Our Faith

Catholic History in Preston, South Ribble and Chorley Facebook Group

Catholic History in Preston, South Ribble and Chorley Facebook Group – A resource for sharing photographs, articles and information on the rich Catholic history and heritage in this part of Lancashire. Search for ‘Catholic History in Preston, South Ribble and Chorley’ on Facebook and click ‘join group’.

Lancashire has always had a strong Catholic tradition even during times of great difficulty such as in the years following the Reformation right up to Catholic Emancipation in 1829. During this time many died for the faith, a number of whom who were born or ministered here; St Edmund Arrowsmith SJ and St John Southworth come to mind. The name ‘Preston’ derives from ‘Priest’s Town’ demonstrating again the strength of the faith here. Following emancipation, the wonderful Churches that we have today, some of the finest in the country, were built. A number in Preston were built by the Jesuits; St Wilfrid’s, St Walburge’s, St Ignatius and St Mary’s, Friargate. Times inevitably change but, recently, architectural gems such as the once threatened St Walburge’s and St Ignatius have had new life breathed into them, having been given over to the celebration of the Extraordinary (Tridentine) Form and Syro-Malabar Rite respectively, thanks to the vision and generosity of Bishop Michael Campbell. Further afield into South Ribble and Chorley, this strong heritage and tradition is again demonstrated by beautiful Churches and ‘gems’ such as Arrowsmith House, Gregson Lane, where St Edmund Arrowsmith SJ celebrated his last Mass prior to his capture nearby on Brindle Moss in 1628, and a strong Benedictine tradition which continues today in Brindle, Lostock Hall, Leyland and, until recently, Bamber Bridge. Much has been written about this rich heritage and history but, some months ago, I thought it would be a good idea to harness the power of social media, so often seen in a negative light, as a way of sharing this information more widely. The result was the Facebook group ‘Catholic History in Preston, South Ribble and Chorley’. The Group is a ‘closed’ group so only members of the group can access it and it is, after only a few months, a rich resource of photographs, articles, and information. One of the advantages of using Facebook is that any group member can easily add photographs or information or comment on information that has already been added by another member. This way, memories and information can be easily shared, photographs can be dated and individuals and places can be identified which all goes some way to preserving, sharing and promoting our shared history and heritage. Each group member can also add new members to the group. There are now some 80 members of the group, including a number of clergy! If you are a Facebook user and are interested in the group, search for ‘Catholic History in Preston, South Ribble’ and click on the ‘join group’ option. Your request to join will then be approved by the group administrator. Likewise, if you know of a friend, relative or anybody who might be interested in the group, please let them know.
John Southworth
Group Administrator

The Resurrection as revealing God as Redeemer, not as rescuer. http://www.ronrolheiser.com/. March 24, 2013
Ron Rolheiser, OMI. Before you get serious about Jesus, first consider how good you are going to look on wood! That’s a line from Daniel Berrigan that rightly warns us that faith in Jesus and the resurrection won’t save us from humiliation, pain, and death in this life. Faith isn’t meant to do that. Jesus doesn’t grant special exemptions to his friends, no more than God granted special exemptions to Jesus. We see this everywhere in the Gospels, though most clearly in Jesus’ resurrection. To understand this, it’s helpful to compare Jesus’ resurrection to what Jesus himself does in raising Lazarus from the dead.

The Lazarus story begs a lot of questions. John, the evangelist, tells us the story: He begins by pointing out that Lazarus and his sisters, Martha and Mary, were very close friends of Jesus. Hence, we are understandably taken aback by Jesus’ seeming lack of response to Lazarus’ illness and the request to come and heal him. Here’s the story:

Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary, sent word to Jesus that “the man you love is ill” with the implied request that Jesus should come and heal him. But Jesus’ reaction is curious. He doesn’t rush off immediately to try to heal his close friend. Instead he remains where he is for two days longer while his friend dies. Then, after Lazarus has died, he sets off to visit him. As he approaches the village where Lazarus has died, he is met by Martha and then, later, by Mary. Each, in turn, asks him the question: “Why?” Why, since you loved this man, did you not come to save him from death? Indeed, Mary’s question implies even more: “Why?” Why is it that God invariably seems absent when bad things happen to good people? Why doesn’t God rescue his loved ones and save them from pain and death?

