On Pilgrimage to Mary’s Shrines: Jasna Gora & Ladyewell

My dear friends following the Bishop’s Blog!,lad8

I had the pleasure of visiting two Marian shrines in recent weeks: the first last Saturday at Ladyewell, very close to Preston, and earlier the second at Jasna Gora in Czestochowa, Poland, where the celebrated icon of Our Lady known as the Black Madonna is venerated.

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Both shrines go back many centuries and at their heart is Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. Last weekend the rain and uncertain weather prevented us walking the short distance on our diocesan pilgrimage from St. Mary’s church, Fernyalgh, to Ladyewell.

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We remained instead within this lovely and ancient parish church in veneration and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and the recitation of Marian devotions.

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The elements did relent later and so we were able to go to the shrine and pay our prayerful respects to Our Lady there.

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There is a steady flow of individual and groups of pilgrims to Ladyewell throughout the summer months, though rarely a day passes even in wintertime when a few pilgrims are not to be seen at the shrine. One important and beneficial aspect of pilgrimage is how it draws people together, and strangers find they are meeting and talking to those whom they would never otherwise see or have contact with.

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Such encounters with others represent a blessing from heaven and allow us a little glimpse of the unity and togetherness of our Catholic faith of which we share. May Ladyewell continue to be a source of blessing for our Diocese of Lancaster and for every pilgrim who finds their way there!

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The great Polish shrine of Jasna Gora, meaning ‘clear mountain’, where the Black Madonna is venerated, welcomes huge numbers of pilgrims annually from all parts of the country, many of whom make the journey on foot.

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Also, in today’s global village, many pilgrims from other countries make the pilgrimage to Czestochowa. The historical origins of this ancient Marian icon are not certain but it has become a cherished symbol of Polish faith and inspiration.

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The young Karol Wotyla visited this shrine during the Second World War, and his signature is still to be seen in the visitors’ book from that time. What struck me in Czestochowa was the intensity of the devotion of the pilgrims at the shrine of Our Lady.

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A sense of concentrated prayer was almost tangible, as was the evidently profound reverence in the presence of Our Lady’s icon.

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As I stood at the packed shrine, I could not help reflecting just how intimately Our Lady of Czestochowa was bound up with the often troubled and tragic history of the Polish people down the centuries. In the very troubled and oppressive war years,

St. John Paul II recorded that when he visited Jasna Gora as young man it was there that he experienced true freedom. Many Poles, I imagine, then and today could echo those same sentiments.

Czestochowa, 06.1979. I pielgrzymka papieska do Polski. Papiez Jan Pawel II wita sie z tlumem wiernych na Jasnej Gorze. Pope John Paul II greets crowd of faithful at Jasna Gora monastery, Czestochowa, Poland in June 1979. Fot. Chris Niedenthal/FORUM UWAGA!!! Cena minimalna dla publikacji w prasie i ksiazkach - 200 PLN xxxx

So I’ve had two very different experiences of pilgrimage but both essentially places of devotion to Our Lady. Pilgrimages, great and small, are alive and well. And as many embark on a pilgrimage this summer in honour of Our Lady they can rest assured that they will not return empty-handed.

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Our Blessed Lady does indeed intercede with her Son on our behalf and blessings from heaven most assuredly will come our way.

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Until next week – As ever in Christ,

+Michael G Campbell OSA

Bishop of Lancaster

Launching our new Diocesan Website – Take a Look!

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Dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Bishop’s Blog!

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As we know the Church has received the mandate from Christ ‘to teach all nations’, a task which she has endeavoured to discharge throughout her two thousand years of existence. The first Apostles and disciples went forth and used all the means at their disposal to proclaim what God has done for the world in Christ.

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The four gospels resonant with the Old Testament, together with the letters of St. Paul and the other writings of the New Testament, would form the basis of that missionary outreach to the world and culture of Greece, Rome, and eventually beyond.

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That outstanding body of people we know as the Fathers of the Church, e.g. Augustine, Jerome, Gregory, Leo, Athanasius, and so many others from both East and West, used the languages of their day, through the pen and by proclamation, to build up the Church and further its mission.

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The outstanding legacy of scholarship and Church teaching, from Councils and Popes, through outstanding men and women – ‘Doctors of the Church’, continues to be augmented down to our own time.

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Now, as is clearly evident, with the revolution brought about in our time by the ‘new’ media the Church finds herself present in a new place, but at the same time given wonderful opportunities to speak to the world about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2013 file photo provided Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis has his picture taken inside St. Peter's Basilica with youths from the Italian Diocese of Piacenza and Bobbio who came to Rome for a pilgrimage, at the Vatican. The pontiff had a private audience with 500 youths from the diocese.  (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, ho, file)

The appeal, opportunities and challenges of the new means of communication is one that is world-wide, and often immediate. Thanks to human ingenuity the Church can now speak to the world in a way hitherto unsuspected.

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We in the Diocese of Lancaster have embraced the challenges and the opportunities now available to speak of Christ and our work of evangelisation in our part of the world in north Lancashire and all of Cumbria. You may notice that on Monday we completely renewed our Diocesan website to further take our place in the life of the Church of today, and play our part in what Christ has called us to do.

