On Pilgrimage to Ladyewell

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Dear friends in Jesus Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog – a snapshot in the life and ministry of the Bishop of Lancaster!

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First though; I want to to thank everyone for the great support I received following last Sunday announcement (here and here) – this is deeply appreciated. Please keep the Diocese and the Institute in your prayers; that this initiative – under God – will bear much fruit.

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This week’s Blog reflects upon last Saturday’s Diocesan Pilgrimage to our ancient shrine of Ladyewell near Preston.  Thankfully, we had glorious weather for the occasion. I use the text of my Mass homily for the occasion:

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‘The Lancaster Diocesan Pilgrimage to Ladyewell – 8th July 2017

(Is 49:8-10; John 4:14 ff)

In our first reading from the prophet Isaiah, the Lord promises that his people will never again thirst for ‘he will lead them to springs of water,’ while in the gospel the Lord Jesus speaks to the Samaritan woman of the living water which he can offer.

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Water is of course a symbol of life; neither we nor the world of nature around us can survive without water.  Wells and springs have long been regarded as holy places where we humans encounter the sacred.

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The Samaritan woman met the saviour of the world at that well in Samaria, and the very name of this pilgrimage shrine ‘Ladyewell’ shows how pilgrims down the centuries have venerated Our Lady here by the well in Fernyhalgh.

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Wells are places of refreshment where travellers can cool down and quench their thirst, and eventually continue on our journey. Our Lord today intends us to understand water in a spiritual sense.

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We are here on pilgrimage at Ladyewell today to meet the Lord and drink from that living water he wants to give us. We come to him as a diocesan family in prayer and worship to find rest and renewed energy on life’s journey. He waits to listen to us as we tell him our particularly story and our need of his divine grace and help.

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We recall today how our journey of faith began in the consecrated waters of baptism, and in those waters we died and rose with Christ through the power of his Holy Spirit. A pilgrimage ought to renew in us the dignity we received in the baptismal waters, that of being a son or daughter of God the Father, who watches over and cares for us.

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The well and its water remind us of the need to be faithful to our baptismal promises

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We come on pilgrimage to this ancient shrine of Our Lady, confident that she will point us in the direction of her Son and keep us close to him.

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As pilgrims we are treading a well-worn path here, one on which thousands have walked in faith before us in search of that living water which Mary’s Son alone can give us.

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Let us pray for and support one another today as we honour Our Lady of Fernyhalgh, praying for ourselves, the universal Church, and for peace in our world.’

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On Friday, we travel to the shrine of Lourdes. for our diocesan Pilgrimage there. We will, of course, be praying for you – the followers of this Blog – and all your intentions.

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Until then, may God bless you all,

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+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

A Decision to Save and Secure English Martyrs’ Church, Preston – now and for the future

A PASTORAL MESSAGE

FROM THE BISHOP OF LANCASTER

TO THE CONGREGATION AT ENGLISH MARTYRS, PRESTON

(Part of the Parish of St John XXIII)

 

Sunday 9 July 2017

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

It is 150 years since the current church of St Thomas of Canterbury & the English Martyrs was officially opened by Bishop Goss of Liverpool. Of course, the mission of English Martyrs was not always so majestic. Bishop Goss appointed Father James Taylor to a house called Wren’s Cottage half a mile or so away from the present church. The stable at Wren’s Cottage was converted into a chapel which could hold 145 people!  The first Mass was celebrated here on 25 December 1864. Plans were very quickly drawn up to build a church that could accommodate a larger congregation.  This church, where you sit today, was designed by the renowned Edward Welby Pugin.

On 1 December 1867, the new church was officially opened by Bishop Goss and, after significant enlargement, later re-opened on 8 February 1888 in a Mass with as many as seven bishops present. It was only on 14 September 1921 when all the debt was re-paid that the church was consecrated.

Of course, with the city centre depopulation in the 1950s and 60s Mass attendance declined significantly at English Martyrs with the parishes on the suburbs benefitting from this movement and the replacement population not being of the Catholic Faith. Consequently, the internal volume of the nave was reduced in 1965 by the creation of a narthex and baptistery at the west end. Subsequent internal changes also acknowledged this trend towards smaller numbers.

