedly the most dramatic liturgy of the Church's year.

Friday, 21 March 2008

The Wood of the Cross

This afternoon a large crowd of people came to the Cathedral, which was still in darkness, for the Solemn Liturgy of the Lord's Passion. This liturgy always begins at 3pm - the time of Jesus' death - with a silent procession. In front of the altar, the Bishop and priests lay on the ground in silence. We heard St John's account of the Passion, after which we prayed for the needs of the Church and the world. A crucifix was brought in to the Cathedral and unveiled with the words, "This is the wood of the Cross on which hung the Saviour of the World"; people responded, "Come, let us worship", and knelt in adoration of the Lord. They then came forward in a seemingly endless procession to make an act of reverence to the Lord's cross. The crucifix and candles remain on the altar this evening as a stark reminder of the sacrifice that Christ made for us. Finally, the congregation came forward to receive Holy Communion - a sign of our desire to unite ourselves with Christ in His great sacrifice.

A darkness covered the land

There is something powerful about the way the Cathedral looks today. Almost everything has been stripped from the altars: no candles, no cloths, no flowers - in other words, no life. Everything reminds us of the desolation of this day: Jesus is arrested and is put to death; the disciples scatter, confused and dejected.

Where last night people gathered and prayed until Midnight in the Lady Chapel, today its altar has also been stripped. The tabernacle is empty: a sign of the absence of the Lord, who has been taken away by His arrest and execution.

So too at the altar in the Blessed Sacrament chapel. Above this altar, the Triptych shows scenes from the Passion and death of the Lord.

There is also darkness. The Gospels tell us that a darkness covered the land as Jesus hung upon the Cross. Today the Cathedral will not be lit except when absoultely necessary. The Light of the World is to be placed in His tomb.

This morning the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer was sung in the Cathedral. The Stations of the Cross (pictured) are taking place. People meditate on the Stations, fourteen points of Jesus' last journey, using spoken prayers and images which hand upon the walls of the Cathedral. The Stations will also be prayed this evening at 7pm, followed by sung Compline (night prayer). The main liturgy of the day is the commemoration of the Lord's Passion, which begins at 3pm, the time of His death.

Watching before the Lord

"Stay awake and pray here with me" - words Jesus spoke to His closest disciples in the garden of Gethsemane, after the Last Supper. In great agony, Jesus also prayed and submitted Himself to the Father's will. The Church listens to Jesus' words and responds by spending time in prayer each Maundy Thursday after the Mass of the Lord's Supper. The Cathedral was open until Midnight, with people present throughout, simply watching and praying in Christ's presence. This memorial of Christ's agony in the garden prepares us for Good Friday, when we remember the Lord's trial, suffering, death and burial.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Lancaster Diocese Chrism Mass

This morning the priests and people of the Diocese gathered with Bishop Patrick for the biggest annual event in the Cathedral: the Chrism Mass. Each year on Maundy Thursday morning, the priests renew their commitment to priestly service, and the holy oils are blessed for use around the Diocese in the coming year.

This is an occasion that reminds us of our unity - a theme strongly emphasised by the Bishop in his homily. There were representatives of parishes across the Diocese: from Carlisle, west Cumbria, Barrow-in-Furness, Kendal, Preston, Blackpool, Fleetwood, the Fylde and Lancaster. The list could go on further.

Three deacons (dressed in green, white and purple dalmatics) brought forward the three oils: the oil of catechumens, to be used on those who are to be baptised; the oil of Chrism, used at Baptism, Confirmation and Ordination; and the oil of the sick, used to anoint those who are ill or, in some cases, close to death.

The oils are blessed during the Mass and then distributed for use around the Diocese. The remaining oil is kept at the Cathedral, and will be displayed throughout the year as a reminder of their importance in the Church's life.

The oil of Chrism will be used in 11 days time to anoint the head of the new bishop, Fr Michael Campbell, at his ordination. Today he concelebrated at the Mass; he can be seen just to the left of Bishop Patrick. It was Fr Michael's first public appearance at a diocesan event. He moved into the Diocese on Tuesday, and will be resident at St Mary's, Barrow-in-Furness, until he takes over fully in mid-2009.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Ready for the morning

At this moment, the choir are being put through their paces in their last practice before the Triduum. Extra chairs have been placed in the transepts, vestments are laid out in Cathedral House, rooms are prepared for the Holy Oils to be distributed. The oils will be blessed at the Chrism Mass at 11:30 tomorrow morning; about 100 priests and 400 people are expected. In the sacristy, everything is ready for the morning. Pictured are three dalmatics, ready to be worn by the three deacons who will bring the oils forward to the Bishop. A 'calm before the storm' moment, perhaps...

Monday, 17 March 2008

Oils, booklets and tickets...

Last year's holy oils have now been taken for burning, and the containers were today cleaned, ready to be refilled. It will take over 15 litres of olive oil to fill these three. The oil will be blessed by the Bishop at the Chrism Mass on Thursday, to be used throughout the Diocese in the year ahead.

