Wednesday, 30 September 2009

The visit in pictures

The events of the last three days have been extraordinary, and it will take some time before anyone will understand the lasting effects of the visit of St Thérèse. Already the stories of individual pilgrims are emerging - the reasons people came, the lengths some people went to in order to get here, and the prayers which have already been answered. It seems like a long time since the relics were carried into the Cathedral on Monday afternoon (pictured above), and a lot has happened in that time.

The blog will likely be featuring the visit for some time, along with coverage of the Cathedral's 150th anniversary and other events. We would welcome your help: if you have photographs of the visit which you could share with us, or perhaps a story about something that happened to you here, please let us know. We may not be able to feature everything that comes in, but the stories and the pictures will form a wonderful archive for future generations to look at.

Everyone who came to Lancaster had their own reasons for being here: some seeking help or an answer to prayer, some just wanting to be close to a great saint, some simply curious. One thing is clear: everyone who came wanted to be close to the relics. Huge numbers of people simply came, visited St Thérèse, and left. Their purpose for being here had been fulfilled.

It is very difficult to work out how many people passed through the doors, but we are estimating that something like 6500 pilgrims came to the Cathedral during the 43-hour visit.

There were also major liturgies, many of which were packed full of people. Yesterday, for example, there were about 800 at the lunchtime Mass and 750 at the evening Mass; 500 attended Vespers and 300 were at Compline. The Little Flower can certainly draw people to prayer, just as she always desired to do in her lifetime.

Amongst the many visitors were around 500 children from over 20 schools. Most of them were able to take part in a special programme for schools, which included the chance to talk to someone playing the role of a Carmelite nun who knew Thérèse. We will feature more about the school visits on the blog soon.

The relics were taken out of the Cathedral at 11am, carried by six members of the Cenacolo Community near Kendal. These six men, who also carried the relics in at the arrival, are recovering drug addicts. The mission of Cenacolo - which is a worldwide movement brought into our Diocese by Bishop O'Donoghue - is to help people overcome their addiction and then use their experience to help others. In doing so they also give great witness to their faith, and are an inspiration to the many people who have come into contact with them.

There was applause this morning outside the Cathedral at the short convoy carrying the relics began to move. About now the reliquary is due to arrive at St Andrew's Church, Worswick Street, Newcastle, before making its way down the eastern side of England towards Westminster, where the journey ends on 16th October. Please do send us your pictures and stories of the visit to Lancaster. We will feature much more on the blog, and would welcome your contributions. The final two photographs in this post are from; all the others were taken by local photographer George Coupe, who was covering the visit on behalf of the Cathedral.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Shrine for a day

Judging by the number of people visiting the blog at present, quite a few of you are keen to find out what's going on here today. Sorry to keep you waiting - the constant and unpredictable demands of this extraordinary time are making it difficult to get to a camera, let alone computer! After the visit we will certainly share some of our best pictures with a little more considered reflection of the events here - for now, though, a few pictures giving a flavour of the day so far.

Somewhere between 3000 and 4000 people have now been to visit the reliquary here in Lancaster, and many have left flowers - and even plants - in honour of St Thérèse. At the times of the major liturgies it has been very busy, with some people stood outside today at the lunchtime Mass; at other times there has been a steady flow of people but few have had to wait for more than 10 or 15 minutes.

It's been encouraging to see so many of our Cathedral Primary School children coming in to visit the relics with their families after school. Here two pupils, armed with roses, take their place in the queue. There have been many school groups in today, most of them taking part in a special education programme which gives them the chance to learn more about St Thérèse and the Carmelite life. The Cathedral Primary School has played host to around 400 visitors today - it has been quite an occasion!

The Lady Chapel is filled with votive candle stands, which have been well used throughout the day. Many people have called in to light a candle after visiting the relics.

In the baptistery, a small statue of St Thérèse from the Cathedral School has been decorated with roses; this too has become a place for people to light candles, and the result is very beautiful.

