Sunday, 29 June 2008

Celebrating the feast

At Mass this morning there was a great celebration for the feast of our patron, St Peter, and his fellow apostle, St Paul. Sadly there are no pictures of the Mass, but we do have a couple of images of the parish barbeque that followed. The weather wasn't ideal, but the flames stayed lit and a hundred or so people were fed.

St Peter, pray for us

Throughout the world the Church celebrates today the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. Peter was the first man chosen by Christ to lead the Church, and Paul was its greatest preacher. The Cathedral is dedicated to St Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and so today is our patronal feast. Since it falls on a Sunday this year there is a chance to mark the feast with extra solemnity. The main celebration is at 10:30am Mass this morning, at which both the adult choir and the junior choristers will be singing. After Mass there will be a parish barbeque. This afternoon we will pray the 'Way of St Peter' devotion, based on the Cathedral's windows, at 4pm; solemn sung Vespers follows at 4:40pm.

The Cathedral's statue of St Peter is modelled on the one in the Vatican. Many people touch the foot of the statue as they enter or leave the Cathedral. As they do so they say a short prayer, usually invoking the help of our patron. Prayers will be said at the statue later today, especially for Pope Benedict, Peter's successor, chosen by God to lead the Church in our own time.

15 Years a Bishop

It is fifteen years to the day since Bishop Patrick was ordained to the episcopate by Cardinal Basil Hume. He served for eight years as an auxiliary bishop in Westminster before being installed as fifth Bishop of Lancaster on 4th July 2001. This coming Friday is the anniversary of that installation. Our best wishes and prayers go to the Bishop on this day.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Bishop's Book Launch

Today Bishop Campbell is in London, where he will launch his new book at St Paul's Bookshop next to Westminster Cathedral. Pope Benedict has asked us to celebrate a year of St Paul, marking 2000 years since the saint's birth, from today until 29th June 2009. Bishop Campbell's book - his first since being ordained bishop - is called 'The Greatest of these is Love', and features meditations on St Paul's writings. The book has been written to mark the year of St Paul and is published, appropriately enough, by St Paul's Books, whose website can be found here.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Fit for a Bishop

This is St Mary's church in Barrow-in-Furness, which for a while is playing host to Bishop Michael Campbell. It has usually been the case that when two bishops are resident in the Diocese one has lived in Lancaster and one somewhere in Cumbria; Bishop Campbell moved in here in Holy Week, a few days prior to his ordination. He lives in the Presbytery with the parish priest, Fr John Watson.

The church is extremely beautiful and has been wonderfully restored in recent years. Much of the stencilling around the apse had been covered over in the 1970s but a few years ago it was returned to its original majesty.

A group from Bishop Campbell's former parish in Hammersmith are coming up to the north west in the autumn, and hopefully will visit St Mary's then. They can be sure that their former parish priest is resident in a place fit for a bishop!

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Up in the Organ Loft

Up in the organ loft this afternoon there was a fair amount of activity, as the first of the organ's restored soundboards were returned to their rightful place.

Many of the restored parts could be seen close up - to untrained eyes a fairly baffling array of items!

This is part of the mechanism for which allows the organ stops to work, thus creating the wide variety of sounds that the organ is famous for.

Even to untrained eyes, however, it is obvious that a great deal of precision and time goes into this delicate work. It is wonderful to see how new-looking the parts are - a far cry from the dust-covered and worn-out mechanism they are replacing.

Leaning on the wall just beneath the Te Deum window, the organ pipes will stand on these boards when they are back in place.

A number of men came up from the Henry Willis and Sons workshop in Liverpool, where the work is being carried out, to put the parts back in place. The soundboards are quite substantial, and inside the organ casing is not the easiest or most spacious working environment!

Work continues on the restoration, and it will be some time yet before the organ is fully back in action. All the signs are that it will be well worth the wait.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Sacred music in context

Today there was a rare treat at the monthly Tridentine Mass: Il Suono, the a cappella group who sang a concert in the Cathedral last night, also sang at today's Mass. They sang the Mass of Pange Lingua by Josquin Desprez (1450-1521) and motets by Byrd. It is wonderful to hear this sacred music being performed in the context for which it was written.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

A visit from Saint Thérèse

St Thérèse of the Child Jesus: patron of missionaries, Doctor of the Church, a woman of profound spirituality whose popularity has grown around the world. She died in 1897, at the age of 24, and achieved no fame in her lifetime. It is her autobiography, 'The Story of a Soul', that brought her renown. Millions have read it and seek to follow the 'Little Way' which she wrote of and practised in her life.