Jesus doesn’t offer any theoretical apologia in response. Instead he asks where they have laid the body, lets them take him there, sees the burial site, weeps in sorrow, and then raises his dead friend back to life. So why did he let him die in the first place? The story begs that question: Why? Why didn’t Jesus rush down to save Lazarus since he loved him?

The answer to that question teaches a very important lesson about Jesus, God, and faith, namely, that God is not a God who ordinarily rescues us, but is rather a God who redeems us. God doesn’t ordinarily intervene to save us from humiliation, pain, and death; rather he redeems humiliation, pain, and death after the fact.

Simply put, Jesus treats Lazarus exactly the same way as God, the Father, treats Jesus: Jesus is deeply and intimately loved by his Father and yet his Father doesn’t rescue him from humiliation, pain, and death. In his lowest hour, when he is humiliated, suffering, and dying on the cross, Jesus is jeered by the crowd with the challenge: “If God is your father, let him rescue you!” But there’s no rescue. Instead Jesus dies inside the humiliation and pain. God raises him up only after his death.

This is one of the key revelations inside the resurrection: We have a redeeming, not a rescuing, God.

Indeed, the story of the raising of Lazarus in John’s Gospel was meant to answer a burning question inside the first generation of Christians: They had known Jesus in the flesh, had been intimate friends with him, had seen him heal people and raise people from the dead, so why was he letting them die? Why wasn’t Jesus rescuing them?

It took the early Christians some time to grasp that Jesus doesn’t ordinarily give special exemptions to his friends, no more than God gave special exemptions to Jesus. So, like us, they struggled with the fact that someone can have a deep, genuine faith, be deeply loved by God, and still have to suffer humiliation, pain, and death like everyone else. God didn’t spare Jesus from suffering and death, and Jesus doesn’t spare us from them.

That is one of the key revelations inside of the resurrection and is the one we perhaps most misunderstand. We are forever predicating our faith on, and preaching, a rescuing God, a God who promises special exemptions to those of genuine faith: Have a genuine faith in Jesus, and you will be spared from life’s humiliations and pains! Have a genuine faith in Jesus, and prosperity will come your way! Believe in the resurrection, and rainbows will surround your life!

Would it were so! But Jesus never promised us rescue, exemptions, immunity from cancer, or escape from death. He promised rather that, in the end, there will be redemption, vindication, immunity from suffering, and eternal life. But that’s in the end; meantime, in the early and intermediate chapters of our lives, there will be the same kinds of humiliation, pain, and death that everyone else suffers.

The death and resurrection of Jesus reveal a redeeming, not a rescuing, God


The Triumph of Goodness
The Understanding and Compassion of Good Friday
The Power of Fear
How the Soul Matures
The Cries of Finitude
View more >

BENEDICT XVI June 2009. After the Easter Season which culminated in the Feast of Pentecost, the liturgy provides for these three Solemnities of the Lord: Trinity Sunday; next Thursday, Corpus Christi which in many countries, including Italy, will be celebrated next Sunday; and finally, on the following Friday, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Each one of these liturgical events highlights a perspective by which the whole mystery of the Christian faith is embraced: and that is, respectively the reality of the Triune God, the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the divine and human centre of the Person of Christ. These are truly aspects of the one mystery of salvation which, in a certain sense, sum up the whole itinerary of the revelation of Jesus, from his Incarnation to his death and Resurrection and, finally, to his Ascension and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Today we contemplate the Most Holy Trinity as Jesus introduced us to it. He revealed to us that God is love “not in the oneness of a single Person, but in the Trinity of one substance” (Preface). He is the Creator and merciful Father; he is the Only-Begotten Son, eternal Wisdom incarnate, who died and rose for us; he is the Holy Spirit who moves all things, cosmos and history, toward their final, full recapitulation. Three Persons who are one God because the Father is love, the Son is love, the Spirit is love. God is wholly and only love, the purest, infinite and eternal love. He does not live in splendid solitude but rather is an inexhaustible source of life that is ceaselessly given and communicated. To a certain extent we can perceive this by observing both the macro-universe: our earth, the planets, the stars, the galaxies; and the micro-universe: cells, atoms, elementary particles. The “name” of the Blessed Trinity is, in a certain sense, imprinted upon all things because all that exists, down to the last particle, is in relation; in this way we catch a glimpse of God as relationship and ultimately, Creator Love. All things derive from love, aspire to love and move impelled by love, though naturally with varying degrees of awareness and freedom. “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Ps 8: 1) the Psalmist exclaims. In speaking of the “name”, the Bible refers to God himself, his truest identity. It is an identity that shines upon the whole of Creation, in which all beings for the very fact that they exist and because of the “fabric” of which they are made point to a transcendent Principle, to eternal and infinite Life which is given, in a word, to Love. “In him we live and move and have our being”, St Paul said at the Areopagus of Athens (Acts 17: 28). The strongest proof that we are made in the image of the Trinity is this: love alone makes us happy because we live in a relationship, and we live to love and to be loved. Borrowing an analogy from biology, we could say that imprinted upon his “genome”, the human being bears a profound mark of the Trinity, of God as Love.