There have been some showers, but mostly the rain has held off. Good news for those who are working outdoors, though - as you can see - our stewards are always smiling! Plenty of coaches have been here, and more are on the way even as this post is published! Throughout the visit we have been very aware of those who would like to be here but cannot come, especially the sick and housebound, who are much in our prayers. If you are able to come down, please be aware that the evening Mass (and the time around it) is likely to be very busy, but at other times you should be able to visit the relics fairly easily. If time permits, we'll give you a further update later today.

Monday, 28 September 2009

The Little Flower in Lancaster

The relics of St Thérèse have already been visited by over 1500 people since they arrived at 4pm; the Cathedral was full for the arrival and full to overflowing for the evening Mass. Around 300 people were at Vespers and 150 or so at Compline. It has already been an extraordinary time. Lots of people have left flowers at the reliquary.

An icon of St Thérèse which has been travelling with the relics has been placed in the Cathedral. Just in front of the icon is a box for petitions; it has been well used.

A couple of images of the evening Mass are shown here. About 20 priests concelebrated at the Mass, with around 700 attending.

Bishop Campbell was the celebrant, and Bishop O'Donoghue - who is making his first visit to Lancaster since his retirement - was with him. It's now 10.35pm and the church is very quiet; about 30 or 40 people are praying quietly before the relics. It will no doubt be a peaceful, and no doubt wonderful, night. If you'd like to see some more pictures of the visit to Lancaster, you can see them on the Church's Flickr site, here.

St Thérèse in Lancaster

St Thérèse is here. After a hectic day of preparations, the reliquary was carried into a packed Cathedral at 4pm. Hundreds have already venerated the relics; the Bishop was the first to spend a little time in prayer at the reliquary, at the end of the short opening liturgy.

An orderly queue is now formed, and veneration continues through Vespers (6pm) until Mass at 7:30pm; then veneration will resume after the evening Mass. Further updates and lots more images will, we plan, be posted here on the blog over the coming hours. The atmosphere is wonderful, and pilgrims are now beginning to arrive for the evening liturgies.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

The St Thérèse Cloister Garden opens

With the arrival of St Thérèse in Lancaster now less than 24 hours away, this afternoon the new cloister garden, dedicated in honour of the Little Flower, was blessed and opened. At the end of Vespers, which today was attended by more than 60 people, there was a procession to the garden while a hymn to St Thérèse was sung.

The garden has been created around our parish statue of St Thérèse, which was incensed after holy water had been sprinkled. Prayers and a short litany of St Thérèse were said. There is now mounting excitement about the visit, especially here in the parish.

It's now nearly 9.30pm and people are still working inside the Cathedral to prepare everything for tomorrow's influx of people. The first pilgrims are expected before midday, even though the relics don't arrive until 4pm. We plan to provide regular updates here on this blog throughout the time the relics are with us in Lancaster. Meanwhile, news has reached us via the nation blog that nearly 70,000 have visited the relics so far, including 20,000 in Salford alone. You can read the full statistics at It looks like we're in for an interesting couple of days!

Approaching 150

Later today this blog will turn its attention fully to the visit of St Thérèse, and we plan to provide frequent updates (to the extent that it proves possible!) during the event. Just before that, however, this image of the Cathedral in its younger days is accompanied by a reminder that next Sunday is our 150th anniversary. Eight or nine bishops will be present at both 10:30am Mass and Vespers (4:40pm) on the day. You are most welcome to come along for all or part of the day, particularly if you have some connection with the parish. Meanwhile, we may be seeing a few of you over the next few days... the story continues this evening.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Lancaster Unlocked

Just before St Thérèse takes over the Cathedral (and indeed this blog!) on Monday, there is time for a couple of final events connected with the Cathedral's 150th anniversary, which is now just eight days away. Around the Cathedral there are several memorials like the one above; these plaques ask prayers for those who helped to pay for the church to be built. This afternoon you can meet actors playing some of those famous Lancaster names (the Coulstons, Daltons, Whitesides) at a Heritage Tea Party in the Cathedral Library. It starts at 2pm (£2.50 charge). Also today, 1:30-4pm, you can climb to the choir loft to 'Meet the Organ' - come and see the new console and find out how the organ works (free). These events take place as part of 'Lancaster Unlocked', which is taking place across the city this weekend. More details here.