After her death she achieved astonishing fame very quickly. This impressive Basilica was built to accommodate pilgrims coming to visit her shrine at Lisieux. It must surely be one of the most magnificent churches built in Europe in the 20th century.

St Thérèse wrote that she would spend her heaven doing good on earth, and she promised to 'let fall a shower of roses' on the earth. Her promise is simply that, through her prayers from heaven, many people would experience God's grace in their lives. She has been true to her word.

Her relics have visited many countries in the world, and at each place there has been renewal in people's lives and in the local Church. The above picture shows the relics in the Philippines. It is fitting that her relics travel, for she had a great desire to be a missionary, but ill health prevented her from travelling.

In 2001 the relics were taken to Ireland, arousing a great deal of interest and bringing many people closer to the Lord. Next year they will be visiting England, and will make a three week tour of the country beginning in Portsmouth and ending at Westminster Cathedral. The relics will be coming to Lancaster Cathedral on the afternoon of Monday 28th September 2009, and will leave on the morning of Wednesday 30th, the anniversary of her death. It is sure to be a time of great prayer and spiritual benefit.

Last November St Thérèse's relics went to the Vatican, where Pope Benedict prayed before them. Christians have always venerated the relics of the saints, by which we recall their holiness and seek their intercession. As holy men and women, the saints made their bodies dwelling places of the Holy Spirit, and even after death they invite us to seek a deeper holiness in our own lives.

There will be an important period of preparation before the visit, with national and diocesan events allowing us to learn more about Thérèse's life and spirituality and to understand more about the veneration of relics in the Church. The visit itself will be accompanied by constant prayer, opportunities for confession, Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, spiritual talks and vigils. In effect, the Cathedral will become her shrine for the period of the visit. The Cathedral has a stone statue of St Thérèse, which may in time form the centrepiece of a permanent memorial of her visit. The Cathedral's website now has a section devoted to St Thérèse and to the visit to Lancaster: click here to view it.

Friday, 20 June 2008

The Ordination 'Thank You'

This week has brought back many memories of Bishop Campbell's ordination day in March: on Monday the DVDs arrived, giving us chance to relive the Mass, and this evening the parish held a 'thank you' party for those parishioners who helped. It was wonderful that both the Bishops were able to come to the event and to offer their thanks to those involved.

For many it was the first opportunity to meet Bishop Campbell. A lot of parishioners worked behind the scenes on the day but did not see the ordination or get to the reception, let alone meet the man at the centre of it all.

A great spread was laid on, which for once was not the work of Cathedral parishioners!

After everyone was satisfied, the Bishops each spoke a few words. This evening's gathering was organised by the Cathedral parish for the parishioners who helped on the day, and the Bishops were keen to thank them. Their thanks are also extended, no doubt, to the Knights of St Columba, choir members and others from beyond the parish boundary who helped at the ordination.

Bishop Patrick spoke of his delight at Bishop Michael's appointment, and how he knows he can leave the Diocese in safe hands. Bishop Michael said that Lancaster had 'done me proud' and warmly thanked the many people who had made the ordination so successful.

Over 100 people attended the party. It is a startling reminder of the goodwill of parishioners that so many people pulled together to make the ordination happen. The Cathedral, perhaps more than any parish in the Diocese, relies on the generosity of its parishioners; there is no doubt that for the ordination, they demonstrated a generosity of which all could be proud.

The English Martyrs

Today we celebrate the feast of St Alban, the first martyr of England. He proved to be the first of many who would give their lives for Christ in this country. The Cathedral has a stained glass window of the English martyrs - though in this case they are all post-reformation - from left to right, St John Fisher, St Thomas More, Blessed John Houghton, St Cuthbert Mayne. Even in our own city many gave their lives for the faith. The feast of the Lancaster martyrs is kept on 7th August, and is one of the high points of the summer liturgical calendar in Lancaster.

Monday, 16 June 2008

The DVDs arrive

For many patient people, the wait is over! There is a lengthy waiting list for copies of the DVD of Bishop Campbell's ordination. This afternoon we took delivery of the DVDs, which are now on sale. Each DVD comes in a specially designed box; there is also a design on the disk itself.

The ordination was filmed and edited by a local firm, 'Gorgeous Media', whose website can be found here. Our thanks are due to Janine, who oversaw this very complex operation, and who is by now quite familiar with the entire event, having spent many hours editing the footage!

Copies are available now from Cathedral House, priced £10. If you would like a copy sent to you, please add £2 to cover postage and packaging. All cheques should be made payable to St Peter's Cathedral. Copies may also be collected at Cathedral House. If you have already expressed an interest, we will be in touch with you over the next few days. For more information, please contact us.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

First Holy Communions

This morning a number of children from the parish received Holy Communion for the first time. Supported by their families and friends, they came to the 10:30am Mass in their Sunday best! The traditional clothing is more a matter of custom than of faith - the children are free to wear whatever they choose - but the effort put into their appearance also signifies the huge amount of spiritual preparation that goes into this day.

