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My dear brothers and sisters,
On this First Sunday of Lent, the story resonates for us, of a family enduring a great trial that engulfed the world they had known. The Book of Genesis recounts how Noah and his family emerged from ‘a state of lockdown’ with renewed hope in God’s saving purpose. The rainbow set against the clouds became a sign of hope for them, as it has become a sign of hope in this health crisis, whether painted by children, posted in windows or projected on public buildings. The rainbow has happily recovered its original meaning as a sign of the promise of the Lord: “When … the bow appears in the clouds, I will recall the Covenant between myself and you and every living creature”.[i] Despite all human sinfulness, and the disasters resulting from sin, God’s purpose is always to save and bring us to new life. This is our personal experience every time we make a sincere confession and know the grace of the Holy Spirit sent for the forgiveness of sins.[ii]
Almost twelve months have passed since I wrote at the start of a pandemic that has impacted every one of our lives. As this Lent begins, we remember in prayer all who have died, and more than a hundred thousand families who today mourn the loss of loved ones. We can draw lasting lessons from the suffering of this time and its quiet heroism. Many of these lessons echo the call of Lent to greater prayer, self-denial and generosity. Today, I wish to highlight lessons learnt from the way our parishes rose to challenges, reminiscent of the brave beginnings of this Shrewsbury Diocese. As in those pioneering days, the continued celebration of the Mass – the priority of the Eucharist – has become the focus of so many strenuous and unprecedented efforts. It has also been the aspiration of many who have remained prayerfully at home, often using the internet to stay connected, while anticipating the day of the great return to Holy Mass.
As we face the challenges of emerging from the devastation of a pandemic, let us be ready to re-build the life of the Church on this same foundation of the Eucharist. The Book of Genesis tells how the priority for Noah’s family, having barely set foot on dry ground, was to build an altar for the Lord.[iii] In the same way, our union with Christ in the Mass, in the Sacraments and in daily prayer, must be our own enduring priority. At the Cathedral, the works to renew the Altar have coincided with this time and will stand as a memorial to these days of renewed Eucharistic faith and love. The very restrictions imposed by the pandemic have helped us treasure our churches as places of prayer, silence and personal encounter with Christ. In so many ways we have been led to recognise anew, as the Catechism reminds us that “In his Eucharistic presence He remains mysteriously in our midst as the One who loved us and gave Himself for us”.[iv] It is Jesus Himself who awaits us in the Sacrament of His love.[v]
I hope we will continue to make generous efforts in 2021, to keep church doors open wherever this is possible; and ensuring we give of our best in everything connected with the Mass and the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at the heart of every one our communities. If Eucharistic love pervades our parishes, then we can be sure nothing will be lacking in our sense of mission.
At the start of my letter, I said we are setting out to re-build on the foundation of the Eucharist. Saint John Paul II put this simply when he said, the Eucharist builds the Church.[vi] He recalled the teaching the Second Vatican Council which declared, “As often as the Sacrifice of the Cross … is celebrated on the altar, the work of redemption is carried out … and at the same time … the unity of the faithful, who form one body in Christ, is expressed and brought about”.[vii] May this be so for us in 2021, as we gather in ever growing numbers to fulfil Christ’s command “Do this in memory of me”.[viii]
May Saint Joseph, to whom we have entrusted this year of recovery, pray for us and accompany us as we grow in Eucharistic love,
Bishop of Shrewsbury
[ii] Cf. Rite of Penance
[iii] Cf. Gen. 8: 20
[iv] Catechism of the Catholic Church n. 1380
[v] Cf. Dominicae Cenae n.3
[vi] Cf. Ecclesia De Eucharistia Chapter 2
My dear brothers and sisters,
As I write, a third National Lockdown has begun with many restrictions reducing our daily lives to “essentials.” The Government now recognises public worship as one of those essentials. Not a few may ask why churches remain open when other activities are prohibited; and some will question why worship remains the only legally permitted public gathering. Yet, we know that worship is not only a fundamental freedom: it is our primary human vocation. In short, worship is what we were made for!  The Catholic faith teaches that this worship is supremely offered in the Sacrifice of the Mass in which God is glorified and humanity sanctified. 