You will remember through your engagement with the Fit for Mission? consultation in 2007/2008 and a subsequent Preston review how the future of English Martyrs’ church – among others – came into very serious question in the light of much smaller and older congregations. In a bid to grapple with this reality since April 2009 there have been a series of parish linkings and mergers until 8 October 2014 when the parish of Saint John XXIII was created. Today, this parish has two churches and the pastoral care of numerous schools.

In recent years, the situation has become more acute – especially in terms of a lack of parishioners being actively involved in parish life and helping with the care of the church and grounds. In all these considerations for the future mission of English Martyrs’ Church – this capacity issue has been central.

Of course, there are those who tell us that the presence of the Catholic Church in this part of Preston is finished. I cannot agree. However, the shape of our mission will certainly have to change. On the other hand, many will criticize any effort I make to address these challenges and yet seem to offer no constructive solutions of their own. If we ignore this situation things will continue to deteriorate around us to such a point where public worship could not happen yet reactive repair and security costs would soar.

It is therefore, in the light of this undeniable reality that I can announce to you that Monsignor Gilles Wach, Prior General of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, and I – together with Canon Adrian Towers – have agreed, that the Institute will assume the direct administration of English Martyrs’ church – hopefully this autumn. I am extremely grateful to the Institute for this – as they are inundated with similar requests from bishops across the world and have the proven skill, aptitude and record of expertise in the care of large and historic churches.

Already, the young priests of the Institute are doing wonderful work at St Walburge’s since their arrival there almost three years ago.  Inspired by their patron, St Francis de Sales, the Institute strives to form its people in holiness according to their motto of “teaching the truth with charity”.

This decision will enable the sustainability and care of your magnificent church so that it can be open each day for prayer and worship as a fully operational shrine church dedicated to the devotion of St Thomas of Canterbury and the English Martyrs on the old Gallows Hill – with a renewed zeal and energy.  English Martyrs will remain part of the Parish of St John XXIII but will specifically provide for the celebration of Holy Mass and the other Sacraments in the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite in a similar way to St Walburge’s.  I would certainly want to encourage everyone at English Martyrs to be fully involved with all that will be offered by the Institute. It is envisaged, however, that the ordinary form celebration of Mass in English, will continue to be celebrated in the church, at least for the next 12 months, each Saturday evening instead of Sunday morning – once the Institute arrive.  Attendance levels at this Mass will be carefully monitored.

Today’s decision offers a much-needed practical and pastoral help to you and your priests in order to preserve your church.  I appeal to you to give thanks to Almighty God for this diocesan initiative, which represents nothing less than my own clear and active support to save and secure English Martyrs’ Church.  This noble and historic church (a grade II listed) building will be a place of devotion and worship – open each day for everyone.  I ask for your full and active support for this decision and of course, a warm and kindly welcome for the Institute.

A unique moment of opportunity and promise lies before us.  Let us thank the Lord in this Jubilee Year for the Church of English Martyrs, for us saving and securing this landmark church and for its renewed legacy going forward. Today is indeed a day to make Catholics proud of Preston!

With sincere thanks for your attention and generous cooperation, and with the assurance of my prayers and a blessing,

As ever in Christ our Lord,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

P.S. Last Saturday we were blessed to have the Priestly Ordination of Father Daniel Etienne at St Peter’s Cathedral, Lancaster.  Daniel had trained for the Priesthood for the last seven years in Rome and Oscott – as well as in several parishes of the Diocese so it was good to see the Lord’s work come to fulfillment.

Many people gathered for the Ordination as well as Father Daniel’s parents and family as well as his many friends across the parishes of the Diocese.  An Ordination is always an ‘ecclesial’ moment – when the whole Church gathers in faith – filled with joy and celebration of a new priest!

We keep this new priest in our prayers as he begins his service of God’s people in the name of the Lord who has anointed him. Father Etienne has been appointed to Blackpool and will be assured a great welcome there.

Please God, the Ordination will be a spur for more priestly vocations in the Diocese. We need many more good priests!

What was particularly striking was the great attendance of the seminarians from Oscott College supporting Father Daniel – I know many people commented upon that as a great encouragement to their faith.

The Blood of the Martyrs is the Seed of the Church

Dear Friends in Jesus Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

St. Irenaeus, a very early bishop of Lyons and who died for the faith, is credited as saying that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” With the solemnity of the feast of Saints Peter and Paul on Thursday, followed by that of the martyrs of the Roman Church, it is worthwhile to reflect on martyrdom and its honourable place in our Christian tradition.

