Advent Pastoral Letter of the Bishop of Shrewsbury

My dear brothers and sisters,

Advent begins amidst a General Election campaign which surely invites us to pray for those offering themselves for election and for the choice we must soon make as a nation. An election can be a time of many and conflicting words. Yet, Advent calls for a renewed attentiveness to the Word, the word God spoke in His Son. For Christ himself is “The eternal Word (who) became small – small enough to fit in a manger. He became a child so the word could be grasped by us” (Pope Benedict XVI Christmas Homily 2006). We come to know Christ, the Eternal Word through the Scriptures and the living tradition handed down in the doctrine, life and worship of His Church (Cf. Dei Verbum n. 8).

In the year ahead, we are celebrating a Year of the Word across England and Wales. This is an invitation to a renewed attentiveness to the God who speaks. We will heed the words of Saint Paul who urges us to, “wake up now” (Rom 13: 11) and accept Isaiah’s joyous invitation, “Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord … that he may teach us his ways …” (Is. 2:5). In the Gospel, Jesus Himself tells us why we must be so attentive, “Stay awake … you must be ready …” because “the Son of Man is coming …” (Mt. 24: 42-44).

We have need to read, study and, above all, to pray the Scriptures because as Saint Jerome memorably observed, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” I hope you may be able to take advantage of the many opportunities in our 2020 Diocesan programme to deepen our love and knowledge of Scripture. However, the Sacred Liturgy is the privileged place for us all to hear God’s word.  For when the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people (Cf. General Instruction to The Roman Missal 29, Sacrosanctum Concilium n.7). In the celebration of every Mass we see how the Word and the Eucharist are so closely bound together that Christ’s presence in the word proclaimed leads us to recognise Him anew under the forms of bread and wine (Cf. Saint Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei n. 39). As Emeritus Pope Benedict explained, “Unless we acknowledge the real presence in the Eucharist, our understanding of Scripture remains imperfect” (Cf. Verbum Domini n. 55). In every Mass we want our hearts to burn within us as we hear all the Scriptures which speak of Christ so we can say with the first disciples He “explain(s) the Scriptures to us.” For it is Christ Himself we seek through all the pages of Scripture leading us to open our eyes in faith to recognise Him in the Sacrifice and Sacrament of the Eucharist (Cf. Lk. 24: 13-35).

A precondition for so recognising Him is something we can lack amid all the noise of contemporary life: that is attentive silence. Saint John of the Cross reflected that, “The Father spoke one Word, which was His Son, and this Word He always speaks in eternal silence, and in silence (He) must be heard …” (Spiritual Maxims). This leads us to gather quietly in preparation for Mass; to listen silently to the Scriptures read and proclaimed; and to go to our knees in deepest silence as the priest lifts the Host and Chalice that all eyes may be fixed on Him present as God and man (Cf. Lk. 4: 20). In a remarkable book entitled “The Power of Silence Against the Dictatorship of Noise” (2017) Cardinal Robert Sarah reflects on our need for silence. For without silence we cannot hear the God who speaks nor recognise Him in the silence of the Eucharist.  We all need to find this silence in our lives. Yet sometimes our parish churches can lack the attentive silence of prayer and an excess of talking can mark church life today when we have such need of deeper and more attentive silence. Cardinal Sarah quotes the words of Saint Teresa of Calcutta who said, “God is the friend of silence … the more we receive in silent prayer, the more we can give in active life … The essential thing is not what we say, but what God says to us and through us. Jesus is always waiting for us in silence.”

At the beginning of Advent, may I invite you to seek such silence and to rebel in your own lives against “the dictatorship of noise” so we hear the God who speaks. Let us find some time each day for silent prayer; quietly open the pages of the Gospel and take up the Gospel prayer of the Rosary which leads us into the silent prayer of Mary’s Immaculate Heart (Cf. Lk. 2:19). Let us spend the precious time before Mass coming to know the silence of Christ’s presence in the Blessed Sacrament. There, as Mother Teresa said so simply, “Jesus is always waiting for us in silence.”  Together with Pope Francis, let us ask Our Lady to help us listen (Cf. Aperuit Illis n. 15) so we can pray amid the confusion of conflicting words and the uproar of many voices, “Let it be to me according to your word” (Lk. 1:38).

May I wish you an Advent blessed by such silence, and a truly happy Christmas,

+ Mark
Bishop of Shrewsbury

Successful Recital at The Williamson

A very well attended recital took place at The Williamson Gallery in Birkenhead yesterday afternoon

The concert featured a wide repertoire of music and poetry with classical piano, Gregorian chant and sacred music being amonst the feast that entertained a packed crowd in excess of 100 people.

