The saved Talbot Library is re-opened at Liverpool Hope University

Dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome to this extraordinary post of the Bishop’s Blog!

Usually the blog is posted only on a Saturday – but I felt I should make an additional and special post for this special occasion and achievement in the life of the Diocese!

Yesterday, I was delighted to be asked to open the saved, transferred and newly-housed Talbot Collection of books at Liverpool Hope University – from the former Talbot Library in Preston – in our Diocese of Lancaster

I was very happy to do this – as the Diocese of Lancaster and Liverpool Hope , through a careful and close negotiation and collaboration have managed to keep this collection intact and in the Northwest of England following the Library’s closure in Preston in December 2014 – geographically close to our Diocese and with the benefit that this collection is used at the service of young people and others in their education and research but also kept safe and well in expert and secure facilities.

The word ‘Catholicism’ implies a complex interweaving of intellectual and cultural tradition.  At heart, the notion of ‘Catholicism’ embraces a world-view that is profoundly open to the many ways in which God is revealed and acts in the world and to the breadth of human experience that articulate the opening to and response to God’s presence and work.  A Library, therefore, that is authentically ‘Catholic’ necessarily should reflect all that.  We should not be surprised to find there the works of the great Catholic theologians and philosophers, nor the accounts of the lives of the saints and documents of a historical nature; but we should also expect shelf-space to be given to Catholic culture – to art, architecture, music and literature.

It is a tribute to the wisdom of those, who over the years, have been responsible for the collection and curation of the Talbot Library that they have tendered an authentically Catholic Library – and one with a particularly local flavour.  Indeed, if you were seeking to research the particular flavour of Catholicism in the North West of England, then this Library is particularly appropriate and sets the benchmark.  From the 50,000 or more volumes that it contains, there are – at least – it seems five sections that support its claim to be a truly ‘Catholic’ collection.

  1. The collection of early printed texts relating to the recusant period of English Catholic history: this forms the perfect complement to the Gradwell Library from the former Upholland College and is now housed in state-of-the-art, temperature and humidity-controlled, collections vault.
  2. The superb collection of the works of Bl John Henry Newman and of secondary studies on him; again, this complements the Gradwell collection and in many regards ensures its currency.
  3. The impressively comprehensive collection of Catholic Directories, stretching back to the very end of the penal period. These books may not make the most gripping of reading, but they provide detailed regular ‘snapshots’ of the changing fortunes of the Catholic community across nearly two hundred years of history.
  4. The collection of Irish material: one of the key features of the Catholic community here in the North West is the significant – and continuing – contribution to its life, its spirituality and its culture of by Irish émigrés and by generations of their descendants.
  5. The G.K Chesterton collection: a reminder that Catholicism extends into culture and intellectual thought.

These five areas are only indicative (of more) – this Collection needs to be ‘unlocked’ or generously browsed in its new surroundings and I was made aware that Liverpool Hope have several initiatives planned to do just that! There is an invitation here to touch the history of the Catholic community, to discover the depth of its intellectual and cultural traditions and to probe and understand of what uniquely it offers to our own times.

The Diocese of Lancaster is pleased to know with confidence that the Talbot Collection is in good hands at Liverpool Hope University in the Sheppard-Worlock Library – now holding one of the best collections of Roman Catholic literature in the country.

With every thanks and blessing for Liverpool Hope University – its Vice-Chancellor, staff and students – for their welcome and for their great care of the Talbot Collection – now and going forward.

Happy Advent everyone!

As ever in Christ,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

On Novenas

Dear friends in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s post for the Bishop’s Blog!

On Thursday last, 7th December, in the splendid St. Walburge’s church, Preston, I preached the closing sermon (the text is here) for the Novena in honour of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I reflected afterwards on the admirable idea of having such a devotion in the form of a Novena, one which both honours Our Lady and instructs the faithful over the course of nine talks on what exactly the Church understands by this particular dogma. 

It was Pope Pius IX in 1854 who declared Mary’s Immaculate Conception to be an integral part of our Catholic belief, although its roots go back many centuries in the history of the Church.

There is surely much to recommend Novenas of this nature as a form of nourishment for a Catholic’s devotional life.