After the Mass there were numerous opportunities for photographs: in the Cathedral, on the steps, in the garden... the children certainly have some understanding of what it feels like to be a celebrity! More importantly, may they also have an understanding of the great gift of Christ's Body and Blood that they received today for the first time. Please continue to remember them and their families in your prayers as they grow in faith and in love of the Lord.

Friday, 13 June 2008

A Mighty Piano Recital

This evening the Cathedral hosted a spectacular piano recital given by the American pianist Roman Rudnytsky. Roman has played in many parts of the world, and came to Lancaster after being as far afield as South America in recent weeks. He has also recently played in Africa, and over dinner before the concert he also told us that three weeks ago he was - quite literally - in Timbuctoo!

The concert was introduced by Caroline Hull, the Cathedral's events co-ordinator. Caroline oversees all the concerts and cultural events at the Cathedral, which are organised to open the building to a wider audience and to bring in money for important works. Money currently being raised is helping to pay for the organ restoration work, which is ongoing.

Roman played a mighty programme of works, including sonatas by Beethoven and Prokofiev, pieces by Chopin, Grieg and Liszt, and Mussorgsky's highly popular 'Pictures at an Exhibition'. A very full programme, and much appreciated by the audience.

The list of forthcoming concerts at the Cathedral reveals a great variety of styles: click here to see full details of events in the near future.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

The morning light

Two images of the wall paintings in the Blessed Sacrament chapel, taken this morning before the lights were truned on. The natural light really picks out the gold paint in these images. Above, the numerous cross keys are a symbol of our patron, St Peter, while he himself sits at the centre of the picture, enthroned in heaven. Our Lady and many other saints are depicted on the south side, seen below. We believe that these images were painted by Henry Doyle, uncle of the author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, though no conclusive proof has yet been found.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Preparing for First Holy Communion

This morning twenty children from the parish who are preparing to receive Holy Communion for the first time came together for their last session. Over the last few months they have met many times as they prepared for first confession and then first Communion. Their parents have also been meeting regularly, to help them in their task of preparing the children at home.

This year the preparation has not followed a published course; instead, the Cathedral catechists and priests have devised a programme under the title 'My Lord and my God'. This title is taken from the words of St Thomas when he saw the Lord and no longer doubted; it is also a prayer which people often say at the consecration at Mass. We are invited, like Thomas, to doubt no longer, but to believe that the Lord is truly present in the Eucharist.

Yesterday the children and their parents came together for a joint preparation session. They talked about the dismissal at Mass; how we are to 'love and serve the Lord' in the week ahead, and how we must take the gift of Christ to others in our lives. Outside, they made some pot plants as a reminder of the need to care for and thank God for the whole of creation.

Each family also wrote a pledge. As we receive the gift of Jesus in Holy Communion, we are asked to respond to His gift by doing more out of love for God and for each other. The pledges are a sign of the families' commitment to do more in response to God's gift. The children also learnt of the famous saying of St Teresa of Avila: 'Christ has no body on earth but yours'. In receiving the Body of Christ we are called to do His will on earth.

Cards were prepared for some of the sick and housebound of the parish, who will be asked to pray for the children in the weeks ahead. The children have learnt that many housebound people receive communion at home, so much do they value the Lord's gift to us. The children will receive Holy Communion for the first time next Sunday. Please remember them in your prayers.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Year 4 on retreat

Over the last couple of days children from Hayhurst class (year 4) at the Cathedral Primary School have been at Brettargh Holt near Kendal on a short retreat. The house is run by Salesian Sisters, who provide a range of activities for groups - especially the young. Their website can be found here.

The main theme of their time away was 'teamwork'. The children were encouraged to work more closely together and to look out for one another in their work and play. A range of workshops gave them opportunity to practise; the one above made good use of Brettargh's rather grand staircase!

The extensive grounds were the setting for another task: a nature trail. Yesterday evening, there was also a walk to a spot in the woods for a short time of reflection and prayer.

The grounds are also great for burning off a little excess energy, and the children made enthusiastic use of their break times!

Throughout the time away there were reminders that teamwork comes from God. The children were reminded of St Paul's analogy of the Body of Christ: we each have a different part to play in the Church, and this too involves teamwork. God has made us social beings and given each of us different talents so that we might work together for the greater good. Yesterday Mass was celebrated in the chapel, and there were regular times of prayer and meditation throughout the retreat. It will hopefully be an experience that the children will benefit from for many years.