The Sisters Adorers of the Royal Heart of Jesus together with Helen Neilsen Scott performed pieces that made up a varied programme.

Below are a selection of photography capturing the event.

All Saints and All Souls

Friday 1st November is All Saints’ Day, a day on which the Catholics of England and Wales are obliged to hear Mass.

Masses are as follows:

8.15am at Birkenhead Carmel
12 noon at St. Anthony’s, Liverpool
7.00pm at Ss. Peter & Paul and St Philomena (Sung Mass)

On Saturday 2nd November, is All Souls Day or to give the corect name the ‘Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed’

Masses are as follows:

8am at Birkenhead Carmel
10am at Ss. Peter & Paul and St Philomena (Sung Mass and Absolution at the Catafalque)
12 noon at St. Anthony’s, Liverpool

Reformation Study – 23 October

There will be a group of students attending Mass on Wednesday 23rd October as they study what Mass was like before the Reformation. This Mass will be at Noon.

Amongst those attending will be students who have never been to Mass before and all will be completing worksheets and maybe making notes. Following Mass, Father Gribbin will present to the students.

If you have an interest in the Reformation and would like to see Father’s presentation please mention this to a priest. If there is sufficient interest Father Gribbin would be willing to deliver his presentation to the congregation.

Male Voices from the Shores of the Volga


Nikolsky Ensemble Russia
A Concert of Russian Sacred Music will take place at Ss Peter & Paul and St Philomena on Tuesday 8th October at 7pm

Tickets at £10 each and are available from Ronnie: nan01(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)live.co.uk phone: 07821 054044 or Atie: atie.doesburg(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)hotmail.com phone: 07738 370827

A taste of what you can expect can be viewed below:

New Liturgical Timetable from 2nd September

From Monday 2nd September (commencing with the Monday – Thursday timetable)

Sunday
8am: Low Mass at Birkenhead Carmel
8.30am: Low Mass
9.45am: Confessions
10.30am: Sung or High Mass
5.30pm: Vespers
6pm: Rosary & Benediction

Monday – Thursday
8.15am: Low Mass at Birkenhead Carmel
9am: Rosary
9.15am: Confessions
9.30am: Low Mass
5.30pm: Vespers
6pm: Adoration

Friday
8.15am: Low Mass at Birkenhead Carmel
5.30pm: Vespers
6pm: Adoration
7pm: Low Mass

Saturday
8am: Low Mass at Birkenhead Carmel
8.30am: Adoration
9.30am: Rosary
9.45am: Confessions
10am: Low Mass , followed by devotions to St Philomena
5.30pm: Vespers

Sponsor a parachuting priest! £5000 needed!

What is St Benedict’s Academy all about? We are a part-time academy based in Preston, Lancashire, looked after by the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, and welcome children from age 5 to 18. In September, the academy will be entering into its third academic year, having started in January 2018.

The education provided at St. Benedict’s is all deeply rooted in the Catholic faith, as all subjects lead back to Our Lord. Whether in the study of History, with the Incarnation as its centre-piece, learning about and admiring the wonderful creation of God through the sciences, or in the study of the sacred language of the Church, Latin, through looking at the texts of the Mass, as well as passages from the Vulgate, Christ is always at the centre.

As priests, it is a great privilege to be able to teach the children, and to pass on the faith to them. The Sisters Adorers teach Catechism and French, as well as Gregorian Chant and Polyphony. It is wonderful to have religious around the school, as an example and inspiration to the children!

Every Friday, at 12 noon, there is a sung Mass at English Martyrs, at which some of the boys from St. Benedict’s serve, and the rest of the children sing the Kyriale of the Mass, as well some of the Ordinary, along with one or two polyphonic motets.

While the majority of the teachers at St. Benedict’s are volunteers, there are in fact many other essential costs needed to run the formation of the children, which include: heating of the building, electricity and water bills, textbooks, insurance and maintenance of the Academy.

As the academy is a charity, we never wish to turn a family away if they are not able to afford the fees and at present the majority of families do not pay fees. In order to keep the Academy running and to provide a strong catholic education to as many children as possible, we rely on the donations of generous benefactors.

As we read in our dearly-beloved Missal at Christmas time, “Thine almighty Word, O Lord, leaped down from heaven”. Priests must always imitate Christ in all things. Therefore, Canon Vianney Poucin, accompanied by Philip Russell (a trustee) and Kevin Russell-Young (a parent of three of the children) will also be leaping from the heavens (15000ft), but by means of an aeroplane and a parachute in order to raise funds for St Benedict’s!

The planned date is the 4th September in Lancaster

Will you help make Catholic Education great again? Will you sponsor them?
#If you feel able, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/parachuting-priest