It is your witness to this truth, which I have no doubt, has enabled public worship to be recognised as essential to society during this renewed lockdown. It is almost certainly the care with which all safety measures have been implemented in parishes which has now allowed the celebration of Mass and the Sacraments to continue. I wish, once again, to record my thanks to the clergy, the teams of parish volunteers and every member of the faithful who have together implemented and followed these safety requirements.
In all of this, we recognise the seriousness of our responsibility to help ensure the continuance of public worship and the safety of all. I ask you at the beginning of this New Year and a renewed state of lockdown, not to assume we have yet returned to “normal life” in our parishes; nor to give way to any sense of complacency, especially whilst a new variant of the virus is spreading rapidly. The continuance of public worship into Lent and Easter will, in large measure, depend on our vigilance and all our efforts to follow the measures which have already made our churches among the safest places in society.
In my letter to you in March of last year, I wrote of how these safety requirements can be lived in a spirit of charity. We continue to see how these demands call us to a refinement of charity. Requirements as strange – yet now so familiar – as social distancing, hand sanitising in church and wearing face coverings can serve as expressions of our love for our Lord and our love for the Mass, which continues to be publicly celebrated because of the careful fulfilment of such duties. If we ever feel fatigued in carrying out these requirements, let us renew them with love. At the end of the Christmas celebration, let us also do so with our gaze fixed on the Holy Eucharist, where the same Lord Jesus is now truly present whom wise men once fell down and worshipped; and whom Saint John the Baptist declared himself to be unfit even to kneel at His feet..
As I picture you gathered in all the churches of the Diocese, may Saint Joseph – the man who goes unnoticed, a support and guide in time of trouble  – accompany us through these troubled times in fulfilling the greatness of our call to worship and our responsibility both to each other and to the whole of society.
Entrusting each of you to Saint Joseph’s prayers,
+ Mark, Bishop of Shrewsbury
- Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church n. 2096
- Second Vatican Council Sacrosanctum Concilium n. 7
- Cf. Mt. 2: 11, Mk. 1: 8 & Decree on the Most Holy Eucharist, Council of Trent Session 13
- Cf. Patris Corde 8th December 2020
Christmas can never be cancelled even in the most unfavourable of conditions, the Bishop of Shrewsbury said in his Christmas homily.
During midnight Mass at Shrewsbury Cathedral, the Rt Rev. Mark Davies acknowledged that it is “easy to focus on the dark shadows” of 2020.
But he reminded the congregation that Christmas leads the faithful back to the “point of light” that shines in all our darkness, the child born for us all.
“Christmas can never be cancelled,” Bishop Davies said, “for its light is not dependent on favourable conditions for even the darkness makes its light shine the more brightly”.
Besides the coronavirus pandemic, the Bishop also lamented attempts over the passing year to extend abortion and the renewed efforts to legalise assisted suicide as assaults upon the sanctity of human life.
He reminded the faithful that the modern nursing and medical profession was inspired by Christian belief in the value and inviolability of innocent human life and for the care of the weakest and most vulnerable in society.
The dedicated service and self-sacrifice shown by medical professionals in helping the victims of Covid-19 stood in a stark contrast to the “culture of death and despair,” the Bishop said.
He encouraged people either attending the Christmas Mass in person or viewing by live-stream to heed the words of Pope Francis in his Apostolic Letter, Patris Corde, of December 8, and to share with St Joseph the responsibility for “every poor, needy, suffering or dying person, every stranger, every prisoner, every infirm person” in whom the Child Jesus can be recognised.
Also echoing the hopes of Pope Francis, the Bishop said that “a new vision of fraternity and social friendship” which recognises how all the lives of all people are bound together is the antidote to “present-day attempts to eliminate or ignore others”.
“This is surely a happy lesson to be drawn from the trauma of the past year,” the Bishop said.
