Sunday, 31 May 2009

Sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit

This morning the Bishop was at the Cathedral to celebrate the feast of Pentecost and to confirm a number of young people. It is customary for the Bishop to be at the Cathedral for the major feasts of the year, and we are fortunate to be able to celebrate the sacrament of confirmation on this great feast of the Holy Spirit. Ten young people from this parish and two from the nearby parish of Saint Mary and St James, Scorton, were confirmed at the Cathedral today after months of preparation.

It was the first time that Bishop Campbell has celebrated one of the Cathedral's main Sunday Masses, so it was a great pleasure to welcome him. He will be back at the end of June for our patronal feast of Saints Peter and Paul. After the obligatory photoshoot he had a chance to meet some of those who were at Mass today.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

The Diocesan Coat of Arms

As promised earlier when we looked at Bishop Campbell's coat of arms, today we feature the diocesan coat of arms, which in recent months has been featuring ever more prominently both in the Cathedral and on diocesan documents. In the gold band at the top are a red rose representing Lancashire and symbols of water representing Cumbria (a reference to the Lake District). Below, on a dark blue background, a castle represents Lancaster and two fleur de lys, traditional symbols of Our Lady, are seen. A crozier (bishop's staff) is depicted, along with a mitre (bishop's hat) above the shield. Seemingly it is correct for diocesan arms to feature a mitre, but not usually for a bishop's personal coat of arms to do so.

In these warmer and brighter days, the main west doors of the Cathedral are open each day. The diocesan coat of arms makes a striking impression as people approach this entrance, and can easily be seen from the road below.

The Cathedral's version has a 3-D element to it (rather than simply being painted on something, the individual shapes have been cut out) and is a fine piece of work. It was produced for us by local artist Wendy Moore and made its first appearance on 1st May, just in time for Bishop Campbell's Mass of inauguration.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Hats off

This picture of birettas lined up during the 1st May Mass signals a short break in posts, until next weekend. After the frantic activity of recent weeks the Cathedral's blogging department is taking a short rest! The blog will be back in action next weekend, with plenty to look forward to especially in June (Forty Hours Exposition, St Peter's Walk, Flower Festival, Patronal Feast...) so don't forget to call back in a week or so. In the meantime, there will still be updates on Billington's Blog, which charts the history of the Cathedral: click here to take a look.

Friday, 22 May 2009

The Eleventh Archbishop of Westminster

Yesterday Most Rev. Vincent Nichols was installed as the eleventh Archbishop of Westminster, in a splendid celebration at Westminster Cathedral. The Archbishop takes on a heavy burden, taking charge of a large and important diocese and becoming a national leader for the Church in this country.

Just before noon he left Archbishop's House adjoining the Cathedral and processed along Ambrosden Avenue to the main west doors of the Cathedral. There he was greeted by the Cathedral Chapter and led to his new cathedra, the sign of his authority in his Diocese. The Mass was covered live by the BBC and in all its aspects seemed to be a spectacular occasion.

In his homily the Archbishop said, "Faith in God is not, as some would portray it today, a narrowing of the human mind or spirit. It is precisely the opposite. Faith in God is the gift that takes us beyond our limited self, with all its incessant demands. It opens us to a life that stretches us, enlightens us, and often springs surprises upon us. Such faith, like love, sees that which is invisible and lives by it." The full text of the homily can be found on the BBC news website, here. There are some excellent pictures of before and after the Mass on the Catholic Herald website: click here.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

The Installation of Archbishop Nichols

Today Most Rev. Vincent Nichols will be installed as the eleventh Archbishop of Westminster, taking charge of the largest diocese in our land and also the most influential. A wonderful celebration is planned. The Archbishop will be formally greeted at the doors of the Cathedral at 12noon then led to the cathedra (bishop's throne), where he will be seated for the first time. Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, the first Archbishop of Westminster ever to make it to retirement, will be among four cardinals and sixty bishops present.

A great amount of work has taken place over the past few weeks, and every effort has been made to ensure that the liturgy will be of the highest quality. The chasuble pictured here, which will be worn by Archbishop Nichols, has been specially made for the installation.

The Mass will be broadcast live on BBC Two from 11:45am. Camera crews have been in place during the week as rehearsals have taken place. Huw Edwards will present the programme, with commentary provided by Monsignor Mark Langham, the former Administrator of Westminster Cathedral. Our parishioners may remember Monsignor Langham from the feast of the Dedication of the Cathedral in 2006, when he came and preached at Mass and Vespers. He now works in Rome in the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Dr J. H. Reginald Dixon

Today is the 100th anniversary of the appointment to this church of Dr J. H. Reginald Dixon, the extraordinary musician who served here for over 60 years. We can only hope and presume that he would be very proud of the organ restoration project which now nears its completion. The significance of Dr Dixon's contribution to music at the Cathedral would be hard to overestimate, and his memory is still held dear by many of the longer-standing parishioners. Joan Johnson will give an organ recital of his music this evening (7:30pm start; admission by donation). Billington's Blog today has a feature on Dr Dixon: find out more by clicking here.

An eventful Tuesday

The events of September were much on our mind yesterday, with an important meeting about the 150th anniversary exhibition at the city museum (begins 21st September) and a meeting with High School Chaplains about the visit of St Thérèse. It is the Cathedral organ, however, which occupies our immediate attention, with work now progressing at a dizzying rate. The console is completed and wired up; most of the pipework is back in place and much of the work now is about ironing out minor problems here and there. Yesterday the organ was being played from its console for the first time in nearly two years, so the end is undoubtedly in sight! A little more patience is yet required, however, and it will be mid June by the time the project is completed. Pictures of the new console will follow on the blog in due course.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

All hands on deck

Yesterday was a landmark day in this final phase of the organ restoration programme: the new console arrived at the Cathedral. It was all hands on deck, with a large group of organ builders on site for what was a very long day.

The Willis Organs van only left the Cathedral just before Midnight; it had arrived in the morning carrying some precious cargo!

Everything arrived in pieces and was brought in through the west doors before being lifted into the organ loft by means of a temporary scaffold.

Here's a first glimpse of the manuals...

... and here the pedal board is seen waiting to be lifted to its home.

Our blog's cameras provided a momentary distraction for the workers as they lifted the first pieces of the new console into place. Even though the console was dismantled there was some fairly heavy lifting to be done.

This is the base of the console on its way up...

... and up - nearly there!

A line of organ builders passed some of the lighter pieces up to the gallery.

Here the pedal board makes its ascent...

...and here the first of the manuals goes upwards, as the remaining two lie waiting in the main aisle. The remaining pipes had already been lifted into place; now everything was ready for the final assembly and wiring.

There is still a lot of work to do and the organ builders are facing another long day today. While it will still be a few weeks until the project is completely finished, everything now looks as though within days we will be hearing the first notes from this finely restored instrument.

Monday, 18 May 2009

The Music of Dr Dixon

As we reported a few days ago, the centenary of Dr Dixon's appointment to Lancaster is being marked by a festival of his music. Today we feature the concert of his work that took place in the Cathedral on Saturday evening.

A commentary was provided throughout the evening by Joan Johnson, Dr Dixon's last student, who has written his biography. Joan had given a fascinating talk on his life the previous evening, revealing much about his life and motivation, as well as sharing some fantastic anecdotes.

Many of the choral works of the evening were performed by a specially created group, the Dr Dixon Festival Choir, which was made up of local singers including many from Lancaster University. The choir was conducted by Katy Bradley, who is the Principal Conductor of the University of Lancaster Music Society Choir. The choir performed Dixon's Mass in E flat, the anthem I rejoiced, extracts from his Eucharistic oratorio Panis Vitae and the Praise Chorus from Dixon's setting of Cardinal Newman's Dream of Gerontius.

A couple of songs for soloists were performed: Love is ever at the Spring for soprano and Westward Bound for Baritone. Joan Johnson accompanied the songs on the piano.

For piano and violin, Meditation - Meadowside and Nocturne - Lunehurst were performed.

The Cathedral's Director of Music, Damian Howard (a successor of Dr Dixon, of course), performed a work for piano solo with the title Sunset over Morecambe Bay; he also opened the evening's music with an organ piece called Fanfare Dixoniana, a new work written for Lancaster Cathedral by Dr Francis Jackson, Organist Emeritus of York Minster; Dr Jackson's work was the only piece of the evening which had not been composed by Dr Dixon.

The Cathedral's young choristers performed a song called Achievement before singing the Sanctus and Benedictus from Dixon's Mass of St Beatrice, which Dr Dixon named in gratitude to his sister Beatrice, with whom he lived at the end of his life.

The Mass of St Beatrice has recently been used at Mass in the Cathedral after a long absence. On this occasion, however, the choristers were performing for a non-liturgical event - something of a rarity for them.

The Lancaster and District Choral Society came out in force to sing a work called Transfiguration - surprisingly (given the title) not a religious work - under the direction of John Perrin. The work is fiendishly difficult to sing, but a lot of hard work and practice paid off. There is a further chance to hear some of Dr Dixon's music when Joan Johnson gives an organ recital of his works on Wednesday evening at 7:30pm. Entry is by donation; all welcome. The Dr Dixon festival is one of the Cathedral's 150th anniversary events, which are being supported by a number of local and Church-related businesses; the list of sponsors can be found here.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Annual Altar Servers' Mass

To the trained eye this photograph could only portray one event in the Cathedral calendar: the annual altar servers' Mass. Servers come from parishes across the Diocese to renew their commitment to service and to celebrate the contribution they make to the Church.

Here Fr Jerome Ainsworth of St Catherine's, Penrith, is reading the Gospel. As can be seen, the servers are dressed as they would be to serve Mass in their own parish; it makes for a fairly colourful scene.

In his homily the Bishop spoke about St Stephen, the patron saint of altar servers. He told the servers that when they serve well Christ speaks through them, and reminded them to always give their full commitment to their service, saying "Our Lord deserves only what is best". The full text of the Bishop's homily can be found on the diocesan website, here.

Following the homily the servers stood to renew their commitment, according to the custom of the altar servers' Guild of St Stephen: "I offer myself to God Almighty, to Blessed Mary our Mother, and to our Holy Patron, Saint Stephen, and I promise to do my best, to serve regularly, with reverence and understanding, for the glory of God, the service of His Church and my own eternal salvation."

Bishop Campbell then blessed copies of the letters of St Paul; this book was chosen to mark the year of St Paul, which ends at the end of next month.

Each of the servers present was then invited to come forward and to collect a copy for them to keep. This gift is intended to thank them for their service, but also to draw them closer to God by their reading His Word. When each had received their copy, Mass continued as usual; refreshments were then provided in the Social Centre.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Westminster: Installation Preparations

It's now less than a week to go until Archbishop Vincent Nichols occupies this seat for the first time: on Thursday he will be installed as the eleventh Archbishop of Westminster.

At Westminster Cathedral a massive operation is underway to make sure that everything is ready. Just over 2,000 people have tickets for the installation, which will be attended by four Cardinals and sixty Bishops. Our own Bishop Michael Campbell will be present, along with Lancaster's Bishop Emeritus, Rt Rev. Patrick O'Donoghue, a former Administrator of Westminster Cathedral. Because of preparations most of the public liturgy (Mass, Vespers) in the coming week will be moved from the Cathedral's main altar to other venues (the Cathedral Crypt or another church on nearby Horseferry Road).

New vestments are being prepared and new music has been commissioned from composers James MacMillan and Colin Mawby. The installation will be broadcast live on BBC Two from 11:45am on Thursday. The Diocese of Westminster website has a special blog which is following preparations for the installation; you can find it here.

Earlier this week Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor left Archbishop's House, which adjoins the Cathedral, having been resident there for nine years. He celebrated a final Mass in the chapel before being waved off by some of the staff there and some of Westminster's Auxiliary Bishops. He is moving to a house in Chiswick and will no doubt continue to play an important public role in the life of the Church in this country.

Friday, 15 May 2009

The Dr Dixon Festival

This is Dr J. H. Reginald Dixon, the eccentric but brilliant organist who oversaw music at the Cathedral 1909-1971. He came in the church's golden jubilee year, at a time when Canon Billington was the rector of St Peter's, which was still just a parish church. During his time he saw the church raised to Cathedral status when the Diocese of Lancaster was founded in 1924, the consecration of four bishops and many other important occasions. He was a part of many people's lives, playing the organ at countless weddings, funerals and Sunday Masses. He contributed greatly to the cultural life of Lancaster, founding and supporting musical societies and playing an organ recital for the visit of King George V in 1912; he also composed a march when Lancaster was given city status in 1937. Next Wednesday is the 100th anniversary of his appointment here. The centenary is being marked by a festival featuring the following events: Tonight at 7:30pm a talk on his life by Joan Johnson, his last student (free); Tomorrow (Saturday) at 8pm a concert of his music performed by local musicians (tickets £8/£6 concessions); Wednesday 20th at 7:30pm the first annual Dr Dixon Memorial Organ Recital - Joan Johnson performs some of his finest organ works (entry by donation). Dr Dixon is a legendary figure here: why not come along and enjoy his leagacy?

Thursday, 14 May 2009

St Thérèse Cloister Garden: the winning design

Congratulations to Josie Beeson, a final year student at Myerscough College, who won the design competition for the new cloister garden dedicated to St Thérèse. This image gives an impression of how the garden will look; work is expected to begin shortly. You can see more about the winning design on the St Thérèse blog: click here. The garden is being funded by donations and over half the money has already been raised. If you would like to make a contribution, please contact us.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Bishop Campbell's Coat of Arms

Bishop Campbell's coat of arms was revealed for the first time at the inauguration Mass on 1st May. The left hand side of the shield is the diocesan arms, while the Bishop's personal arms are seen on the right. The green hill represents his home town of Larne, Co. Antrim; the book signifies the Bishop's devotion to the Word of God in Sacred Scripture; the heart and arrow are a symbol of the Augustinian order.

Yesterday the new coat of arms was unveiled on the cathedra; Bishop Patrick's shield was left there until after the handover. Beneath the shield is the Bishop's motto, "Ecce nova facio omnia" - "Behold, I make all things new" (Rev. 21:5).

A new hanging at the back of the Cathedral also shows the Bishop's coat of arms. To the left of it hangs an image of Our Lady of Lourdes and to the right an image of St Cuthbert. These are the two patrons of the Diocese of Lancaster.

The three hangings form an attractive backdrop beneath the organ loft.

Bishop O'Donoghue's shield is now to be found on the choir stalls, part of a series of five shields which hold the arms of the first five Bishops of Lancaster.

Starting from the right, we see the shields of Bishop Thomas Wulstan Pearson (1924-1938), Bishop Thomas Edward Flynn (1939-1961), Bishop Brian Charles Foley (1962-1985), Bishop John Brewer (1985-2000), Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue (2001-2009). If you'd like to read a little more about Bishop Campbell's coat of arms, see the dedicated page on the diocesan website: click here. There will be more about the diocesan coat of arms on this blog in due course. You may also wish to read the text of Bishop Campbell's homily at yesterday's Chapter Mass; this has been posted on the diocesan website and can be found here.