The Virgin Mary, in her docile humility, became the handmaid of divine Love: she accepted the Father’s will and conceived the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. In her the Almighty built a temple worthy of him and made her the model and image of the Church, mystery and house of communion for all human beings. May Mary, mirror of the Blessed Trinity, help us to grow in faith in the Trinitarian mystery.

COPING WITH COMPLEXITY http://www.ronrolheiser.com/

Holiness and wholeness are, ultimately, the same thing. To be holy is to be whole. That shouldn’t surprise us, grace builds on nature. What’s problematic is achieving wholeness. Why?

Because we’re all so pathologically complex that we spend most our lives trying to figure out who we really are and trying on various personalities the way we try on different clothes. Allow me an example:

I once saw a wonderful interview with Catherine de Hueck Doherty, a Russian Baroness and the founder of the Madonna House Apostolate. She was already more than 80 years old and, reflecting on the struggles of her spiritual journey, said something to this effect:

“It’s like there are three persons inside me. There’s someone I call the Baroness. The Baroness is spiritual and given over to asceticism and prayer. This is the religious person. She’s the one who founded the religious community, wrote the spiritual books, and who tries to give her life to the poor. It’s the Baroness who’s impatient with the things of this world and who tries to keep her eyes focused on things beyond this life.

But inside of me too there’s another person whom I call Catherine. Catherine is, first of all and always, a woman who enjoys fine things, luxuries, sensual delight. She likes idleness, long baths, fine clothes, putting on make-up, good meals, good wine, and used to, as a married woman, enjoy a healthy sex life. Catherine enjoys this life and doesn’t want renunciation or poverty. She’s not religious like the Baroness. Indeed, she hates the Baroness and has a strained relationship with her.

And, finally, inside of me too there’s someone else, a little girl, a child lying on a hill-side in Finland, watching the clouds and daydreaming. The little girl is different still from both the Baroness or Catherine.

… And, as I get older, I feel more like the Baroness, long more for Catherine, but think that maybe the little girl daydreaming on a hill-side in Finland might be who I really am.”

These words come from a spiritual giant, someone who attained both wholeness and sanctity after a long search and difficult struggle, not someone who’s still grappling with initial conversion. What her words highlight are two things, how complex we are and how difficult is it to find wholeness.

Like Catherine Doherty, all of us too have a number of different persons inside us. Inside each of us there’s someone who knows the truth of the gospel call, is drawn to the religious, strives towards self- renunciation, and that knows that there are more important things than worldly achievement, comfort, and sex. But, inside each of us too, there’s also a hedonist, a sensualist, a person who wants to drink in fully the wine and the pleasures of this life. Moveover, inside each of us there’s also a little girl or little boy, daydreaming still on a hill-side somewhere.

Soren Kierkegaard defined a saint as someone who “wills the one thing.” But, with all these different persons inside us, what do we really will? What’s really our deepest desire?

Importantly too, given that grace is meant to build upon nature and not annihilate it, it’s too simple to think that sanctity is merely a question of the “spiritual person” inside us triumphing over the person inside of us who loves this world or over the child in us who is still given over to daydreaming. Wholeness means somehow making a whole, a harmony, out of all these different persons. To ignore, deny, annihilate, invalidate, or bypass one part for another is precisely never to attain wholeness.