The oils are usually displayed at the Sacred Heart altar in the Cathedral, where the cabinet now stands empty. Many of the physical things used in the Church are replaced this week: the Paschal candle is replaced at the Easter Vigil on Saturday, as is the holy water in the stoups and the font.

Elsewhere today much has been done to prepare for events later this week. Booklets for the Mass of the Lord's Supper (Thursday) and the Easter Vigil were printed today; they join the many which have already been folded and stapled. Preparations are also continuing for the episcopal ordination at the end of the month: today another large batch of tickets was organised, ready to be handed out to parishes at Thursday's Chrism Mass. There is still much to be done, but every day brings a little progress!

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Palm Sunday

The Cathedral was packed this morning as people gathered to celebrate Mass for Palm Sunday. Outside Cathedral House, the Gospel account of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem was read. Everybody was given a palm, which was then blessed and carried in procession into the Cathedral for the start of Mass. The procession invites us to join the Lord as He enters Jerusalem, knowning that He will suffer and die there. Later in the Mass St Matthew's account of Jesus' suffering and death were read.

This 'entry into Jerusalem' invites us to join in the rest of Holy Week. We are not only to witness, but also to take part in the events of the week. On Maundy Thursday at 7:30pm we will celebrate the Mass of the Lord's Supper, at which we recall how Jesus washed the feet of His disciples and how He gave us the Eucharist as the memorial of His suffering and death. On Friday at 3pm, the time of Jesus' death, we will gather in silence, as if at the foot of the cross, to recall the great saving act of Christ's Passion. Finally, on Saturday at 9pm we will gather in darkness, awaiting the resurrection of the Lord and the light that it brings. There is no greater week in the Church's year.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Holy Week

The first Mass of Palm Sunday is being celebrated this evening, marking the beginning of Holy Week. The Gospel of Our Lord's entry into Jerusalem is read at the beginning of Mass, and the Passion (the account of His suffering and death) is read later. Holy Week is the most important time in the Church's calendar. The death and resurrection of Jesus are at the centre of Christian faith, and there celebration rightly takes precedence over everything else. During the week there will be powerful signs in the church: a stark absence of light which will be dispelled by the resurrection; the tabernacle and holy water stoups empty, the stripping of the altars. At the Cathedral, the Thursday of Holy Week is also the date of our biggest annual event: the Diocesan Chrism Mass. More on all of this later in the week. For full details of all Holy Week service times, visit the Lancaster Cathedral website:

St Joseph, a little earlier this year

Today is the feast of St Joseph, husband of Mary. This image of him is taken from the Cathedral's 'Te Deum' window. Normally celebrated on 19th March, the feast has been transferred because saints' days are not kept in Holy Week. Also falling victim to Holy Week is St Patrick's feast, which will be celebrated today in Ireland but is not being kept in England this year. Holy Week begins tomorrow with Palm Sunday. It is the most important (and often the busiest!) week in the Church's year - there will be plenty on the blog in the days to come.

The Bishop in Action

As reported below, the Bishop appeared before a House of Commons Select Committee earlier this week, defending Catholic schools. A full video of the exchange is available on the Parliament website ( - click here to go direct to the video.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Bishop Patrick in Parliament

Tomorrow Bishop Patrick will appear before a House of Commons Select Committee, which is gathering evidence on faith schools. The Bishop was called to give evidence following the recent publication of his document, 'Fit for Mission? Schools', which has been highly acclaimed in the Church. Recently Cardinal Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (a post held until 2005 by a certain Cardinal Ratzinger) wrote a letter commending the document. Secularist MPs have expressed some concerns about aspects of the text, so tomorrow the Bishop gets his chance to defend himself. The future of faith schools is up for debate - a lot is at stake.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

The Reverend Andrew Dawson

Congratulations to Andrew Dawson, who was ordained deacon earlier today at St Mary's church, Cleator. Andrew spent a month at the Cathedral on placement in the summer of 2006, and also helped to welcome our parish group that visited Cleator in early February, so he is known to many Cathedral parishioners. His final days of preparation for priesthood will take place in the parish at Cleator, and he will be ordained priest at the Cathedral on Saturday 22nd November. Please keep him in your prayers and, as the Bishop requested at the end of the Mass, please continue to pray for vocations to the priesthood.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

A New Chapter

The Canons of the Cathedral Chapter raise a smile this lunchtime, after four new Canons were installed. Earlier this year Bishop Patrick asked all the Canons over 75 to retire; they created a number of spaces on the Chapter, which today were filled. The Chapter exists to oversee the running of the Cathedral, and to support its work. They may also be asked to counsel the Bishop on important matters.

The four new Canons also posed with Bishop Patrick: left to right we see Canon Dunstan Cooper (St Mary's, Morecambe), Canon Michael Campbell (Bishop-elect), Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue, Canon Seamus Flannery (St Mary's, Ulverston) and Canon Robert Dewhurst (Sacred Heart, Blackpool). Congratulations to all!