Saturday, 31 May 2008

The Visitation

Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Visitation, when Mary, carrying the Lord in her womb, went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was soon to give birth to John the Baptist. This image comes from the Cathedral's Lady Chapel. Mary and Joseph are seen on the left, while Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah, a somewhat older couple, are on the right. Just visible at the foot of the window are the opening words of the song of praise sung by Mary that day: Magnificat anima mea Dominum, et exultavit spiritus meus... (My soul glorifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices...)

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

A watchful eye

An eagle-eyed person walking through the Cathedral garden might noticed that they are being watched! The decorative faces - some human, others gargoyle-like - which adorn the Cathedral are also found on Cathedral House. These two keep watch over the garden path below - perhaps a pre-CCTV way of warding off any trouble!

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Corpus Christi

This afternoon the 40 Hours ends with Vespers for the feast of Corpus Christi - or, to give it its full English title, the Body and Blood of Christ. There will be a short procession with the Blessed Sacrament before Benediction. The Host will be carried and people will walk with it: a powerful image of our desire to walk with the Lord in our daily lives.

Today's feast is a celebration of the greatest gift Christ left with us: the Eucharist. He gives us His Body and Blood in the form of bread and wine so that He remains with us; the Eucharist is also a memorial of His Passion, so that when we celebrate it we receive grace given by His suffering and death. Above, people come forward to receive Holy Communion; as on any Sunday, they come to be united with the Lord who gives Himself to us.

At the end of Mass this morning there was chance for the whole congregation to spend a short time in adoration of Christ.

The Cathedral's monthly Tridentine Mass also took place today. It is appropriate that it did, for the differing forms of the Mass are all centred on the one reality which is celebrated at Corpus Christi: that Jesus Christ gave up His life for us and now gives us Himself to sustain us on our journey to heaven.

Friday, 23 May 2008

The Lord in our midst

Today the 40 Hours devotion continues, with a steady stream of people coming for public and private prayer. This afternoon pupils from the Cathedral Primary School came for Benediction and a short Blessed Sacrament Procession; there are also two Holy Hours taking place alongside the Rosary, a Mass for peace and the Liturgy of the Hours.

The decoration around the monstrance is quite beautiful. It is there to point to the importance of the Lord present among us; it invites us to pray in His presence.

The 40 Hours continues until Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

The 40 Hours begins

This morning the annual 40 Hours devotion began. Over four days members of the parish join in continuous prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, exposed in the monstrance. This is an important time of growth in the parish, as we ask God to deepen our faith in the Eucharist and renew our commitment to Him. Each day the full Rosary is being prayed; there are Holy Hours and Morning Prayer, sung Vespers and Compline. Most of the time there is opportunity for private prayer. A full timetable is available on last Sunday's parish newsletter, available here.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

From on high

This morning a gentleman called at the door with this photograph. It seems to have been taken a few weeks ago, when work was taking place on St Peter's Road, from the top of a crane that is being used to build some appartments nearby. This unusual angle gives a rare sense of the scale of the Cathedral, which dwarfs Cathedral House and the other buildings in the area. The Pastoral Centre, which houses diocesean offices, can just be seen behind the church and presbytery; the cemetery is also visible beyond. The Cathedral Primary School, which was the first building to be constructed on the site, is seen about half way up the picture on the far right hand side. It seems that some of our new neighbours will have a view worth opening the curtains for! For a closer look, click on the image to enlarge it.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Feast of the Holy Trinity

At the top of the Assumption window close to the Cathedral entrance, we find an unusual image: a pictorial representation of the Holy Trinity. The Father is at the top of the image, the Son to the left and the Holy Spirit to the right. All three are crowned as a sign of their sovereignty, but Christ also has a crown in His hand. The rest of the window depicts Mary being assumed into heaven; the crown He holds is for her. The crown being offered to Mary, a human being, reminds us all of an important truth: the one God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - calls us to share His life and His glory in heaven.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

The Living Water and the Light of the World

Somewhat depleted after being lit for every liturgy during the Easter season, the Paschal Candle now stands where it will remain until next Easter: in the baptistery. Next to the font, it reminds us of the link between baptism and resurrection. It is at the font that we are first called to share the eternal life of Christ. The candle is now lit only for baptisms and funerals (where it is temporarily moved to stand by the coffin), reminding us that the beginning and end of Christian life on earth are marked by the hope found in Christ's resurrection from the dead.