Sanctity consists in wholeness and a whole person, like Christ, is someone who is both a drinker of wine and an ascetic, a lover of this life and of the next, a dreamer and a realist, among many other things, all at the same time. What must be rejected in the spiritual quest is not our nature, with its endless paradoxes and seeming contradictory attractions, but any recipe for holiness that would have us believe that sanctity can be obtained easily, without tension, confusion, and great patience.

Sanctity too consists in coming to peace. Peace is not just the absence of war or conflict, but is harmony and wholeness. We come to peace when we make harmony out of discord – with all the pieces accounted for and each given its proper place. To cut off parts of ourselves in the quest for wholeness is tantamount to a pianist sawing- off part of his or her keyboard. It makes things a lot simpler, but it also makes it impossible to play most pieces of music.

To be human is to be pathologically complex. But that points to our richness, not poverty, and suggests that all our different parts are important in the spiritual journey. Nikos Kazantzakis once put it this way, “the spirit wants to wrestle with flesh that is strong and full of resistance … because … the deeper the struggle, the richer the final harmony.”

Worthy Reception of Holy Communion
Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of Man and centre of the universe and of history, gives us a share in his divine life as we worthily receive him in Holy Communion. In thanksgiving for such a gift, it is fitting that we humbly prepare ourselves to receive him in two ways as outlined in “Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper: On Preparing to Receive Christ Worthily in the Eucharist.” (See the full text of the statement issued on November 2006 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops at www.usccb.org/doctrine/Eucharist.pdf.) First, we approach the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by our remote preparation. This includes regular prayer and reading of Scripture, the faithful and loving fulfillment of the daily responsibilities of our state in life, and regular participation in the Sacrament of Penance, including daily repentance of sin by an examination of conscience and recitation of the Act of Contrition. Second, our attentive proximate preparation includes our prayerful recollection as we come to Mass and fasting from food and drink for at least one hour prior to receiving Holy Communion as our health and age permit. (The Code of Canon Law notes in §919 that water and medicine are exceptions to the fast and that the elderly, the infirm, and those who care for them can receive Holy Communion even if they have eaten something within the previous hour. See www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/_IND EX.HTM.) Proximate preparation also includes dressing appropriately and modestly. These ways of preparing culminate in our prayerful and active participation throughout the eucharistic celebration, as we join with the Body of Christ in gratitude for such a great gift. http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/catechesis/catechetical-sunday/eucharist/upload/catsun-2011-doc-worthy-reception.pdf

.- During his Wednesday audience, Pope Francis encouraged the pilgrims filling St. Peter’s Square to receive the sacrament of reconciliation.

“Everyone say to himself: ‘When was the last time I went to confession?’ And if it has been a long time, don’t lose another day! Go, the priest will be good. And Jesus, (will be) there, and Jesus is better than the priests – Jesus receives you. He will receive you with so much love! Be courageous, and go to confession,” urged the Pope on Feb. 19.
Acknowledging a popular objection to the sacrament, Pope Francis noted, “someone can say, ‘I confess my sins only to God.’ Yes, you can say to God, ‘forgive me,’ and say your sins. But our sins are also against our brothers, against the Church. This is is why it is necessary to ask forgiveness of the Church and of our brothers, in the person of the priest.”
“While the celebration of the sacrament is personal, it is rooted in the universality of the Church,” which “accompanies us on the path of conversion,” he explained.
“Forgiveness is not something we can give ourselves,” cautioned the Pope. “One asks forgiveness, one asks it of another person, and in confession, we ask forgiveness from Jesus.”
“Forgiveness is not a result of our efforts, but is a gift. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit who showers us with mercy and grace that pours forth unceasingly from the open heart of Christ crucified and risen.”
The Pontiff went on to recognize that many people feel ashamed at the idea of confessing their sins and might say, “but Father, I am embarrased!”
“Even embarrassment is good. It’s healthy to have a bit of shame… it does us good, because it makes us more humble.”
“Don’t be afraid of confession,” Pope Francis stressed. “When someone is in line for confession he feels all these things – even shame – but then, when he finishes confessing, he leaves (feeling) free, great, beautiful, forgiven, clean, happy.”
“The sacrament of reconciliation is a sacrament of healing,” he pointed out.
“When I go to confession, it’s for healing: healing the soul, healing the heart because of something that I did to make it unwell.”
The Pope pointed to the biblical story of Jesus healing a paralyzed man, which expresses the “profound link” between “forgiveness and healing,” since “the Lord Jesus is revealed at the same time as the physician of soul and body.”
He also recounted the parable of the prodigal son, who sought his father’s forgiveness and was welcomed home with open arms.
“But I say to you,” he stressed to the many pilgrims, “every time we go to confession, God embraces us.”

