Sunday 31 January 2010

Curious about Holy Week?

With just over two weeks until Lent begins, it's time to look ahead to our programme of catechesis taking place in the run-up to Easter. The popular 'Curious about...' series is back, this time looking at Holy Week, the time between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. Five sessions will explore the meaning of the death and resurrection of Christ and the way in which we celebrate this great event in the liturgy. There'll be insights into the liturgy of the sacred Triduum, and also the other events of the week, including the Chrism Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours. All the talks are free and take place on Tuesday evenings, beginning at 7:30pm in St Walburga's (the 'day chapel', accessed from Balmoral Road). The first talk is on Tuesday 23rd February; a full list of dates and talk titles, along with other information, can be found here.

Saturday 30 January 2010

Haiti Collection

Over the last two weeks Cathedral parishioners have been contributing to a collection for victims of the earthquake in Haiti. These collections, private donations and fundraising efforts at the Cathedral Primary School raised a total of just over £3650. This money has now been sent to three Catholic charities which have launched emergency appeals for relief work in Haiti: Aid to the Church in Need, Cafod and Mary's Meals. All three are currently working to provide emergency help for the many thousands in Haiti left without water, food and shelter, and each received £1219 from the Cathedral parish. Please continue to remember all the victims of the earthquake in your prayers.

Friday 29 January 2010

Ad limina: private audiences

The Vatican's Bollettino, the daily round-up of news which (amongst other things) gives details of the Holy Father's engagements, reveals that yesterday our Bishop had a private audience with the Pope as part of the Bishops' Ad Limina visit. The picture here is of an earlier meeting, in September 2008. Pope Benedict will meet with all the Bishops who are in Rome for the Ad Limina, each of whom spend a few minutes in private conversation with him. Aside from Bishop Campbell, yesterday the Holy Father received the Archbishop of Liverpool, along with his auxiliary and retired auxiliary bishops; the Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, the Bishop of Hallam and the Bishop of Wrexham. It's a unique chance for the Pope to hear about the life of each diocese, of the challenges and the signs of hope present there. So if you are part of the Diocese of Lancaster, know that this morning Pope Benedict today knows a little more about the Church in your part of the world!

Thursday 28 January 2010

From our friends in Slovakia

Blog readers in Slovakia enjoyed our coverage of events here at the Cathedral last year, it seems. Maria from Filakovo emailed and told us that she and her friends had been moved by much of what they had seen, especially pictures of the visit of St Thérèse back in September. They also enjoyed pictures of the Rome pilgrimage, especially as they had made their own trip to the Eternal City in April. Here are a few images of their trip, starting above with their group of about 90 pilgrims...

... and here their priests, seen with the Bishop.

One of the highlights of their trip was the Papal Audience. As you can see, it was a typically sunny April day in Rome, and they managed to get a good view of Pope Benedict. Maria also wished us well for the Holy Father's visit to the UK later this year.

Much like our group, the pilgrims from Slovakia did a tour of Rome's great churches. Above is one of their pictures of the Cathedral Church, the Lateran Basilica of St John.

One place they went that our pilgrims didn't visit was Assisi, the home of St Francis. Perhaps we should consider another pilgrimage...

Wednesday 27 January 2010

Drop in for prayer days

Once a month in our parish, at St Thomas More's, the Ursuline sisters offer a sort of open day under the title 'drop in for prayer'. During these days there are meditations, times of prayer and plenty of space for people to pray quietly, to read or to talk to one of the sisters. There's also an evening spirituality session, which each month focuses on a different theme. The most recent was centred on the recent visit of the relics of St Thérèse, giving people a chance to share their memories of the visit and to explore the symbolism of the icon which travelled around with the relics (a copy of this icon was displayed, as the pictures show). The session's theme was chosen in the hope that those present could build on the positive experience of the visit as they seek to deepen their spiritual lives.

Two smaller icons linked to St Thérèse were also used as a focus for reflection, one being the icon of the Holy Face, which was so dear to Thérèse. This has provided the theme for the forthcoming sessions, which will take as their theme "Seeking the Face of Christ" through Scripture, mainly the Gospel according to St John. If you'd like to come to any of the forthcoming sessions, they generally take place on the second Monday of the month, and details are included on the parish newsletter (in pdf format here). Meanwhile, we couldn't let this post pass without wishing our Ursuline sisters a very happy feast day: today is the feast of St Angela Merici, who founded their order in 1535.

Tuesday 26 January 2010

Ad Limina Apostolorum

As noted in the previous post, yesterday was the feast of the conversion of St Paul. At some point within a few years of his conversion, Paul travelled to Jerusalem to meet with the leaders of the Church there, most notably St Peter. If it was important for the Apostles to meet with St Peter in those early years of the Church, it is no less important that their successors meet with the Pope, who occupies the chair of St Peter today. So it is that - in a rolling programme which takes a few years - all the bishops of the world travel to Rome to meet with the Holy Father and the various departments which oversee the Church's life and mission around the world. These visits, which take place country by country, are known as 'Ad Limina Apostolorum'.

Yesterday the Bishops of England and Wales began their Ad Limina visit, which will last for about ten days. Over this time they will pass through the gates of the Vatican (such as the Porta Sant'Anna, seen here) for meetings in Vatican departments. These departments (known as 'congregations') oversee every aspect of the Church's life: faith, liturgy, education, missionary work, the appointment of bishops, ecumenism and so on. At their meetings with our bishops, they will discover more about the life of the Church in our country, so that their understanding of the life of the worldwide Church may be kept up-to-date. Each bishop prepares reports about his diocese in advance of the visit, to help this process. The congregations may also suggest to the Bishops some ways forward, based on their knowledge of the Church's progress elsewhere across the globe.

Each week the Pope meets with many bishops, as we saw during our recent parish trip to Rome (pictured). During the Ad Limina, however, the Holy Father will not only meet with the Bishops, but also address them. He is likely to offer them some encouragement and advice about their ministry in these difficult times, and perhaps will make reference to his forthcoming visit to England, which seems likely to take place in September.

The term Ad Limina Apostolorum is translated 'to the threshold of the Apostles', and refers to the fact that the Bishops will also visit the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, to venerate the relics of these two great saints. Each bishop is required to make this visit every five years. Keep an eye on the blog during the visit, as we will bring you any information that makes its way back from the Eternal City!

Monday 25 January 2010

The Conversion of St Paul

Today is the feast of the Conversion of St Paul, one of the many Gospel scenes depicted in the Cathedral's stained glass. This scene is from a window at the east end of the Cathedral, behind the triptych. Paul (or perhaps, at this point, more accurately called 'Saul') is on the ground in the centre panel, with a light shining upon him from above. The New Testament contains several accounts of his conversion: in the Acts of the Apostles (chapters 9, 22 and 26) and - in his own words - in Galatians chapter 1. The liturgical calendar reminds us of the effects of Paul's conversion and his subsequent missionary zeal, for tomorrow we keep the feast of two of his converts, Saints Timothy and Titus.

Sunday 24 January 2010

St Luke, advocate of the poor

Outside the Basilica of St Paul in Rome, this giant statue of St Luke stands as a reminder that Luke is one of the most important sources we have about St Paul. Author of the Gospel account that bears his name and of the Acts of the Apostles, St Luke is responsible for over a quarter of the New Testament. The readings that we hear at Mass on Sundays are on a three-year cycle, and this year most of the Gospel readings are taken from St Luke's account. Today at Mass we hear the opening of the gospel, in which St Luke states that he has written his account with great care, "after carefully going over the whole story from the beginning". Among the special emphases of St Luke's account is the way in which Jesus showed particular care for the poor and marginalised, and thereby placed this duty upon His followers. As we consider the tragedy in Haiti, therefore, it is appropriate that Cathedral parishioners are making their contribution. A collection was taken last Sunday, and will be again this week, for the victims of the earthquake, who will also be remembered in our prayers. Among the many thousands who died in the disaster was the Archbishop of Port-au-Prince, whose funeral took place yesterday next to the spot where the Cathedral used to stand. He, and all the victims of this tragedy, remain in the prayers of the Church across the world.

Wednesday 13 January 2010

Ice Age

This picture of the Lancaster Canal frozen over, taken last Sunday, signals a freeze in postings here on the Cathedral blog, until around 24th January. There's plenty to cover when we return, so don't leave it too long to visit again. After the activity of Christmas it's time for Blogger to take a holiday, before the pace of life picks up again... and, hopefully, the temperature with it!

Monday 11 January 2010

Sacramental Preparation 2010

For those in the Cathedral parish, the preparation programmes for First Communion, Confession and Confirmation will begin shortly. Children in school year 3 or above are eligible for the First Confession and Communion programme, and those in year 8 or above may enrol for Confirmation. Those interested should collect a form from the back of the Cathedral or from St Thomas More's, and all forms should be returned to Cathedral House by Sunday 24th January.

Sunday 10 January 2010

The end of the white Christmas

Today, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, marks the end of the Christmas season. Tomorrow the crib and Christmas trees will be taken down, and 'ordinary time' returns. It seems that the end of the season may also be bringing a change in the weather, with the first signs that the temperature is beginning to rise here in Lancaster.

So here's your travel update from the Cathedral: earlier in the week we managed to acquire some grit and salt, with the result that the immediate access to the Cathedral (via both the steps and the ramp) is now fairly clear. The path through the garden, however, remains fairly slippery, so caution is advised!

It's certainly been warmer overnight and so far today, and the ice that had been covering Balmoral Road has been slowly clearing. The Cathedral Primary School, a little further up the hill, closed on Thursday and Friday as the road was too dangerous. It may reopen tomorrow; an anouncement will be made on local radio stations in the morning. The forecast for later in the week predicts some slightly warmer weather, and it will undoubtedly be weclomed by most people.

No doubt plenty of people will be counting the cost of the last few weeks. The wall at the corner of St Peter's road, just opposite the Social Centre, has been hit by cars at least twice as a result of ice on the roads.

There's a strange side-effect to the weather inside the Cathedral, also. Regular visitors will know that the floor is frequently polished to keep it looking at its best, however at present it's covered with a layer of white. It's not snow, of course, but salt being brought in on our shoes! As unsightly as it is, it's a small price to pay for ensuring better safety on the Cathedral site.

Thursday 7 January 2010

Fr John T. Turner RIP

The Cathedral will today host the requiem Mass for Father John T. Turner, a priest of the Diocese of Lancaster who died on 20th December. Among his appointments, Fr Turner was chaplain of Lancaster University in the late 1960s/early 1970s and most recently was parish priest at Kirkby Lonsdale. After his retirement he lived briefly at Nazareth House in Lancaster. Fr Turner's requiem will take place this morning at 11:30am in the Cathedral. Those attending the funeral are advised to take care both on the roads and on foot, on account of the weather. Monsignor Aidan Turner, Vicar General, will preside at today's Mass as the Bishop is away. May Fr Turner rest in peace.

Wednesday 6 January 2010

Snow update - important information

Clear blue skies at present, but there has been a little more snow in Lancaster this morning. Today's 12:15pm Mass will take place as usual, and tomorrow the requiem for Fr John Turner will go ahead at 11:30am, as planned. The Cathedral Primary School also remains open. However, the 'Epiphany Party' planned for Saturday has been cancelled on account of the weather. If you are a parishioner, please help to spread the news to anyone who was planning to come (either as a guest or as a helper). The Cathedral remains open as usual, but all visitors are advised to take extra care on the grounds and on surrounding roads and pavements. We have been making great efforts to clear a path, but it is impossible at present to get hold of supplies of salt for gritting.

Tuesday 5 January 2010

The return of the snow

Overnight the snow has returned to Lancaster, as our coldest winter for many years continues. This morning traffic around the city is very slow-moving, and many people have chosen to make journeys on foot rather than risk driving. The Cathedral is open as normal and remains unaffected, and the Cathedral School is also open, with the new term beginning today. However, many of the roads and paths in the area are fairly slippery, so be cautious if you're in the area! Elsewhere in the parish, conditions seem worse, and as a result this morning's 9am Mass at St Thomas More's was cancelled.

Monday 4 January 2010

What can we expect from 2010?

After an extraordinary anniversary year, we may well expect that 2010 at the Cathedral will be a little quieter. There is still plenty to look forward to, however, and today the blog takes a look at some of the likely events of the year ahead.

