Pastoral letter of His Lordship Mark, Bishop of Shrewsbury on the Re-dedication of England as the Dowry of Mary, 1st March 2020

My dear brothers and sisters,

I think of you all each morning at the Altar and each evening as we pray the Angelus before the statute of Our Lady in the Cathedral. I think of your families and your work; of the loneliness of old age and the generous hopes of youth; of those seeking their vocation, especially the men discerning their vocation at the Cathedral and our seminarians preparing for the priesthood and the young couples preparing for marriage; I think of all our priests and deacons and consecrated women and men, and of the whole mission of our Diocese. We know that in the offering of every Mass our lives, our prayer, our work and our sufferings are “united with those of Christ and his total offering, and so acquire a new value”i. In the simple prayer of the Angelus we also seek to unite ourselves to the “yes” Mary gave to God’s word and thereby to Christ Himself. In the Angelus we say with Our Lady, “Let it be to me according to your word”.ii This is a perfect prayer to accompany the Year of the Word.

At the beginning of Lent, the Book of Genesis tells how human history began with our first parents saying “no” to God and his loving purpose. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that: “Man, tempted by the devil let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command”iii. This is original sin and “all subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness”.iv Yet amid the disaster of this primeval fall, we hear the first announcement of the Gospel telling of the Saviour to come and of a New Eve, the Mother of Christ, who would truly be the Mother of all who live. Together with Our Lady we now repeat her fiat, her “yes” to all God asks of us and to the grace God wishes to pour into our hearts.

In a time of amnesia – forgetfulness – of the Christian past, we recall how England began with this desire to say “yes” to God’s grace, in order that a once pagan people might share Christ’s victory in the wilderness by learning to live “by every word which comes from the mouth of God” and worshipping and serving the Lord God alone.v Our national identity would be forged by the Christian faith we now share. England’s Monarchs would entrust this land to the Mother of God so that, like Mary, we might respond to God’s word in faith. They recognised England’s high destiny to be a place where the joy of the Annunciation will never fade. vi

This year, the Bishops invite us to renew that solemn act of entrustment to the Blessed Virgin Mary amidst the de-Christianisation of our society, re-echoing the call with which Lent begins, “Come back to me with all your heart”.vii On the Fifth Sunday of Lent, we will make this act of entrustment together at the end of Mass. In Shrewsbury Diocese, I want us to also make this entrustment throughout Lent using the simple and profound words of the Angelus. Where Monarchs once acted on behalf of their people, today may this same act of dedication be renewed in the hearts of each one of us. Let us entrust ourselves, our families, our diocese and our whole nation to the Mother of God that we may say with her, a decisive “yes” to God’s grace and God’s plan for our lives.

The Angelus seems especially appropriate for this purpose, for it is the prayer of the Angel’s announcement to Our Lady. Following the Second Vatican Council, Saint Paul VI commended the Angelus prayer especially for our times as it vividly recalls with the words of Scripture the Incarnation of the Son of God and leads us to pray that we may be led “by his Passion and Cross to the glory of his Resurrection”. viii Pope Paul asked us to use this prayer “whenever and wherever possible” amidst our working day, however busy we might be.

This Sunday, prayer cards will be distributed across the Shrewsbury Diocese so we can have the words of this beautiful prayer to hand. I wish to invite you to pray the Angelus with me each day and especially around midday on Wednesday 25th March, when we celebrate the great feast of the Annunciation. The two or three minutes we give to this prayer will be like a ‘breath of fresh air’ in the middle of the day, allowing us to raise our minds and hearts to God and to re-direct all to His glory.

United with you in this prayer and entrusting us all to the most pure heart of Mary,

+ Mark
Bishop of Shrewsbury

Join us in praying to Our Lady of Good Success!

Ss. Peter & Paul and St. Philomena submitted the application for a grant to National Lottery Heritage in November and we are awaiting a decision in March.

Last Thursday was our last chance to present our proposed project to our National Lottery Investment Manager and one of the committee who will be deciding whether to fund us. They were particularly impressed with the volunteer contribution during development and the promised contribution of volunteers for delivery, if we get the grant.

The investment manager explained that although some of our activities have a relatively low budget compared to some other projects from councils and museums, that is because of the massive volunteer contribution. Thank you to all who have helped so far, whether through your time, your energy, your sacrifices and your prayers.

The board of trustees will meet at the beginning of March to decide whether we deserve funding. Competition is tough. A novena for the success of our HLF application for our restoration project will be organised at the Shrine from 25th February to 4th March.

To implore the help of Our Lady, we will be saying a Novena. The Novena will be prayed at the end of the Morning Mass on weekdays, and at the end of the 10.30am Mass on Sunday.

A small booklet about the devotion and Novena to Our Lady of Good Success is for sale at the Piety Shop for £5.

Epiphany House Blessings

On the Feast of the Epiphany, and perhaps in the days that follow, it is traditional that we seek God’s blessing on our homes and on those who live in or visit the home. It is an invitation for Jesus to be a daily guest in our home, our comings and goings, our conversations, our work and play, our joys and sorrows!

A traditional way of doing this is to use chalk, blessed at Mass on the Epiphany, to write above the home’s entrance as shown in the above graphic and for a special blessing from the Rituale Romanum to be given by the priest.

The letters C, M, B have two meanings:
• They are the initials of the traditional names of the three magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar.
• They also abbreviate the Latin words Christus mansionem benedicat, “May Christ bless the house.”

The “+” signs represent the cross and 2020 is the year.

Please speak to a Canon if you wish to have this blessing upon your home.

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.