In the liturgy Christ himself is referred to as “King of Martyrs” who laid down his life for the salvation of the world. According to tradition, all but one of the twelve Apostles were put to death for the name of Christ. The word martyr comes from the Greek for witness, and a martyr is precisely a witness to the truth. The first martyr, Stephen, is an excellent example of one who bore testimony to Jesus and met death by stoning.

How do we explain the fact that the erstwhile fisherman Peter and the formerly radical anti-Christian Paul were prepared to face death rather than deny faith in Jesus Christ?

A principal reason surely is the experience they had of Jesus Christ: Peter during the Lord’s earthly life and public ministry, and especially his encounter with him after the resurrection; the startling upheaval and conversion of Paul on the road to Damascus when he heard the glorified Lord speaking to him. Both of these great Apostles came to realise the truth from God that is to be found in its fullness in Jesus Christ, and their deep conviction that he was the Son of God in the flesh. No worldly truth or philosophy could sway them from this greatest of all realities, of Jesus Christ crucified and risen.

Peter, Paul and Stephen were but the first in a very long line of those who died for their faith in Christ, many of whom we know, but undoubtedly countless others known to God alone. What is remarkable is how their legacy and memory live on despite persecution, torment and finally death.  Names familiar to us and which come to mind are Saints Thomas More and John Fisher who died in the Tower of London, and our own Lancashire and Cumbrian martyrs like Edmund Arrowsmith, John Southworth, John Boste and Edmund Bamber, to name but a few. They form part of that ‘great cloud of witnesses’ of which the letter to the Hebrews speaks (12:1).

The roll call of Christian martyrs is an extensive one and of universal proportions down the centuries.

In a sermon on martyrdom, St. Augustine observes how the martyrs were sustained by the food they received at the table of the King of Martyrs, Jesus Christ. Through sharing in the Eucharistic food of his sacrificial body and blood they gained the strength to face every trial, even death itself. We here live, by and large, in less troubled times, but nonetheless we are called to bear witness to Christ each day, and to do requires courage, determination and steadfastness.

We are privileged to share in that same sacred food and drink at the Lord’s table as did the long succession of martyrs. They knew instinctively through faith what a supreme treasure the Mass was, and rather than forgo the Mass they risked their lives to be present and celebrate it. May the witness and example of Peter, Paul and so many other martyrs to the faith continue to inspire and teach us as we endeavour to follow the Lord in the very developed world of the twenty-first century!

All martyrs of every time and place, pray for us!

Until next week – May God bless you all,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

Trusting in the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Dear Friends,

Last week we celebrated Corpus Christi and many parishes had a Eucharistic Procession. In this week’s Bishop’s Blog – I offer a reflection on the Sacred Heart!

We have just celebrated, Friday past, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a popular and much loved devotion among Catholics.  The origins of this devotion are to be found in the revelations of Our Lord to the French nun, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690), in which the Lord speaks to her of his heart as the symbol of his infinite love for the human race.

Familiar practices, such as the Nine Fridays and Holy Hour derive from the mystical encounters of St. Margaret Mary with Our Lord.  Many of our churches are dedicated to the Sacred Heart, and images of the Sacred Heart are widespread throughout the Catholic world.

When we contemplate the figure and person of our divine Lord, our minds struggle to strike the right balance between his divinity and his humanity, as the Son of God and at the same time the Son of Mary.  Prayer and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus can assist us to grasp the reality of his human nature, for his heart beats with love and affection for his brothers and sisters of every time and place.

The Evangelist John relates how one of the Roman soldiers pierced the side/heart of Jesus as he hung on the cross, showing the extent to which his love led him.   Little wonder that the figure of Christ on the cross is such a dominant symbol in every Catholic church, chapel or oratory.

At a simple level when we look at an image of the Sacred Heart we can realise he was human just like you or I, and that his heart is large enough to embrace us and understand our own personal situation and the problems we face.

The hymns and prayers surrounding the feast and devotion to the Sacred Heart are an invitation to enter with faith into the Lord’s heart and find there rest and repose. The gospel passage for the Mass contains the wonder words of invitation and reassurance from the Lord Jesus that when we do come to him he will give us relief from the burden and heat of the day.

 

The utterly unique and ever valid invitation of the Lord to come to him for rest and respite from the cares of daily life has found an echo in the lives of faithful souls ever since he uttered them.