PURGATORY REVISITED. Father Ronald Rolheister
Several weeks ago I wrote a column in which I mentioned “purgatory”. Here’s what I said: “Purgatory is not a geography, a place distinct from heaven, but is the pain that comes from being in heaven, without having fully let go of earth. Love, even as we know it in this life, already teaches us that.”

Several newspapers received critical letters, suggesting that this is not in line with Catholic dogma. A couple of these asked me to do column to try to clarify the issue. I’m grateful for this critique. So let me try to explain:

What is purgatory? This is a specifically Roman Catholic belief which holds that while heaven and hell, as scripture attests, are the only two permanent states after death there is a third state or condition, called “purgatory”, within which one is purified so as to be readied for heaven. Purgatory is understood to be a transition state, a state of intense sufferings, nearly as painful as hell itself, but, unlike hell, not permanent and the pains suffered are purifying and not embittering. What is central to the doctrine is that purgatory, as the word itself suggests, is a place of purgation and purification, not of punitive pain. As the New Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it, purgatory is “a purifying fire … entirely different from the punishment of the damned.” Finally purgatory is commonly assumed, though not dogmatically defined, to be a place apart from heaven, a place you go to in order to get ready for heaven.

That’s the conception. What’s to be said for it?

Purgatory does exist, not because you can proof-text it from scripture, but because it is simply impossible to formulate a science of love and community without it. Likewise it is impossible to speak of the paschal mystery without some concept of purgatory. However these statements imply a certain understanding of what constitutes purgatory.

Purgatory is not a physical location, but a stage of loving. It’s the initial pain of entering into community in a pure and selfless way. Mystics have classically defined it as the pain of letting go of a lesser love and life in order to accept a deeper love and life. In the paradigm of Jesus’ life and teaching, purgatory is the pain and purification of the paschal mystery. It is what Jesus, as a man, endured during his agony in Gethsemane and his struggle during his passion and death. What’s interesting in Jesus’ case is that there was no personal sin from which he needed purification. Yet, he suffered purgative pain anyway. This helps clarify two things: Purgatory is not a place, a geography separate from heaven; nor is it necessarily even a purification from sin. It is the pain of entering heaven, of, as Jesus says, having the grain of wheat fall into the ground and die so as to come to a new fruitfulness.

Let me risk an example: Several years ago, I was counselling a young man who was experiencing a pain, of a pretty intense type, that was new to him. He had fallen in love with a wonderful young woman and was preparing to marry her. Prior to meeting her, he had been living rather irresponsibly, been sexually promiscuous, and had been comfortably smug and insensitive in that state. The woman he had fallen in love with was aware of his past but was not throwing this into his face. The opposite. She was loving and forgiving him unconditionally. But there was the rub! Being in love with this wonderfully good, generous, and moral person made him aware of himself in a fuller way. Her love was a prism through which he began to see his own immaturity (which is what unconditional love always does). Her love was a light that gave him new eyesight and what he saw inside of himself caused him a lot of pain. To his credit, he sought help – confession, spiritual direction, psychological counselling. Her loving him, purely and unconditionally, caused him the deepest pains he had ever endured. It was his first taste of purgatory. But note: it was love, embrace, warmth, and unconditional forgiveness that triggered that pain and the subsequent purification.

Purgatory always works that way. When we die, unless we have so totally hardened our hearts so as to reject the embrace of unconditional love itself, God embraces us – fully, affectionately, passionately, and unconditionally. To the extent that we are not yet fully saints or have not yet fully let go of those attachments that are now incompatible with us being in this new embrace, we will, like the young man whose story I just shared, experience intense, purgative pain.

Purgatory is the redemptive pain that follows falling in love, the pain of paschal purification. It is not a locale distinct from heaven, but the pain of entering heaven itself and, there, having to let go of all that prevents us from being there. In the ecstasy of embrace comes the agony of purification.


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