Thursday 30 April 2009

Two Today

There are lots of important anniversaries to celebrate this year, but here's one that is not likely to be widely reported: our Cathedral Blog is two years old today! In 379 posts over the last two years, we have covered the big events, the life of the Cathedral and given some behind the scenes insights. If you feel inclined to give the blog a birthday present, why not recommend it to a friend? There will be plenty to see over the coming days, as we report on the handover to Bishop Campbell and bid farewell to Bishop O'Donoghue. The blog is getting more visits than ever before; thanks for your support.

Wednesday 29 April 2009

May Diary

A little earlier than usual (as our attention over the next few days is likely to be diverted elsewhere!), here's our look ahead at the coming month. May gets off to a flying start with the inauguration of Bishop Campbell and Diocesan Farewell to Bishop O'Donoghue taking place on Friday. The rest of the month also has much to offer: the Diocesan Altar Servers' Mass takes place on Saturday 16th at 12:15pm (all welcome, more details on the diocesan website, here) and a Mass in celebration of Marriage and Family Life takes place on Saturday 23rd at 3pm (again, all welcome). Parish events include the final two 'Curious about the Eucharist' talks, and Bishop Campbell will confirm some of our young people at 10:30am Mass on Pentecost Sunday, 31st May.

20th May is the 100th anniversary of the appointment of Dr J. H. Reginald Dixon, the brilliant musician and singular character who served as organist and master of music here from 1909 to 1971. Many parishioners have fond memories of this extraordinary man whose music was performed all over Europe. The anniversary is being marked with a 'Dr Dixon Festival', part of the Cathedral's 150th anniversary celebrations. You are welcome to join us for: a talk on Dr Dixon's life (Friday 15th at 7:30pm; free entry), a performance of some of his music (Saturday 16th at 8pm; tickets £8, concessions £6) and an organ recital given by Joan Johnson, his last student (Wednesday 20th, 7:30pm; admission by donation). You can find more details on the Cathedral's concerts and events page, here.

Canon Billington will feature more on Dr Dixon during the month of May. Other highlights on Billington's Blog in the coming month will be reports on the opening of St Thomas More's and the installation of Bishop Brewer, who took over from Bishop Foley in May 1985. Much to look forward to! Billington's Blog can be found here. Today he reports on the blessing of the Cathedral's foundation stone on this day in 1857.

Today is also the anniversary of the beatification of Thérèse of Lisieux, whose relics are coming to the Cathedral 28th-30th September. Already it looks set to be a fantastic event, with a very significant number of people expressing interest. More about the visit and regular updates can be found on the Thérèse blog, which in May will feature some accounts of key moments in Thérèse's life (her First Communion, her miraculous cure, her canonisation), information on resources for schools being sent out in the coming weeks and other news about the visit. You can find the Thérèse blog here.

Tuesday 28 April 2009

A call from the Lord

Next Sunday is dedicated as a special day of prayer for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and in many parishes there will be speakers, promotional materials displayed and prayers offered for this cause. At the recent Chrism Mass Bishop O'Donoghue spoke of his 42 years as a priest and bishop, saying that his time in priestly ministry had been "a gift from the Lord." He will, of course, retire from his role as Bishop of Lancaster on Friday, but remains a bishop and a priest and will continue to serve the Church, albeit in a slightly less stressful way! During his time in Lancaster he has often reminded us of the need to pray for vocations and - thankfully - there are more seminarians for the Diocese now than when he began. Constant prayer is still needed, as is the generosity of those whom the Lord is calling. Could it be you? The Diocese has its own vocations promotion blog and is currently looking for men interested in the priesthood to consider spending a year at the dioceasn House of Formation. You can find more on the vocations blog - click here.

Monday 27 April 2009

A Tribute from the Lancaster Youth

Many of the young people of the Diocese have great affection for Bishop Patrick, who has accompanied them to the World Youth Day celebrations in Toronoto (2002), Cologne (2005) and Sydney (2008), and has always been a keen supporter of the Lancaster Lourdes Pilgrimage Youth Section. The Bishop has also worked hard to build up provision for youth in the Diocese and regularly calls in to youth events. Some of the young people of the Diocese have put together a tribute to the Bishop on YouTube, featuring pictures of the Bishop and some scenes from around the Lancaster Diocese. It lasts about five minutes and can be viewed by clicking on the image above. The Blog will, of course, have its own tribute to Bishop Patrick later in the week.

Sunday 26 April 2009

One last time

Regular visitors to the Cathedral Blog will be well used to seeing Bishop Patrick seated on the cathedra. This image, however, is unique: here the Bishop is seated on this symbol of his authority for the last time. Bishop Patrick yesterday presided over a liturgy in the Cathedral for what will be - barring any unexpected events - the final time.

The Bishop was celebrating Mass for Women Together in the Diocese of Lancaster, who had asked him to do so as a farewell before his retirement on Friday. The group also had lunch and held a meeting at the Cathedral in the afternoon.