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That exemplary missionary, Paul of Tarsus, spoke of ‘taking every thought captive to obey Christ’ (2Cor. 10:5), and I am certain that he would have employed and made use of every aspect of today’s social and ‘new’ media in his work of preaching the gospel of Christ.

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My hope is that the new Lancaster Diocesan website will prove to be an invaluable instrument in bringing Christ to everyone who ‘touches base’ with it.  We in the diocese of Lancaster do indeed have a gospel to proclaim and our new website will greatly assist us in that work of the New Evangelisation.

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We hope to have come up with a new site that is user-friendly, very functional, and is built for multi-platform use — so people can access it from tablet devices and smartphones — and it’s easily expandable. These are all things we thought we needed and all the things that define a current website.

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More and more if someone wants information, they go to the Internet and see if there’s a website and the Diocese and its parishes are no different.  Certainly our hugely popular Latest (Catholic) News & Comment feature continues to be given prominence as well as the Bishop’s Blog.

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The new website’s homepage immediately offers a colourful, fresh and attractive sense with a series of “marquee slides” with large photographs that highlight the Catholic faith, the diocesan youth service, promoting priestly vocations for the Diocese, the Diocese’s safeguarding policy, provision and procedures, the forthcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy and key pages promoting our Pro-Life vision and promoting marriage and family life.

Utilizing the popular WordPress software to input and update content, the new diocesan website also offers an easy search function, so if people aren’t sure where they should go, they can just use the search function on the homepage and it should bring you to it. The site also easily links to the Diocesan Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The ultimate goal of the new site is to help the Diocese and our parishes evangelize, to reach our people, he said.  In one case it might be as easy as providing someone with a Mass time, another the address of a diocesan office or for someone else it might be providing the steps that are involved in becoming a Catholic.

Until next week – may God bless you all,

+Michael G Campbell OSA

Bishop of Lancaster

Celebrating Corpus Christi and the Gift of our Communion in Christ

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Dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome to the Bishop’s Blog for this week!

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Thursday last was the traditional feast of Corpus Christi, and throughout the Catholic world processions in honour of the Blessed Sacrament take place either on that day, or on this Sunday if the feast is transferred. It is also the season for First Holy Communions.

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The abiding presence of the Lord in the Holy Eucharist represents a most precious treasure of our Catholic faith, whose depths will always remain beyond our grasp.

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Nonetheless, prayerful reverence and reflection in the face of this sublime mystery can help us appreciate the wonder and beauty of what the Lord Jesus has bequeathed to His Church. His enduring presence under the appearance of bread and wine was Christ’s parting gift to His disciples, within the setting we know as the Last Supper.

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This common sharing among His own in the sacred food was how He wished to be remembered: ‘Do this in memory of me’, was his injunction to His Apostles in the Upper Room. From earliest times the Church has been faithful to this command of the Lord, right down to the present day.

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This act of remembering which He so desired recalls the surrender of Himself in death for the reconciliation of the human race with God – the giving of His body and blood. Each time His friends met to engage in this act of ‘table fellowship’, His paschal mystery i.e. his death and resurrection, would be foremost on their minds.

St. Paul understood this sacred ritual of the Eucharist in these words: ‘As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes’ (1Cor.11:26).

The great Dominican saint Thomas Aquinas has written eloquently and movingly about the Blessed Sacrament and its meaning. An excellent example would be his well-known hymn O sacrum convivium where, in masterful fashion, he highlights the essential meaning of the Eucharist.

St. Thomas first describes it as a banquet at which the food is Christ himself. In this act of sacred sharing the memory of His passion is recalled, and the minds of those who partake at this table are filled with grace, while at the same time the pledge of future glory is given to us.

This is a wonderful summary of what we call in Mass ‘the mystery of faith.’ A felt moment of sadness on our present ecumenical journey arises from our inability to share in the Eucharist with our brothers and sisters of other Christian communities.

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Such sharing is the goal towards which we are aiming and praying and it will eventually come, but in the Lord’s own time. The historical legacy of division and misunderstandings surrounding the meaning and interpretation of this great sacrament remain as obstacles to a common Eucharistic table.

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Yet we have travelled far on this particular road as witnessed, for example, by the united service last Sunday in Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria, to mark twenty-five years of Catholic use of the strikingly beautiful Anglican parish church for weekly Mass.

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I joined Bishop James Newcome, Anglican Bishop of Carlisle, with members of both congregations and their clergy to give praise and thanks to God for such a happy and lasting initiative.

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Full Eucharistic communion has not yet been realised, but we remain a people of Christian hope and waiting!  Let us pray this weekend of Corpus Christi that we be worthy guests at the Lord’s table, at which Holy Communion unites us with Him and all our Catholic brothers and sisters around the world.

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Part of our prayer should be that we never forget the cost to Christ of making this sacrament possible for us, which was the surrender of Himself in sacrifice on the cross. The Eucharist is both meal and sacrifice at which we are privileged guests, as we make our pilgrim way in hope to the Kingdom and that final sharing at the supper of the Lamb.

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Until next week – may God bless you all,

+Michael G Campbell OSA

Bishop of Lancaster