Friday, 16 May 2008

May Procession

This afternoon the Cathedral Primary School had its annual May Procession. The children and staff said the rosary and sang various simple Marian songs, before coming into the Cathedral to finish with Benediction. In the playground they crowned a statue of Our Lady with a crown of flowers - a sign of devotion to her as Mother of God and Mother of the Church. Many children also left floral tributes around the statue, though these were later taken to give to relatives; the remainder will be sent to residential homes for the elderly.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

The Knights of St Columba

Last Saturday was a busy day. Aside from the usual Saturday rhythm of Masses and confessions, the annual Diocesan Altar Servers' Mass took place at lunchtime and the Pentecost Vigil filled the latter part of the evening. In the midst of it all, the members of the Knights of St Columba attended the 6:30pm vigil Mass. Their fraternal cross is currently travelling, and was at the point of crossing between Cumbria and Lancashire. The handover was marked by a brief ceremony at the end of Mass. It is always a pleasure to welcome the Knights to the Cathedral. They are very generous in offering help for big diocesan occasions; they proved invaluable at Bishop Michael's ordination and offer their help each year at the Chrism Mass. The Cathedral has much to thank them for!

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

"Let someone else take his office"

Today is the feast of St Matthias, the Apostle chosen to replace Judas Iscariot. The first reading at Mass speaks of his appointment; St Peter says that Judas must be replaced, quoting the words of Psalm 108 (109): "Let someone else take his office". From that day, the office of the Apostles has been renewed by the appointment of successors: the bishops of the Church. The large number of bishops who attended the recent episcopal ordination reminded us of their duty to pass on their duties and their authority, for the good of the Church. To mark the day, and in the light of Bishop Campbell's recent ordination, below is a gallery of all the bishops who have served in Lancaster since the Diocese was founded in 1924.

Rt Rev Thomas Wulstan Pearson OSB
Bishop of Lancaster 1924-1938

Rt Rev Thomas Edward Flynn
Bishop of Lancaster 1939-1961

Rt Rev Thomas Bernard Pearson
Titular Bishop of Sinda
Auxiliary Bishop in Cumbria, 1949-1984

Rt Rev Brian Charles Foley
Bishop of Lancaster 1962-1985

Rt Rev John Brewer
Bishop of Lancaster 1985-2000

Rt Rev Patrick O'Donoghue
Bishop of Lancaster 2001-present

Rt Rev Michael Gregory Campbell OSA
Coadjutor Bishop of Lancaster

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

The Lady Chapel

May is traditionally a month of devotion to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Today's post marks the month with a few pictures from the Cathedral's Lady Chapel. Sadly the chapel is a little too small to be used very regularly, though it was well used for devotions in honour of Our Lady of Lourdes in February, and serves as the altar of repose on Maundy Thursday. The chapel was built with money given by the Dalton family. The Daltons were a wealthy Catholic family who resided at Thurnham Hall, a few miles outside of Lancaster. Their memory lives on in the city: Dalton Square, where the Town Hall is found, bears their name. The reredos (the screen above the altar) has some of the Cathedral's finest carvings, some of which have been featured previously (for the Immaculate Conception and at Christmas).

On the wall the stencilled monogram bears the name of Mary (in Latin, Maria). With a little imagination all of the letters of 'Maria' can be seen in this image.

With all the images around the Cathedral, it would be easy to miss the rather colourful mosaic floor. The monogram is on the floor just beneath the altar, and additional decoration covers the whole of the chapel.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Beyond Pentecost Sunday

Easter and Christmas - the two greatest feasts of the year - both have an 'octave': eight days of celebration, keeping each day as though it were the feast itself. Until the liturgical reforms of the 1960s and 70s, several other major feasts were also kept for eight days, amongst them Pentecost. Most of the octaves were omitted in order to simplify the calendar, yet perhaps something was lost when the changes were made. The eighth day after Pentecost is Trinity Sunday, so there is a natural end to an octave celebration, and an octave of Pentecost would help to deepen our awareness of the Holy Spirit's presence and work in our lives.

