Sunday, 14 September 2014


Going on pilgrimage to Lourdes with the diocese also means that you remember the people back at home who have asked you to pray for them.  Please be assured that many Hail Mary's were said for all your intentions whilst I was in Lourdes and I remembered you all in my Masses. 
Candles I lit for all of you
Towards the end of our pilgrimage we have the tradition of taking a large diocesan candle to burn at the grotto.  This is often accompanied by other group candles.  In this post we see the diocesan candle and some from the groups that formed our pilgrimage this year.  These candles will continue to burn at the grotto long after we have returned home.  They represent all our prayers and intentions and the people that we remembered at Our Lady's Shrine.
Diocesan and Group Candles
There is also the tradition of bringing some water from the Grotto back home.  There are many taps from which pilgrims fill containers of water to take home.  This too helps us to continue our prayer back at home.
Thanks to Father Paul Daly and Mgr Kay driving back from Lourdes I was able to bring some of the water from the grotto back to the parish.  If you would like some then please let me know.  You will have to provide your own bottle.

A pilgrim fills bottles of Lourdes Water


Those of you who are familiar with Lourdes will immediately recognise this photo as The Crowned Virgin statue that dominates Rosary Square. It is a meeting point for many different groups.  The more observant among you will have noticed the sixth decade in Our Lady's Rosary.  This was a mistake at the time the statue was being sculptured. 
It was by this statue that we were to meet for the Torchlight Procession on the Monday Evening. What turned out to be a glorious beginning quickly became a mad dash up the hill to St Joseph's Gate when the heavens opened.
This picture taken by our Vicar General Mgr Anthony Kay captures the mood very well.  The skies became darkened.  There was a flash of lightening and then the heavens opened.  It was literally every man for themselves as our young people dashed in to help our sick pilgrims to shelter.  In all the years I have been going to Lourdes (28 this time) I have never experienced rain like that.
One of our young people grabbed hold of a wheelchair and fought his way through the crowds and the driving rain to the top of the hill.  Arriving at St Joseph's Gate he asked the lady in the chair 'Eeee are u alright now, luv?'  He didn't know how to respond when he lady said 'Si, si grazie mille.'  The lady wasn't a Salford pilgrim but an Italian lady!!!
I managed to find a shallower part of water to wade across in order to  get across Rosary Square.  Having got to the other side His Lordship the Bishop was heard to say 'Will you come back with an olive branch in your beak, Father dear.'
Having got wet on the outside a number of pilgrims took refuge in the Miam Miam and started to get wet on the inside as they took the traditional 'one for the road.'


After saying farewell to our Polish students I had a couple of days with the house to myself.  But not for long. 
Firstly I had to prepare for the arrival of Father Clement, my summer supply priest from Nigeria and then prepare myself to travel to Lourdes for our annual diocesan pilgrimage. 
I welcomed Father Clement to Bury and celebrated the Friday 'Market Day' Mass with him and then set to in earnest to prepare for the pilgrimage.  I am grateful that the major part of my luggage had already been taken by parishioners so I only has a small bag to pack with things for the journey.
On Saturday morning a kind parishioner came to take me to the airport to begin the first leg of pilgrimage - a flight to Bordeaux from Liverpool.  I manage to complete the formalities of security without incident and then waited to board my flight.
having boarded the plane, two hours later I was stepping off the plane into the warm Bordeaux sunshine.  Having pre booked my train ticket on the hairnet I knew I had five hours before the departure so it was time to search for lunch. 
Having taken my viaticum (food for the journey) I ambled toward the train station for my direct train to Bordeaux. was a direct train when I booked it. For reasons that were not vouchsafed SNCF decided that the train was to be a semi direct train.  It split somewhere en route with one half going direct to Lourdes and the other to an unnamed destination.  You've guessed it.  I was on the wrong half and ended up in Bayonne.
Realising that something was wrong I decided to get off the train at Bayonne and make enquiries.  The SNCF staff were most helpful and told me I had just six minutes to run the whole length of the station to get the train on the opposite platform and stay on it till it arrived in Lourdes.
I made the train.  It was the Paris sleeper train.  As I was not planning on going to Paris or sleeping I ended up in the front carriage of the train with the French equivalent of the Legion of Mary, the CWL and the UCM rolled into one.
Needless to say a jolly time was had by all and I finally arrived at Lourdes station at five minutes past midnight.
I got to my hotel and checked in.  I then thought it best to let someone know that I had finally arrived.  Where would you find Salford Pilgrims at midnight.....Yes I strolled down to Miam Miams for 'one for the road.'


Now that the summer is over I thought I would take advantage of a free evening (I am praying the hospital bleep will remain quiet) to update the blog a little.
At the end of July we said farewell to three Polish Seminarians who have been working the parish during the month gone by. We wish them well as they return to seminary and their studies.
The three seminarians are pictured here at the Pilgrimage to Holywell
From left to right Mateusz, Wojciech and Michal

Monday, 21 July 2014

Czarna Madonna

Czestochowa is the famous Marian Shrine in Poland dedicated to Our Lady the Queen of Poland.  The shrine is famous for the icon that is venerated there - The Czarna Madonna.  
For a good few years now, our tradition at St Marie's has been to sing the hymn in honour of Our Lady of Czestochwa at the end of Mass.  Until fairly recently we were only able to do this in Polish.  Now thanks to my Polish Confreres and the skills of a dear cathedral organist friend in the Torrid South we have a singable version of this lovely hymn in English.
On this earth our souls are restless
'til they find that special place
Where there reigns the Queen of Poland
Bearing scars upon her face
Sad but gentle as she gazes
almost begging one and all
that they ask for her protection with this call.
Madonna, Black Madonna
Hear your children, Lady of Grace.
O hide us, Black Madonna
in your gentle loving embrace.
In her arms you'll find protection
and her peace does not depart
For her children will find love
in her Immaculate Heart.
She is always there to help you
when you give your heart to her
and invoke your Blessed Mother's name with love.
Madonna, Black Madonna
Hear your children, Lady of Grace.
O hide us, Black Madonna
in your gentle loving embrace.
When the cares of life oppress us
We can flee to her to hide
To our Blessed Mother Mary
for she calls us to her side
So we ask you Queen of Poland
turn your eyes of love to us
hear the prayers your children offer now with joy.

Madonna, Black Madonna
Hear your children, Lady of Grace.
O hide us, Black Madonna
in your gentle loving embrace.

Here is a You Tube Clip of the unveiling of the Icon together with the
Hymn to Our Lady in Polish



Last Thursday, together with my Polish confreres we visited the Shrine of Blessed John Henry Newman at the Birmingham Oratory. 

We were given a tour of the Oratory Church and the Shrine and were given the privilege of offering Mass at the altar in the Shrine containing the Relics of Blessed John Henry Newman.

One of my favourite passages from the writings of Cardinal Newman is the following.  I have it on a little pray card with his image and sometimes assign the prayer as a penance for people who come to confession.

'God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments.

Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.”

The picture in this post has been taken from the website of the Birmingham Oratory.

Servers BBQ

On Sunday afternoon we hosted a Film and BBQ afternoon for all our altar servers as a way of thanking them for coming to serve Mass each weekend and at other times during the year.
It took a little while to get the BBQ going, but with a little help from Hayes and Finch Candle Oil and scraps of paper we were able to make enough heat to cook the food.
My Novice Master once said that there was a biblical reference to BBQ's. 
They were either 'Burnt Offerings, wholly consumed' or they were 'Bloody Sacrifices.'  Thankfully on this occasion we had neither and the children went away happy and well fed.
My thanks to all who helped to make this a successful event.  I hear that another one is planned in the near future.