This lovely and consoling feast of the Sacred Heart stands as a reminder that there is One we can turn to in the troubled and uncertain times in which we find ourselves. Only he could extend such an invitation to come to him and find rest and peace.

So dear brothers and sister; let us draw near to that Sacred Heart, and in the words of the time- honoured invocation say, O Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you!

With every good wish and prayer from the Diocese of Lancaster,

As ever in Christ,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

Corpus Christi – Let us Adore!

My dear friends in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

This Sunday is the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, and through the streets of Rome as throughout the Catholic world the Blessed Sacrament will be carried in procession to honour Our Lord Jesus Christ truly present in this most wonderful of sacraments. I have reflected recently on what appears to be a revival of processions at parish level in Catholic popular piety, and how walking with others addresses a felt need within the Catholic soul.

For many centuries Corpus Christi processions have long been a feature of Catholic devotion. When we venerate Our Lord’s presence in the Blessed Sacrament in this way we are honouring the memory of him who was crucified and rose for our sake, or what Scripture calls ‘our salvation.’ Eucharistic adoration is an act of faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became man, and whom the Church professes continues to be present to us as the bread of life, the living bread come down from heaven.

Devotion to the Lord present in the holy Eucharist, outside the celebration of Mass, has become an established part of Catholic practice. When we enter a church, great or small, we instinctively look for the tabernacle, which quickly becomes the focus of our attention and prayer.

I visited a church in our Diocese of Lancaster recently during the Forty Hours devotion where the atmosphere of hushed mystery and deeply reverent silence were almost tangible. The literal meaning of the biblical phrase ‘The Word became flesh’ (John 1:14) is that he pitched his tent among us. This is a powerful image of the Son of God taking up his dwelling in our world, and he still dwells with us in the Blessed Sacrament in our churches and chapels in every part of the world.

Whenever we walk in procession following our Eucharistic Lord in the monstrance we are engaging in a symbolically deeper journey, reflecting the experience of Israel of old as they journeyed through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land.

Those ancient Israelites had the reassurance of God’s presence who went before them ‘in a cloud by day, and a flame of fire by night.’ The Ark of the Covenant containing the tablets of the Law which accompanied them was a further sign of God’s protective presence with his people.

So when we set out in Eucharistic procession we do so as the people of the New Covenant, with the Lord in our midst in his Eucharistic presence. Let us see our procession this weekend of Corpus Christi as reflecting our life’s journey in the company of God’s people on our way to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Christ is the new Moses who leads and guides us on our way through the hills and valleys of this life with sureness of hand, for he is for us the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Today, its seems most opportune for me to extend an invitation to everyone in our Diocese of Lancaster to come on pilgrimage to a National Eucharistic Pilgrimage and Congress in Liverpool next year (7 – 9 September 2018) called Adoremus (let us adore) which the bishops of England and Wales are organising.

Eucharistic Congresses are gatherings of clergy, religious and laity which celebrate and promote an awareness of the central place of the Eucharist in the life and mission of the Church. The last International Eucharistic Congress in England was held in 1908 when, in fact, permission for a public procession of the Blessed Sacrament was refused.

Participants will engage in a series of sessions focusing on different dimensions of the Eucharist and the daily celebration and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. On the final day of the Pilgrimage and Congress, Sunday, there will be pilgrimage Masses and a big street procession – open to all.  Plenty of details will follow in due course.

A blessed Corpus Christi to everyone!

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

Reflecting upon the Mystery of the Blessed Trinity!

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Dear friends in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog which centres upon the Blessed Trinity!

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When we speak of the mysteries of our faith none is more profound and far surpassing our powers of understanding and speech than that of the Blessed Trinity, whose solemnity the Church celebrates this Sunday.

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Each time we make the sign of the cross we are explicitly professing our faith in God as Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The early Church required several centuries of prayer, debate and reflection before finding the approximate concepts or terms in order to speak of this triune mystery of the godhead, three persons but one God.

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Furthermore, it must be remembered that these theological terms resemble signposts more than an explanation of the mystery. We human beings are limited and finite, whereas God is infinite and eternal. St. Augustine’s observation is appropriate here when he says that we first believe in order to understand.

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Of course, we know and believe that our God is not just a series of concepts, of neat but obscure and difficult theological terms. When Moses encountered God on Mount Sinai, the God who spoke described himself as the God of tenderness and compassion, wanting to be close to his people, and ever ready to pardon their faults. He is not a distant figure, but with a gracious nature, kind and full of goodness towards human beings.