Bishop Davies said: “At the cradle of Bethlehem, we have learnt to value the life and dignity of every human being, especially the weakest and most vulnerable. The recognition of the sanctity of human life and the cherishing of the frailest – both notions utterly unthinkable to the ancient mind – would become the light which forged our civilisation; the vision, which first inspired our medical and nursing professions and has guided our best efforts in response to the recent pandemic.
“For we heard the voice of the same Child of Bethlehem say, ‘Whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters you do to me’. And we now see the stark contrast between a culture of death and despair, which readily discards human life, and that spirit of charity and self-giving service Christ’s coming inspired: a contrast between darkness and light.”
He said: “How precarious Christian civilisation can appear in the face of an ever-growing assault upon the value of human life whether in the extension of the legalised killing of the unborn; or in the increasing threat to the elderly and vulnerable by euthanasia under the guise of ‘assisted suicide’.”
The bishop added: “Amid every lengthening shadow, may we never lose the light of the Child who was born for us, who allows us to glimpse who we really are and discover our deepest identity as children of God. At this Christmas of 2020 and in the face of the challenges of a New Year to come, may we return to the light which first dawned in Bethlehem, the same light which shines for us at every ‘Christ’s Mass’.”
|Christmas Schedule 2020|
Thursday 24th December
Vigil of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ
|8.15am||Divine Office of Prime with Chant of the Martyrology for Christmas|
|9am||Low Mass of the Vigil|
|4.30pm||First Vespers of the Nativity|
|6pm||Matins of the Nativity|
|9pm||Procession to the Crib and ‘Midnight’ Sung Mass|
|10.30pm||Procession to the Crib and ‘Midnight’ Sung Mass|
To balance social distancing and anticipated demand, there will
be two Midnight Masses.
The first at 9pm is now fully booked, the second is at 10.30pm. Pre-bookings are required.
Maximum capacity is 80 seats at each Mass
|Friday 25th December
The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ
|8.30am||Low Mass (Missa secunda or the Dawn Mass)|
|10.30am||Sung Mass (Missa tertia or Mass during the Day)|
|5.30pm||Vespers and Benediction|
|Saturday 26th December
St Stephen’s Day
|Sunday 27th December
Sunday within the Octave
|10.30am||Sung Mass and blessing of wine in honour of St. John|
|Thursday 31 December|
|9pm||Adoration and & singing of the Te Deum
in thanksgiving for the past year (Plenary Indulgence attached).
|Friday 1st January|
|10am||Singing of the Veni Creator Followed by Low Mass
(Plenary Indulgence attached).
This is the patronal feast of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest and a Plenary Indulgence available under usual conditions
(Confession, Communion & prayer for the intentions of the Sovereign Pontiff).
At the Shrine, this special feast day will be celebrated thus:
5.15pm: Second Vespers of the feast
followed by Benediction and renewal of the Consecration of the ICKSP to the Immaculate Conception
6.30pm: Sung Mass & Compline
Following the statement of H.M. Government, public worship will resume on Wednesday 2nd December and therefore we will once again gather for Holy Mass!
The Liverpool City Region has been placed in Tier 2. Meaning that whilst we can finally come back to Mass, we must abide by the government guidelines, these being not to socialise with people from outside of our own household/support bubble while in the church. This is much the same as things had been before lockdown with some relaxation of the rules around external socialising. Face covering rules remain except where exemptions apply.
Our schedule for the week commencing Sunday 28th November is thus:
Wish a Happy Christmas and Blessed New Year to your family and friends.
Use the form below to order your selection of our Christmas Cards, specially designed for you this year. All benefits towards the Shrine.
Please click on the card you would like to choose, and specify how many cards you would like to order in the field below.
Proposed offering: £1 each card.
To send your donation:
– by bank transfer, using the following bank details:
Sort Code: 40-45-14
Acc number: 01805061
For the credit of ICKSP / SSPPP
– by Cash / Cheque (made payable to ICKSP / SSPPP), when collecting them at the Shrine (during private prayer opening times, 5-7 pm)