To meditate during Advent, for example, over nine days on Our Blessed Lady, on her Immaculate Conception, as she is presented to us in the Scriptures, and what the Church has come to understand of the signal part she played, and still plays, in our salvation, can only be an enriching spiritual experience.  St. Louis Grignion Marie was fond of saying, “To Jesus, through Mary.” The aim of the Christian life is to draw ever closer to Christ, and that is the ongoing role of Our Lady as the Mother of the Church.

The often frantic pace of modern life, especially at this time of the year, might makes us think twice before committing ourselves to a nine-day Novena, yet the rewards amply justify the effort.  We stop, and answering the invitation of the Lord in the gospel “Come apart and rest for a while”, and so find another kind of rhythm more in keeping with our dignity as sons and daughters of God the Father. Yes, to stop and draw breath also shows that that we do not allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the cascade of events that can consume all our wakening time nowadays.

The recent decision by the Bishops of England and Wales to restore Ascension Day to Thursday, instead of the nearest Sunday, will be welcomed by many Catholics and Christians who observe the days between the Lord’s Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost as a particularly special time of prayer.

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Traditionally, this liturgical period of waiting and expectation has been marked by a Novena to the Holy Spirit. It will be a joy and a comfort to have the possibility to doing this Novena once more.

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There are many other opportunities for personal Novenas which we can do privately but which can bring much spiritual fruit. One suggestion would be, after the rush of Christmas, to mark quietly and prayerfully the nine days which lead to the Epiphany, which is such a significant feast for us “Gentiles”.

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We could journey in spirit and in prayer with those wise men from the East, and like them discover once more the wonder of the new-born child in the stable with his mother, Mary. That would be a marvellous way to begin the New Year!

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For now, continued blessings to all in this lovely season of Advent,

As ever in Christ,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

My Pastoral Letter for the First Sunday of Advent

A PASTORAL LETTER

FROM THE BISHOP OF LANCASTER

FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT (2017)

Appointed to be read aloud at all weekend Public Masses in the Diocese of Lancaster on the weekend of 2/3 December 2017

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

On this First Sunday of Advent, the Lord, speaking through His Church, offers us the opportunity of a new beginning. The Scripture readings for the season of Advent will remind us of just how close Jesus Christ has come to us, by becoming man and being born of the Virgin Mary in a stable at Bethlehem. Nor has the Son of God ceased to be close to us, for as our Lord and Saviour He accompanies each one of us on life’s journey, gracing us with His loving presence and saving power. Advent therefore is a call to acknowledge the greatest of all truths that is the Incarnation and its ongoing relevance for us in our everyday lives.

God’s people of old longed for a Saviour, someone who would deliver them from their enemies, protect them, and ensure their well-being. Our faith teaches us that in the fullness of time a loving Father answered this longing by sending Jesus Christ His beloved Son – in flesh and humanity like ours. Through His public ministry, His death and resurrection Christ has revealed to us the saving plan of His heavenly Father, and so shown us the true path to life. The sacred season of Advent is a time when, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we deepen our understanding of the story of our salvation and make it our own. That is the grace and also the challenge of Advent.

Christ exhorts us no less than three times in today’s gospel “to stay awake”, so there is a real urgency to take seriously what He says about His coming. The Church teaches that Christ will return again finally, when He ‘will make all things new’. We don’t know when that final coming will take place, but our solid Christian hope is that whenever it comes we will be alert and ready to meet Him, and find Him not a judge but an infinitely merciful Saviour. We know from experience how easily we can be caught up in the material things of everyday and the general cares of life. The Scripture readings and the liturgy of Advent appeal gently to us to make space in our hearts for God, and to listen to the wise promptings of the Holy Spirit who, we are told, dwells in us as in a Temple.

This hallowed but short season of Advent speaks to us of the deep yearning in the human heart for that salvation which God alone can give, and which does not come and go, but ever endures. Our Blessed Lady in the words of Scripture, ‘treasured and pondered’ all the things said about her new-born Son. Mary is a wonderful model for each of us and for the Church as we begin Advent, for she opened her heart to God’s word and generously consented to be the Mother of Jesus Christ.