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Jesus Christ spoke lovingly and reverently of this God as his Father, and ours. In other words he has allowed us to share his filial relationship with his heavenly Father, and so we have the astonishing privilege of addressing God as our Father. We might call this Christian adoption. The exquisite passage from John’s gospel in Sunday’s Mass speaks of the extent of God’s love for us that he has given us his only Son. That Son, as the mystery of the Trinity teaches, has been with the Father from all eternity, a truth that our minds struggle in vain even to begin to comprehend.

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The New Testament makes mention of the Holy Spirit on numerous occasions, and before he left this world the Lord Jesus promised his disciples that on his departure they would be ‘clothed’ with another power, to be their advocate and defender. That power, our faith teaches us, is the Holy Spirit, who is, as it were, the completion of the Blessed Trinity.

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Images or artistic depictions of the persons of the Trinity, although far removed from the reality, can help nourish our piety in the Three-in-One. Michelangelo’s celebrated and powerful work of art in the Sistine Chapel which portrays God creating Adam always leaves a deep impression on me of the infinite power of God.

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I find equally moving the Orthodox representation of Christ as ‘Pantocrator’ or ruler of the world which we see in icons, an image which mysteriously attracts and which a person never tires contemplating.

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When I have had the good fortune to be in St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome, the alabaster window at the very back of the basilica whose centrepiece is the Holy Spirit as dove never fails to touch and inspire me as an example of religious art at its very best. Prayer to the Holy Spirit somehow becomes easier by simply gazing at this endlessly attractive window.

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So while we stand in awe before the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, let us make our own the wish of the apostle Paul to the Corinthian Church which concludes today’s second reading: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with us all!

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A happy and truly blessed feast of the Trinity to all of you!

As ever in Christ,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

A Time for Pilgrimage!

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Dear friends in Christ,

Welcome to a pilgrimage/procession themed Bishop’s Blog for this week!

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Parish processions during the month of May and around the feast of Corpus Christi, familiar to an older generation of Catholics, are becoming once again a noticeable feature of Catholic life – and even with younger people.

In the Diocese of Lancaster processions have taken place recently both in Preston and Blackpool, and which were well attended by both children and adults on both occasions.

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Last Sunday after celebrating Mass in St. Walburge’s splendid church, I crowned the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes before leading the congregation in procession in Mary’s honour around the church grounds.

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Such expressions of popular religious piety and devotion do seem to meet a deep need in Catholic souls.

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Pilgrimages and processions are inseparable. In our own diocese, for example, we have the annual Lancaster diocesan pilgrimage to the ancient shrine of Ladyewell, close to Preston on Saturday 8 July, followed by the annual Lancaster diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes, beginning on 21 July – young people are still welcome (contact here)!

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The shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes at Cleator, West Cumbria, hosts its annual pilgrimage on 10 September and the season concludes with a four day Lancaster diocesan pilgrimage to the equally ancient and hallowed shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham, which starts on 26 September.

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Such places of pilgrimages, and of course there are many others, are always places of prayer and spiritual renewal. Taking the time to go on a pilgrimage, be it simply for a day or longer, is never without its reward, and pilgrims return refreshed and content that they have made the effort.

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So I encourage people to go on pilgrimage. As I have written previously, pilgrimage and spiritual quest have a long tradition, both within Sacred Scripture and in the great faiths, such as Judaism, Islam and our own Catholic faith.

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To walk with other believers in procession means leaving our daily routine behind for a while, and allowing ourselves to be touched by grace of God so as to see our lives and our concerns from a different perspective.

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The united prayers of so many in procession during a pilgrimage will without doubt, in the words of the sage, ‘pierce the clouds of heaven.’ Nor should we forget the words of the Lord himself who assured us of his presence where two or three are gathered in his name.

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The busy and ever-changing pace of modern life imposes many demands on us. When we go on pilgrimage or even walk locally in a parish procession we become more aware of others, and of our common humanity, and it is through the simple act of going in procession that we get a glimpse of another and more spiritual world.

In turn, we are touched by something and Someone greater than ourselves, and can only be better for the experience.

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Until next week, may God bless you all and a blessed Feast of Pentecost,

As ever in Christ,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster