Pastoral Letter: Rebuilding on the Foundation of the Eucharist , First Sunday of Lent, 21st February 2021

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,

+ Mark
Bishop of Shrewsbury

[i] Gen. 9: 14
[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

A Pastoral Letter on Public Worship and Public Responsibility

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! [1] The Catholic faith teaches that this worship is supremely offered in the Sacrifice of the Mass in which God is glorified and humanity sanctified.[2]

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 [3].

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 [4]. – 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

  1. Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church n. 2096
  2. Second Vatican Council Sacrosanctum Concilium n. 7
  3. Cf. Mt. 2: 11, Mk. 1: 8 & Decree on the Most Holy Eucharist, Council of Trent Session 13 4 Cf. Patris Corde 8th December 2020

Christmas can never be cancelled even in the most unfavourable of conditions: Bishop Davies

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’.”

A message from Father Edmund and Canon Wiener

Since 2018 the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest had been invited by His Lordship, Bishop Davies, to participate in the ministry at the Cathedral of Shrewsbury. In autumn of this year 2020, the Institute has been welcomed to celebrate Holy Mass at the Cathedral also on Sundays at 9:30 am, in addition to weekday Masses.

The Institute’s clergy and many faithful from near and far felt very honoured and are most grateful for this generous invitation by Bishop Davies who, by including the Sunday into the liturgical schedule for the Extraordinary Form Masses, had the spiritual welfare and health of all the faithful in Shrewsbury at his heart.

Unfortunately, the celebrations of Masses in the Extraordinary Form on Sundays are not easily possible without disrupting the very active community life at the Cathedral parish and causing organisational difficulties for all faithful. Upon request of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, His Lordship graciously decided therefore to change the location of the Masses on Sundays: Starting on Sunday, January 3rd, 2021, Masses in the Extraordinary Form will be celebrated (again) at 12:30 pm at St. Winefrides Church, Crowmere Road, Monkmoor, Shrewsbury, SY2 5RA.

The liturgical schedule on weekdays remains unchanged and as announced on December 13th. We are certain that this change will be very beneficial for the entire community of faithful in the entire diocese of Shrewsbury.

Father Edmund Montgomery and Canon Michael Wiener

New Mass schedule – starting 3rd January 2021:

Sunday
12.30pm at St. Winefride’s
Monday
10.00am at Shrewsbury Cathedral
Tuesday
6.30pm (with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Benediction and Confessions beforehand at 5.30-6.20pm) at Shrewsbury Cathedral
Wednesday
10.00am at Shrewsbury Cathedral
Thursday
6.30pm (with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Benediction and Confessions beforehand at 5.30-6.20pm) at Shrewsbury Cathedral
Friday
10.00am at Shrewsbury Cathedral
Saturday
10.00am at Shrewsbury Cathedral

Christmas Masses

There will be two Christmas Masses celebrated by the Shrewsbury Apostolate.

Sung Midnight Mass at St Winefride’s, Crowmere Road. Monkmoor. Shrewsbury. SY2 5RA at Midnight

Sung Mass of the Day at Shrewsbury Cathedral, Belmont, Shrewsbury SY1 1TE at 9.30am

In order to meet the requirements around social distancing but at the same time provide sufficient capacity, it will be necessary to reserve seats for each Mass.

For this, we are utilising a ticketed system via online booking portal TicketTailor. This can be done via the appropriate links below (you will be taken to the TicketTailor website – all bookings are without charge). Please book as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

Second lockdown: A statement from the Rt Rev. Mark Davies, the Bishop of Shrewsbury

“We appreciate the difficult choices faced at this time by government and parliament in responding to the public health crisis conscious of the hardships which even necessary measures bring for society and especially the most vulnerable.

“The Prime Minister mentioned in his statement that he judged it necessary to close much that is judged by the Government as being non-essential in society.  We need to be sure that such judgments are based upon clear evidence that, for example, schools, universities and the football premier league will continue as essential elements of our society’s life.

“The Prime Minister made no reference in his statement to public worship so we were astonished to find in national guidance that the Government was seeking the authority of parliament to close all places of worship.

“It is a momentous act for any political authority to seek to ban public worship across a nation.

“No evidence has been offered to justify why the Government seeks to ban public worship that invariably takes place amid some of the most stringent Covid safety measures in the whole of society.

“The vital role which public worship has for the well-being of hundreds of thousands of people in this Shrewsbury Diocese together with faith communities across the nation can never allow public worship to be dismissed as something non-essential.

“Neither can we lightly overlook how from public worship flows support for the most vulnerable and countless charitable activities in the service of the common good.

“We are asking our Government and political representatives to provide the evidence on which they seeking to impose a ban on all public worship in England.  We believe that public worship is not part of the problem we face rather it is part of the solution to this deeply human crisis.”

+ Mark, Bishop of Shrewsbury, 1st November 2020

Weekly Newsletter

We have now combined the Institute Shrewsbury apostolate newsletter with that of the Cathedral. This has many advantages! Each week we will endeavour to upload the two pages pertaining to the ICKSP which includes the liturgical schedule to this website.

All newsletters can be found under the News and Events/Weekly Newsletter tab.

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