Women came from across the Diocese for the celebration; a number of religious women were among those who attended.

At the end of Mass the group presented the Bishop with a spiritual bouquet of Masses and with a green stole. They thanked him for his work and support during his time in Lancaster.

Speaking at the cathedra for the last time, Bishop Patrick thanked Women Together for all they have done and wished them well for the future. He told the congregation that he had been "very happy" during his time in the Diocese.

And so, for the last time, the Bishop was given his mitre and crozier at the throne ready for the blessing. His retirement will be marked by the whole Diocese on Friday (please note: access to this Mass is strictly by ticket only), when Bishop Michael will be the principal celebrant at Mass in the Cathedral for the first time. Keep an eye on the blog over the coming days for more about the handover, and - of course - full coverage of Friday's Mass.

Saturday 25 April 2009

St Mark, evangelist

The feast of St Mark the evangelist is kept today. Here his symbol (the lion) is seen with the symbol of St Matthew. The image is from the Te Deum window.

The last week at the desk

As of yesterday evening there is less than a week to go until Bishop Patrick hands over to his successor. Today he will celebrate Mass in the Cathedral for Women Together in the Diocese of Lancaster (12:15pm; all welcome) and will maintain a full timetable until the end of the week. The Bishop has spent countless hours behind his desk over the years he has been with us. The daily delivery of post is alone enough to keep him busy!

Thursday 23 April 2009

St George, Patron of England

Today is the feast of St George, the Patron of England. Here he is seen in the Cathedral's Te Deum window (top right), accompanied by two fellow martyrs: St Alban (in blue) and St Stephen, the first Christian martyr.

Wednesday 22 April 2009

Great crowds mark four years

Last Sunday was the fourth anniversary of the election of Pope Benedict. High above St Peter's Square the papal appartments remained unoccupied; the Pope was at Castelgandolfo, the Papal residence just outside of the city. It is at these windows that the Holy Father normally appears for his weekly angelus (in Eastertide, Regina Caeli) blessing.

Despite the poor weather and the fact that the Pope was out of town, a large crowd gathered in the square to wish him well as he begins the fifth year of his pontificate. Seemingly the Pope is drawing bigger crowds than his predecessor - quite some achievement given Pope John Paul's popularity. It has been remarked that in days past the people came to see Pope John Paul; now they come to hear Pope Benedict, whose brief reflections always contain plenty of food for thought.

Tuesday 21 April 2009

Benedict our Pope, Patrick our Bishop

No image can better remind us of the unity of the Church than this: our Bishop meeting with the Holy Father. The meeting took place last Wednesday at the end of the Pope's weekly General Audience in St Peter's Square. The Holy Father often meets with bishops and other guests at the end of the audience, though the meetings are very brief. Last week he departed from the usual protocol and spent a few minutes with Bishop Patrick, who was visiting Rome ahead of his retirement next week.

The Bishop presented Pope Benedict with copies of his acclaimed documents, Fit for Mission? Church and Fit for Mission? Schools. His Holiness spent some time looking through the documents and thanked Bishop Patrick for the work he had done, not only in these publications but throughout his eight years in Lancaster.

Meanwhile, in the background, another bishop took the opportunity to zoom in for a picture!

Our man in Rome sent us these pictures which were taken soon after the meeting. Above the Bishop is seen with his secretary, Fr Robert Billing, who accompanied him on the trip; below he is with Fr Peter Groody, who is currently studying in Rome.

You can read more about the meeting on the diocesan website: click here.

Monday 20 April 2009

More from the Chrism Mass

As promised, here are a few more pictures from Maundy Thursday's Chrism Mass - already (can you believe it?) 11 days ago. As can be seen here, the rain held off for long enough for the priests to make their way from the Social Centre (where they vested) to the Cathedral.

The clergy often use these opportunities to catch up on each other's news - the stroll through the garden is a perfect opportunity for a brief pre-Mass chat!

Here the Bishop, about to enter the Cathedral for his last Chrism Mass in Lancaster, shares a joke with some of the Canons.

Inside the Cathedral attention is turned to more serious matters: the blessing of the oils and consecration of the Chrism, and the renewal of the priests' commitment to service. Having been brought up with the bread and wine to be used at Mass, the oils are placed at the front of the sanctuary.

Three deacons - pictured here - carry the oils. The deacon in green carries the oil of Chrism, the one in white the oil of catechumens and the one in purple the oil of the sick. After Mass the oils are then distributed to priests for use in parishes across the Diocese.

These photographs come to us courtesy of the Catholic Voice of Lancaster, the Diocesan newspaper, and were taken by the paper's editor, Edwina Gillett. Before Mass she also managed to get a picture of some of the papal knights, seen here. Many thanks to Edwina for sharing these pictures with us. The Chrism Mass will be featured in the next edition of the Catholic Voice, which will be published at the end of this month.

Sunday 19 April 2009

Doubting Thomas

The Gospel reading for this octave day of Easter tells of Thomas' doubt that the Lord has risen. All doubt is dispelled, however, when Thomas sees the Lord; he responds, simply, "My Lord and my God." The scene is depicted in the Cathedral's Coulston Chantry, close to the main entrance.

Friday 17 April 2009

The Empty Tomb

On the lawn at the back of the Cathedral Social Centre, children from the Cafe Club (parish group for children aged 10-13) have produced a depiction of the Easter scene. A path leads to the empty tomb, where a slab of stone has been removed from the entrance. Three crosses on a hill can be seen at the top of the picture.

Inside the tomb, the grave-clothes are seen folded up, just as the Gospel records. It is wonderful that the younger members of our parish have taken time to visualise the scene and to think about its meaning.

Thursday 16 April 2009

Easter Flowers

These pictures from Easter Sunday are a good reminder of just how good the weather was; they show some of the flowers around the Cathedral. We're fortunate that in our part of the world Easter falls just as everything is coming back to life after the barren months of winter.

Outside the front door of Cathedral House, the flower beds look particularly fine.

Meanwhile, inside the Cathedral our flower ladies have once again excelled. This display stands just in front of the main altar. The flowers in church are not mere decoration; they are a sign of new life coming forth, and a reminder that all life has its source in God.

Wednesday 15 April 2009

Easter Angels

Part of the decoration of the stand for the Paschal Candle, three angels boldly proclaim that the Lord is risen from the dead.

Tuesday 14 April 2009

Paschal Candle 2009

Towering over everything else on the Cathedral sanctuary, the Paschal Candle proclaims the resurrection of the Lord. This great symbol of the risen Christ is lit for all liturgy during Eastertide, having been first lit from the Easter fire on Holy Saturday night.

Certain elements always appear on the candle. The alpha and omega - the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet - appear above and below the cross, reminding us that Christ is "the beginning and the end". The date - 2009 - is seen around the candle. Five grains of incense in gold-coloured studs are inserted into the candle at the Easter Vigil. These are references to the wounds of Christ, just as His risen body retained the marks of His death (see John 20:27).

The rest of the decoration varies each year. This time around the candle is decorated with six bands representing the six days of creation. Here we see the creation of day and night on the fourth day; the sun and the moon and stars are created. Using the days of creation as a theme for the candle seems appropriate, as the resurrection is a new creation. Now God recreates the world, restoring humans to His image and likeness. The Gospel reading for Easter Sunday began by telling us that "it was very early in the morning on the first day of the week, and still dark" when the women went to the tomb. In the darkness, on the first day of the week, God again says "Let there be light."

The creation of the birds of the air and the fish of the sea (day 5) is depicted here...

... and here, of course, are the first humans - popularly known as 'Adam and Eve' - amongst the many animals that God created on the sixth day. The Exsultet, sung at the beginning of the Easter Vigil, famously speaks of the "happy fault", the "necessary sin of Adam which gained for us so great a redeemer."

Placed in its stand, the candle occupies a prominent place on the sanctuary until Pentecost Sunday (this year 31st May), after which it is moved to the baptistery.

Sunday 12 April 2009

Easter Evening Light

The Cathedral's 150th Holy Week comes to an end, and the celebration of Easter begins. Everyone is ready for a break - lots of volunteers have given a tremendous number of hours to fold and staple booklets, work in the sacristy, serve at the altar, arrange flowers, clean and so on. During Holy Week there were 22 public liturgies in the Cathedral - somewhat more than our small team can normally provide! It is, of course, not only worthwhile, but also necessary: we must celebrate to the very best of our ability the great mysteries at the heart of our faith. At the end of this Easter Day the Lord has provided a final glimpse of His splendour - a wonderful glow of orange light bathed the east end of the Cathedral after the evening Mass.

The Paschal Candle, standing over 10 feet tall once in its stand, stands out well against the light of the setting sun...

... and here the Lady Chapel and the Sacred Heart statue are caught in the glow.

The liturgies of Holy Week have gone well and at times have been very impressive - but it seems this evening the Lord Himself has had the last word.

Easter Sunday Mass

Happy Easter to you all! Last night we celebrated the Lord's resurrection with a wonderful Easter Vigil and first Mass of the Resurrection. The 50-day celebration has begun! The image here was taken at the end of the 10:30am Mass, which was a full house! Much more on the celebration of Easter to follow on the blog over the next few days, including a look at the Paschal Candle. And if you're in the area, come and join us for the celebration of the Octave. There is Exposition and Rosary today at 4pm followed by Sung Vespers at 4:40pm; then Monday-Saturday a sung Mass each day at 12:15pm, Exposition at 5pm and Sung Vespers at 5:30pm.