Also today, to mark the 150th anniversary, a full peal of bells will be rung starting at 2pm. The full peal lasts about 3 hours, and is only very rarely rung in Lancaster. Good luck to all the bellringers who are in action today. While all this happens work will continue to prepare the Cathedral for the arrival of St Thérèse on Monday. The reliquary reached Salford Cathedral yesterday afternoon, the final major stop before it arrives in Lancaster. We hope to provide extensive coverage of the relics' visit on this blog from tomorrow - keep calling in! In the meantime, see some of the latest images on our dedicated St Thérèse blog, here.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

The Pope to visit Britain... it seems

It seems fairly clear now that Pope Benedict will visit Britain next year, with a tour seemingly planned for next September. He's coming as a guest of the British government, and the trip will be an official state visit. It appears that the news was leaked yesterday by staff accompanying the Prime Minister on his trip to New York; an official announcement is yet to be made. Needless to say, the Cathedral parish will take a full part in the Pope's visit when it comes around. The visit of St Thérèse has shown that the Catholic faithful can still appear in great crowds when the occasion is right, and no doubt huge numbers will turn out to see the Pope next year. The last papal visit was in 1982 (Billington's Blog has a reminder here). Meanwhile, the tour of St Thérèse continues and the relics have today arrived in Liverpool. Click here to see the latest updates on our St Thérèse blog.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

A few practicalities

Once again great crowds have been turning out to visit the relics of St Thérèse. Today the reliquary arrived in Cardiff, the only Welsh stop on the tour. It's just six days now until Thérèse comes to Lancaster, and today we have published some additional practical advice (about getting here, parking, what to bring etc) on our website. You can find the practicalities page here. Don't forget that you can follow the tour's progress on the national blog (click here) and see regular updates from the tour and from Lancaster on our own St Thérèse blog, here.

Monday, 21 September 2009

One week to go

It's just one week until the relics of St Thérèse arrive in Lancaster, and a busy week of preparations is ahead of us. After nearly 18 months of planning, these final few days will be taken up with ironing out some last-minute details, moving a lot of furniture and - if recent experience is anything to go by - answering a lot of telephone calls about the visit. Over the weekend the relics have been in Birmingham, where over 10,000 people went on pilgrimage to the Cathedral Church of St Chad.

Most of the early venues on the tour (the relics have already been to Portsmouth, Plymouth, Taunton and Birmingham) are reporting larger than expected numbers of pilgrims, and everywhere it seems to have been a great event. This morning the reliquary is being taken to the church of the Sacred Heart and St Teresa in Coleshill, just outside of Birmingham, before heading to Cardiff, Bristol, Liverpool and Manchester; the relics then arrive here on the afternoon of Monday 28th. The pictures in this post are courtesy of, which has a blog following the tour. Our own St Thérèse in Lancaster blog is also keeping a regular eye on events around the country as well as our preparations. You can find it here.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Sts Peter and Paul, 1860

Do you notice anything strange about this picture? One or two parishioners and visitors to the Cathedral have done a 'double-take' when they encountered this scene. Here is a mock-up of Mass for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul in 1860. It has been set up as an addition to our 150th anniversary exhibition, which is currently running at Lancaster City Museum.

Before the reforms of the 1960s and 1970s, altars were generally fixed against the east wall of the church/chapel. The priest would face east when addressing God, and turn to face west (towards the congregation) when addressing the people. Here the priest is seen reading the Epistle at Mass. A server, who answered the responses to the prayers on behalf of the congregation, is kneeling behind the priest.

A lone woman is in the 'congregation' at the scene we have created. As the congregation did not have responses to make for most of the Mass, they would generally make their own private prayers and devotions during the liturgy.

Here's a slightly darker - perhaps more 'atmospheric' image of the scene. It gives a good view of the reredos above the altar, which shows the agony in the garden.

The mock-up is realistic in almost every way - obviously we can't light the candles, as they would soon burn to nothing, but otherwise things appear as they would have during Mass. The scene can be viewed in the Cathedral's Whiteside Chantry until 21st November (with the exception of the period when the relics of St Thérèse are with us). Meanwhile, the countdown to our 150th anniversary continues - there are just 15 days to go.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

150 in the playground

Earlier today the children from the Cathedral Primary School marked the Cathedral's 150th anniversary in a rather special way. Out on the playground they arranged themselves (with a little help from Miss Goddard and the staff!) in the form of a giant '150', for a photograph to be taken from the Cathedral tower. The result is quite impressive!

It had taken some time for us to find a day when everyone was free and it wasn't raining, but this afternoon everything fell into place. Here are the first of the children arriving.

In this picture you can see the numbers beginning to form on the playground. There were quite a number of mobile phone calls between the playground and the tower top in order to ensure that everything looked right!

When the official photographs were finished, the children waved their hands in celebration of a job well done. You can keep up with events at the Cathedral Primary School on their blog, which has recently featured the appointment of the new head boy and girl and their deputies, plus Miss Goddard in the Philippines handing over money raised by the Cathedral School for children in that country. You can find the school blog here.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

St Thérèse in the UK

18 months of planning are about to come to fruition. Yesterday the relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux arrived in England, ahead of a month-long tour which begins today in Portsmouth.

The relics came from Lisieux via the channel tunnel, and today begin a journey of over 1300 miles which will take them up the western side of the country to Lancaster (they are here at the Cathedral 28th-30th Sepetember) before travelling down the eastern side, finishing at Westminster Cathedral.

Here is Mgr Keith Barltrop, the coordinator of the tour of England and Wales, seen with the reliquary. These first pictures of St Thérèse's relics in England come to us thanks to the official site for the visit (see it at; there will be frequent updates on our St Thérèse blog, which you can find here. It promises to be quite a month.

Monday, 14 September 2009

150 years on the skyline

The Cathedral's spire is 150 years old today. It was on 14th September 1859 - the feast of the Triumph of the Cross - that the 10ft cross which surmounts the spire was put in place. For 150 years the spire, which is one of the Lancaster skyline's most identifiable features, has stood as a sign of the Catholic presence in Lancaster. Billington's Blog today features more about the history of the spire and the story of how it came to be. If you'd like to know more, click here.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

A sneak preview

Last night a number of people came to Lancaster City Museum for a private viewing of the Cathedral's 150th anniversary exhibition. Guests included local clergy, Friends of the Cathedral and many people invited by the Museum.

There was an excellent response to the exhibition, which presents Lancaster's Catholic history in a way that aims to be accessible for Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Aside from the historical displays, there is also an opportunity to learn more about some aspects of Catholic life today. The exhibition opens this morning and - until 21st November - is open Monday-Saturday, 10am-5pm. There is no charge for admission.

Among those present last night were two former Cathedral Administrators: Monsignor Frank Slattery (1975-1987) and Canon Alf Hayes (1999-2003). Here Mgr Slattery shows the Bishop an image of the Cathedral as it appeared during his time here.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Finishing touches

It's the final day of preparations for the Cathedral's 150th anniversary exhibition, which opens tomorrow at Lancaster City Museum.

All around the museum the finishing touches are being put on the exhibits, which have been arriving there all week.

Display cases and text panels tell the story of Lancaster's Catholic history. This afternoon the designers, museum management, cleaners and Cathedral staff were all on site as the final pieces were put into place.

The Cathedral has provided most of the content for the exhibition (the objects on display, the texts and images for wall panels, etc) and the museum service has provided the space, the publicity and the design skills.

Hopefully it will be a winning combination! The blog will feature much more on the exhibition over the coming days and weeks, but in the meantime do try to call in and see it for yourself. It opens tomorrow morning and runs until 21st November, and is open daily Monday-Saturday, 10am-5pm. Admission is free.