My dear brothers and sisters, may this holy season of Advent find us awake and watchful in prayer, ready to welcome the Saviour, and above all to celebrate with joyful and faith-filled hearts the wonder of His birth among us at Christmas time.

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With the assurance of my prayers and a blessing on you all,

As ever in Christ our Lord,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

As the Liturgical Year Draws to a Close

Dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

With the Feast of Christ the King this Sunday the Church’s liturgical year draws to a close. The new season of Advent and the four-week preparation for the Lord’s birth will begin next Sunday.

The liturgy is possibly the greatest teacher of the faith, and to enter into the spirit of the different liturgical “times” which mark the Church’s year is akin to a refresher course in the saving mysteries of our divine Lord’s earthly life. There is much truth in the old Latin dictum, ‘lex orandi, lex credendi’, which roughly means that the way we pray expresses what we believe.

As we leave one liturgical year behind and start another we do well to reflect on both the wonder and the mystery of time. St. Augustine famously remarked that he knew what time was, but could not explain it.  Our lives and the things we do are punctuated by time; we recall past times, and we look forward in different ways to times which lie ahead. Yet we are unable to bring back times past, or advance those times which still remain ahead of us. All we have is the present.

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When we apply time to the liturgical cycle of the Church we discover an ever present ‘now’, for the mysteries of the Saviour’s life which the liturgy sets before us become in some way actual, and do not simply belong to the past. The grace of his nativity at Christmas, that of his death and resurrection in the Easter period, and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost continue to be present and accessible to us in the liturgy, and graces which we make our own. God’s salvation in Christ comes to us ever fresh and ever new, notwithstanding the passing of time and the two millennia which have elapsed since the Son of God came among us.

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As we celebrate the the Kingship of Christ this Sunday we do well to remember that Christ now lives in glory beyond the constraints and limitations of time as we experience it. The New Testament declares that Jesus is the Lord of history and of time, and lives now forever in the presence of the Father, interceding for us. Through his almighty power those graces won by his redemptive work on the cross are still mediated to us in the liturgical cycle of the Church’s year.

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There is indeed a certain repetition in worshipping almighty God year in and year out, but that repetition is grace-filled and salvific. So on this Sunday, for example, by taking part in the Mass of Christ the King we are acknowledging the lordship of the Son of God over us and over all creation. And that act of worship allows him to enter our lives ever more as King and Lord, and be touched and transformed again by his divine grace.

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A blessed feast of Christ the King to everyone, and may the new liturgical season almost upon us see us grow, and be moulded ever increasingly into the image of Christ!

With every good wish and prayer for all those followers of this Blog in the Diocese of Lancaster and well beyond,

As ever in Christ our Lord,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

The Bishops’ Conference Plenary Session in Leeds

Dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s reflection to the Bishop’s Blog!

Bishops' Plenary - Nov 2017

This past week the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales met in Leeds for their twice yearly conference.  These are always fruitful but demanding days, with a quite remarkably intense and open level of discussion on issues currently facing the Church and society as a whole. They also provide the opportunity for the bishops to meet and enjoy one another’s company at a social level, something not often possible in view of the geographical spread of England and Wales.

Many topics were touched upon, for example the Bishops joined our voice to all those calling for greater protection for children from the harmful materials accessible to all on the internet.

Next year’s Roman Synod in October on the vocation of young people, and Adoremus – the two-day Eucharistic Congress which takes place in mid-September in Liverpool. The Bishops fervently hope that the latter Congress will be a time of great grace for the Church and nurture in no small way devotion to Our Blessed Lord in the Eucharist.

We had reports on the extreme difficulties facing the Church in both North and South Sudan, with the overall situation there being described by one bishop who had recently visited as being ‘dire’.  As with Christians in the Holy Land, our interest and friendship are greatly appreciated by these churches, even if we may not be able to contribute greatly to the relief of their difficulties and suffering.

Another country brought to our attention was Yemen, and the Conference sent a special message to the Bishops of Zimbabwe as news of an uneasy political situation began to emerge.  There is an admirable sense of solidarity on our part with these and other Bishops’ Conferences who face their own particular challenges.