Aside from Wednesday (the feast of St Matthias), Mass at the Cathedral each day this week will be a votive Mass of the Holy Spirit. In this way we are given a longer opportunity to reflect on the mysteries of Pentecost, which was celebrated yesterday. The red of the tabernacle veil and the stole over the crucifix remind us of the Holy Spirit, who appeared in the form of fire. Our prayer this week will, with God's grace, help us to make better use of the gifts the Holy Spirit has given to us.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

The Gift of the Holy Spirit

One of the privileges of being a cathedral is the presence of the Bishop for major feasts. Today we celebrate Pentecost, the feast of God's gift of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the Church. The Bishop's presence means that we can celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation - the giving of the Holy Spirit in our time - on this most appropriate feast. This year we had a small but very committed group of candidates, who were confirmed by Bishop Patrick at Mass this morning. Many congratulations to all! Our thanks are also due to them and the team of catechists for the work that they have put in to prepare for this sacrament.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Serving the Lord at His altar

Today the Cathedral hosted the annual Diocesan Altar Servers' Mass. Servers come from all over the Diocese. It is a chance for them to get together and a recognition of the hard work they put in throughout the year. For a lucky few it is also a rare chance to serve in the Cathedral. All of the servers who came were given a copy of St Matthew's gospel during the Mass.

Most of the dozens of servers who attend have to sit in the front benches. The variety of colours and styles of their robes is very striking.

Parishes are always blessed when they have a good team of servers. The Cathedral is particularly fortunate in having so many who are willing to serve at Mass round the year.

The work of altar servers is a good deal more complicated than it often appears, and a fair amount of time is spent in training and practices. Their tasks are various: carrying cross and candles in procession, assisting with books, setting up the altar... the list goes on. While each individual role may seem fairly simple, it demands a lot of teamwork for everything to run smoothly and to look orderly.

Many servers are members of the Guild of St Stephen, patron saint of altar servers. We hope to enroll many of our own servers in the guild in the near future. The guild's insignia was displayed at the front of the Ambo during Mass; it is matched by the medal that guild members (such as this server) wear for Mass.

Today was also notable in that it was the first time that our two Bishops have appeared together publicly for Mass since the ordination day. The two mitres processing in is likely to be a familiar sight over the coming months.

Bishop Patrick was the principal celebrant of the Mass, and Bishop Michael preached. He told the servers that their role was to help people see the importance of the Mass and he encouraged them to develop a deeper love for the Mass. He finished with a note of encouragement to all: "Keep it up, and may God bless you".

Friday, 9 May 2008

Benediction with the Cathedral School

Each Friday this term, Key Stage 2 children from the Cathedral Primary School are coming into the church for Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. They sing a couple of simple songs of adoration, and say the Divine Praises, but most of the time is spent in silent prayer. The children have been preparing by learning about Benediction over recent weeks. It is impressive that they are able to remain silent and still for a few minutes of prayer at the end of the busy school week. Hopefully it will prove to be a special and memorable time in their lives of faith.

To the City Museum

This morning the priests and Caroline, the Cathedral's events co-ordinator, made a trip to the city museum in Market Square. The visit was part of the process of planning events for 2009, the Cathedral's 150th anniversary. For three months leading up to October 2009 the museum will host an exhibition centred on the Cathedral and Lancaster's Catholic heritage. There will be three parts to the exhibition: the first part will be concerned with Catholicism in the Lancaster area between the Reformation and the 19th century; the second part will feature information about the building of the Cathedral, with some emphasis on the numerous local families who helped to pay for the building; the final part will be within the Cathedral itself, making use of our own display area. This will hopefully attract more visitors to the Cathedral in its anniversary year, and help local residents and visitors to Lancaster to deepen their knowledge of Catholicism in this area.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

God's house and its garden

Today the Cathedral diary includes a concert by an acclaimed Russian group and a preparation session for parents of children who will make their first Holy Communion in a few weeks' time. The day-to-day work also continues, including the preparation and printing of the weekly newsletter, ready for folding tomorrow. Meanwhile the outside world basks in sunshine, making the Cathedral and its gardens look quite fine. We are fortunate to have such well-kept gardens, which are faithfully tended by Eric, our groundsman. The beauty of God's creation certainly adds a lot to the appearance of His house of prayer.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