It now seems certain that Pope Benedict will visit Britain later this year, most likely in September. Details are yet to be announced, but we can expect a published programme by Easter. The visit will no doubt be an extraordinary event, and the Cathedral will play its part in promoting the visit and organising transport to the nearest venue. The blog, of course, will keep you fully up-to-date as details of the visit come to light. We'll also keep an eye on the 'Ad limina' visit of the English and Welsh bishops, who travel to Rome for an important meeting with the Pope. The Ad limina visits only take place every few years, and offer the bishops a chance to keep the Holy Father up-to-date with the life of the Church in this country.

Another major event for the Church in England this year will be the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, the 19th-century theologian who converted from Anglicanism. Again, we await details of the beatification, but it will probably take place in the Archdiocese of Birmingham and there is some speculation that the Pope himself will preside over the liturgy. If he does, it will be the first beatification at which he has personally presided.

More locally, the celebrations of 2009 will be available to remember on a 150th anniversary DVD which will be available before too long - we'll let you know when, of course! We also plan to reprint the original parish history written by former rector Canon Billington, along with a second volume bringing the story up-to-date. These books will probably not be published until around the feast of the Dedictaion in October: keep an eye on this blog for more details.

The Cathedral's popular 'Curious' talks will resume in Lent, with a series of talks entitled 'Curious about Holy Week'. These sessions will give parishioners (and anyone else who would like to come) the chance to find out about the Holy Week liturgy and its meaning. Later, in May, there will be four sessions called 'Curious about Mary', which will look at her place in the faith and life of the Church.

The Year for Priests continues until June, and in April the Cathedral will host a deanery Mass to mark the year. It's also an important year for the Ursuline sisters, who are active in our parish, as in November they mark the 475th anniversary of the foundation of their company.

And finally... along with everything else that the year will bring... sometime before June 3rd the country will go to the polls in a general election. Our own Social Centre will once again be used as a polling station, and the blog will keep an eye on the Church's national and local involvement in the election proceedings.

Sunday 3 January 2010

Gifts for the new-born King

Today's feast of the Epiphany of the Lord celebrates the fact that God revealed Himself to the nations in the person of Jesus Christ. The Liturgy makes reference to three important moments of revelation: the wedding feast at Cana, at which Jesus worked His first miracle (or 'sign', as St John's Gospel calls it); the Baptism of the Lord - the beginning of His public ministry, which has its own feast next Sunday; and the visit of the 'wise men from the East', which is the focus of the celebration at Mass.

The Cathedral's crib, which draws a steady stream of visitors over the Christmas season, now includes figures of the three wise men. Although St Matthew does not say how many wise men visited the Lord, the number three is assumed, as he speaks of the three gifts they offered:

First, gold (seen on the right), which symbolises the kingship of the new-born child. Next, frankincense (on the left), which signifies the presence of God. In presenting this gift the wise men acknowledge the divinity of Jesus.

Finally, myrrh. This spice was used to anoint the bodies of the dead, and so points ahead to the time when Jesus will die on the cross for our salvation. In the gifts of the wise men then, we see not only the divinity of Jesus but also His humanity: the mystery of this season unfolds before our eyes.

The crib may be visited whenever the Cathedral is open (usually 8:30am-6pm each day), except during services. If you are in the area, do call in. You'll find the crib near the Christmas trees, in the baptistery, and it will remain here until next Sunday, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which marks the end of the Christmas season.

Friday 1 January 2010

Mary, the Mother of God

A Happy New Year to all blog readers, at home and abroad. Today we celebrate the feast of Mary, the Mother of God, with Mass in the Cathedral at 12:15pm and sung Vespers with the Veni Creator at 6pm; there is also a low Mass in the extraordinary form this morning at 10am.

On the sanctuary during the Christmas octave there is a beautiful statue of Our Lady, presenting her Son to the world. The statue was recently donated to the Cathedral by the church of Our Lady, Queen of Poland, just a few yards down the hill from here. We are very grateful for the gift and will certainly put it to good use; it fits the Cathedral perfectly. As the New Year begins we entrust our cares to Our Lady's intercession, asking that by her prayers the Lord may bless us as we look to the future.