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We also had reports on the various ecumenical dialogues in which our Conference is engaged, Catholic-Anglican, Catholic-Methodist, to name but two.

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The recent Motu Proprio of Pope Francis, Magnum Principium, on the translation of liturgical texts and the increased role of Bishops’ Conferences in this regard were the subject of a lengthy reflection. As the particular resolution, which was voted on and passed, the work of ICEL, the International Conference/Body for English in the Liturgy, was commended.

At one session concern was raised and fears expressed by the Bishops about the possibility of a ‘cap’ being placed on the number of Catholic children who could be admitted to any new Catholic School. Such a move, it was felt, would place in jeopardy the long-standing and historical relationship between successive governments and the Catholic Church in England and Wales.Education Cap - Banner

As Bishops, we took careful note of the gender issues now much discussed and debated in the public forum.  Since this particular debate will be a long-running one, the Bishops stressed at this stage the primacy of respect and reverence for the dignity of the human person which must pervade every phase and action of a highly sensitive subject.

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The above gives a sample of the range of topics which occupied us as bishops and teachers of the faith in our complex and ever-changing society. The Audio recording of the official Press Conference is here. I’m sure we gave the agenda the attention and seriousness which they demanded, and left Leeds tired but satisfied!

Until next week – May God bless you all,

As ever in Christ,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

The Saints & New Life for the Church in Preston

My dear friends in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

In our Catholic liturgical calendar the month of November begins with the feast of All Saints, the day when the Church celebrates the sainthood of all those men and women passed from this life and who now enjoy the eternal vision of God in the blessedness of heaven.

I like to think of this day as one of particular honour for those ordinary men and women who faithfully followed Christ in every age, mostly in quiet and in unsung ways, and who offer us fellow-disciples in our own time example, encouragement and inspiration.

Whenever we think of saints, familiar figures for example such as Francis of Assisi, Therese of Lisieux, Mother, now St. Teresa of Calcutta, spring to mind, and those others perhaps to whom we have a personal devotion. A quick browse through the Church’s calendar reveals many more, and there are numerous other men and women whom the Church throughout her history has declared to be saints.

One thinks, too, of those on the road to sainthood – like Father Solanus Casey, the American-born Capuchin priest (pictured above) who died in 1957, who will be beatified at a 18 Nov Mass in Detroit. His somewhat hidden life, great faith, care for the sick and spiritual direction was quite extraordinary. I’m thinking, too, of more modern-day martyrs of the Church like Blessed Mariam Vattalil – in religion Sister Rani Maria (image below) – was an Indian Syro-Malabar professed religious and a social worker in the Franciscan Clarist Congregation who worked among the poor within the Diocese of Indore, India.

Yet we would do well to recall those now departed individuals we ourselves have known, and who in some way have touched our own lives for the better.  Our own list of such names could possibly include parents, grandparents, different members of our families, friends and perhaps those we have encountered on the road of life.

All Saints’ Day reminds us that sainthood is possible and even desirable for each one of us because God’s grace is ever at work deep within us – through the Holy Spirit which Christ promised he would send from his Father to his friends. Saint Paul, when he begins his letters to the various Churches often addresses the Christians as saints, those made holy by their baptism and indeed called by God to be holy, often in the midst of an indifferent and hostile world.

We instinctively shy away from being thought holy, but let us remember that the accumulative holiness of the members of the Church can only be an immense influence for good on our society and on the world at large. St. Peter urges Christians to be holy, as God is holy.

 

The celebration of Christ’s sacrifice in the Mass is a celebration of all the faithful and not only those of us who are physically present, gathered around the altar. The saints in heaven whose eternity is spent praising God also surround us as we the Church on earth honour the Father in Christ.

That great multitude of which St. John speaks in the Apocalypse stand with us at the altar, joining their great prayer and praise to God and to the Lamb. And if we could but realise it, their powerful intercession enhances and elevates before the throne of the Lamb our occasionally faltering prayer and worship.

Last week, I wrote of November being a month of remembrance for the dead and of the need to pray for them. What the feast of All Saints offers and highlights is the wonder and consolation that the saints in heaven are continually interceding for us, especially those ‘ordinary saints’, many of whom loved and cared for us in life.