The Tabernacle Veil

Today, for the first time in recent memory, the doors of the tabernacle are veiled. The age-old practice of veiling the tabernacle has not been observed in the Cathedral for many years, but as of this morning it is restored! Due to the size of the tabernacle and its shape, only the doors have been veiled. The colour of the veil changes to match the liturgical colours worn by the priest. The tabernacle veil derives from Old Testament times, when the Holy of Holies in the Temple was veiled. The veil therefore became a sign of God's presence; it was in the Holy of Holies that God Himself dwelt. Today, the Lord is to be found in the tabernacle, and the veil is the sign of His presence.

In the Cathedral, it has the added effect of making the tabernacle more visible, perhaps even more prominent. Even from the far end of the church, the veil clearly shows. The differing colours of the veil will also serve as a reminder of the liturgical seasons and feasts of the Church, for those who visit outside of Mass.

The veil is the primary symbol of Christ's presence in the tabernacle. The sanctuary lamps, which burn nearby, are in the first place a sign of the Church's continual prayer in the presence of the Lord.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Ecce Nova Facio Omnia

This mosaic can be found in Westminster Cathedral, the home of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor. It is located on the wall at the entrance to the chapel of St George and the English Martyrs, just a few feet from the body of St John Southworth. John Southworth worked close to Westminster Cathedral for much of his priestly life, though he also has connections with Lancaster, where he was imprisoned for a time. The mosaic is of particular interest to our own Diocese, as the quotation 'Ecce nova facio omnia' - 'Behold, I make all things new' (Rev. 21:5) is the episcopal motto of our recently ordained coadjutor, Bishop Michael Campbell. Westminster Cathedral currently has a major appeal underway; £3 million is needed for essential repairs which begin this year. Details of the appeal can be found here, and the Westminster Cathedral website here.

Monday, 5 May 2008

The Signs of Summer

Green has returned to the trees around the Cathedral, and amazingly the sun is shining on this Bank Holiday Monday. There is an additional sign of summer in this picture: today is the first day of 2008 that the Cathedral's main west doors have been opened. It is just about warm enough to keep them open all day! These doors open every day during the warmer months (in winter only the smaller door is opened), partly so that tourists and passers-by are in no doubt that the Cathedral is open and welcomes visitors.

It also makes for a little more illumination inside the church, giving the aisle a channel of light.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

The Ascension of the Lord

Today we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord, one of the most important feasts of the Church's year. The first Preface of the Ascension states why: "Christ, the mediator between God and man, judge of the world and Lord of all, has passed beyond our sight, not to abondon us but to be our hope. Christ is the beginning, the head of the Church; where He has gone, we hope to follow." This feast is commemorated with a fine stained glass window in the apse. Sadly few people really appreciate the window, as it is largely obscured by the Triptych.

On the occasions when people do take a closer look, however, they (and particularly children) are often amused by this detail: as Christ ascends, a small patch of grass beneath Him carries feet marks where He stood. Although there is something cartoon-like about the image, it makes a serious point: the world is not left as it was before He came. God has walked the face of the earth, and the signs of His presence are left with us.

The main account of the Ascension is found at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles; the passage is the first reading at Mass today. The details of this account can be seen in the window. St Luke, author of Acts, speaks of two men in white who appear in order to reassure the disciples after Christ has gone from their sight. These men can be seen on the left and the right towards the top of the above picture, pointing to heaven and promising the Lord's return.

Below, the Apostles and Mary are gathered as Christ ascends. St Luke tells that after the Ascension, the Apostles "joined in continuous prayer, together with several women, including Mary, the mother of Jesus" (Acts 1:14). The Cathedral's patron, St Peter, is easily identifyable; he stands just above the footprints, holding his keys.

As the Apostles and the women spend time in prayer, the Holy Spirit descends upon them. The Spirit's coming is also foreshadowed in the window; the dove, representing the Holy Spirit, is seen descending at the very top of the image. The coming of the Holy Spirit is celebrated at Pentecost, next Sunday.