It is reassuring to know in faith that such love and care have not ceased, but continue from another and a greater shore.

We know and experience the care of the Lord and his saints on occasions like last week, the House of Discernment was inaugurated for the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest at St Walburge’s, Preston – may St Francis de Sales and St Jane Frances de Chantal pray for us and the four young men who have begin their discernment there. May many young men follow them!

House of Discernment

 

Tomorrow, Sunday 12 November, I look forward to welcoming the The Sisters Adorers of the Royal Heart of Jesus Christ Sovereign Priest – the female branch of the Institute who are making a foundation at St Augustine’s presbytery, Preston.

We thank Monsignor Gilles Wach. Prior General of the Institute, for his work to bring the Sisters to the Diocese and we welcome the Sisters Adorers among us and pray for the success of their mission!

They promise to be a powerhouse of prayer and a great witness to religious life in the heart of Preston.

On Thursday, I blessed and opened with Bishop Mar Joseph Srampickal a new Propaedeutic Seminary at the restored presbytery of Preston’s Cathedral of St Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception for the Syro-Malabar Eparchy of Great Britain. Three young men have just started there.

Both the Institute and the Eparchy have done wonders with these large and historic buildings – under the Lord – and  all for the Lord and His Holy Catholic Church and her saving mission! We are blessed as the Diocese of Lancaster to have such a close collaborative and fruitful relationship with both.

All you saints of God, pray for us and may Blessed Mary Our Mother, under the title of the Immaculate Conception, protect and intercede for us!

Let us continue to pray for one another.

As ever in Christ our Lord,

 

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

Remembering our Faithful Departed this November

Dear Friends in Christ – within and beyond the Diocese of Lancaster!

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

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In the Catholic world the practice of remembering the dead and praying to God for them is widespread. This is particularly true on the 2nd November, All Souls Day, and throughout this month.

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A very human explanation for this is the duty and debt we owe to those who have gone before us, whose goodness and example we recall with gratitude. The moving services of Remembrance which take place at cenotaphs and war memorials in many places at this time, focus on the gratitude due to our armed forces who fought on our behalf.

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Our Catholic tradition has, moreover, long recognised the truth that our prayers, devotions and Masses offered for the dead can assist them on their way to God. Today our sense and appreciation of Purgatory has weakened, and many now find it difficult to square this state of ‘punishment’, however temporal, with the notion of a loving, and all-forgiving merciful God.

Yet when we try to rationalise what happens in the afterlife or to comprehend the eternal God we quickly discover our human limitations, and ultimately our inability to fully understand things which surpass our intellect.

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In a celebrated passage in his Confessions, (written around 400AD) St. Augustine of Hippo movingly describes the death of his mother Monica in Ostia as they were about to return home to North Africa. In her last words to her family, Monica enjoined them not to be concerned about where her body would be laid to rest.

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The only thing she asked was that they remember her at the altar of the Lord, wherever they may be. Saint Monica’s request shows how the tradition of praying for the dead was already firmly established in the early Church.

The visits to cemeteries, with the laying of flowers and lighting of candles, which take place this month in so many countries speak of what theologians call “sensus fidelium”, that deeper appreciation of the truths of the faith on the part of ordinary believers inspired by the Holy Spirit, and the conviction that the dead should be remembered and prayed for.

The prophet Isaiah was overwhelmed with his experience of the holiness of God in the Jerusalem Temple (Is.6), and the chorus of the angels he heard singing ‘Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts’.  The young prophet, we read, was aghast and became acutely aware of his own sinfulness in the presence of the all-holy God.

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One simple explanation given for the existence of Purgatory was the need of souls to be purified of all fault and traces of sin before passing finally into the presence of the triune God and his holy angels.

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What should sustain and reassure us in this month as we pray for our deceased brothers and sisters is both our natural inclination not to forget them, and the Church’s practice and long conviction that, in the words of the book of Maccabees, ‘It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be released from their sins’ (2Macc.12:45).

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Finally, we do believe that our prayers always reach the merciful ears of the Lord, and in ways we do not understand, they benefit those we have known and loved on this earth, and have now made the journey into eternity.

Until next week, may God bless you all,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster