Tuesday, 16 September 2014


The Exterior of Perigueux Cathedral
From Bordeaux I travelled to Perigueux - famous for foie gras. 
I did try to stay in Perigueux last year for a few days but there was no room at the inn.  All the hotels were full.  Well that is not strictly true.  After what seemed liked hours of driving around trying to find a place to rest our weary bones for the night we found the 'Grand Hotel de la Gare.'  The only thing that was true that it was near the railway station!!!
It has had a lick of paint since last year!!!
Having found my way to the hotel, I checked in and unpacked.  From there I made my way to the Cathedral to check on Mass times for the Feast of the Assumption - A national holiday in France.
The Cathedral is dedicated to St Front (and no there is no St Back) and is a major historical monument in Perigueux. It is also an important stage on the way of St James and as such was classified as a Unesco World Heritage Site of the routes of Santiago de Compostela. 
The Main Altar in the Cathedral
Perigueux hosts an excellent market on Saturday mornings (a bit like Bury).  I was therefore amused to find this sign in the Cathedral
Every Saturday at the Cathedral of St Front Market Day Mass at 9:30am. 
A priest is available for Confession until 11:15am


The High Altar
Bordeaux Cathedral
My holidays began officially on the Saturday morning.  After a lie in and a typical French petit dejeuner I made my way to Lourdes station to take the train to Bordeaux.  The train journey through the French countryside was nice and relaxing especially after the hard, but very rewarding work of the pilgrimage.
Having arrived at my hotel and unpacked the first thing to do was to find the Cathedral and to find out what time Mass was on Sunday.  I arrived just in time for the start of the Saturday Vigil Mass so did what I am not usually allowed to do - Sit at the back of church and say my prayers!!!

The lecturn from where I proclaimed
the Gospel in French
Every Sunday a Parish Priest has the duty to offer Mass Pro Populo  - for the people of his parish.  As I was on holiday I decided that I would concelebrate at the evening Mass on Sunday. 

Having shown my celebret to the sacristan I was graciously welcomed by the priests of the Cathedral.  Mass was duly offered.  Then as we came baxk to the sacristy I realised that parish life is parish life no matter where it might be.  A lady camr into the sacristy to remonstrate with Father that he had not read out a certain Mass Intention in the notices.  Another person came in to complain that there was no holy water at the back of the church.

The priest turned to me and sighed saying 'chez vous, mon Pere, vous avez vos problemes et ici j'ai la mienne.'  In your place Father you have your problems and here I have mine!!!

I let Father deal with the good lady and her Mass Intention and I went to bless holy water at the back of the church.  From there I went for a small steak bleu and a glass of the local fermented grape juice.

The statue of Notre Dame de la Nef


After the pilgrimage to Lourdes had finished I spent any extra day there before beginning my holidays. 
As many of you will know there is a lovely shop in Lourdes called the Monastere de Bethlehem which specialises in selling monastic products made throughout France and beyond.  My own parishioners and readers of this blog with know that this is where the crib figures at St Marie's came from.
On my last day in Lourdes I went with our Vicar General, Mgr Anthony Kay and Father Paul Daly to visit the actual Monastere de Bethlehem. 
The monastery is situated about twenty minutes drive outside of Lourdes and is practically in the middle of no where. 
Monsignor was a little worried that the Sat Nav was directing us up a long winding road that seemed to stop in the middle of a field.  Our perseverance was rewarded for there in the middle of the field was the monastery - a true oasis of prayer.
We were able to visit the chapel of the Sisters and to speak with them about the possibility of selling the monastic products in our own Cathedral Bookshop.  Watch this space.


Our annual pilgrimage to Lourdes brings together old friends and the opportunity to make new ones.  After a week of prayer, friendship and fun it is time to pack away our blue t shirts for another year. 
Traditionally we finish the pilgrimage with a social evening for all the pilgrims.  Over the years this has developed into a fancy dress party. 
Here are some of the pictures taken at the party. Worthy of special mention is the photo of Mary Walsh - devoted housekeeper to the late Father Joe Duggan PP of St Joseph's, Heywood.  This year Mary made her 50th pilgrimage to Lourdes and was presented with a special gift by the Bishop at the closing Mass.

Mary is pictured here with the current PP of St Joseph's,
Father Paul Daly


As anyone who know me well will testify Lourdes holds a special place in my heart. 
It was in that holy place, minding my own business, saying my prayers at the Grotto that Tom Arkless, the Chief Brancardier asked me if I had ever thought of being a priest.  At that precise moment I had only given it a passing thought and there was a further complication.  I wasn't a Catholic!!!
Tom Arkless sowed the seed of vocation in my mind and heart.  I will never forget his words to me. 'Son, your prayer at the Grotto.  Entrust everything to Her and you won't go far wrong.  She'll see you alright.'
And indeed Our Lady has 'seen me alright.'  Twenty eight pilgrimages to Lourdes and sixteen years of priesthood!!!
In Lourdes many young men feel a call to the priesthood or the religious life.  We commend them all at this time to the prayers of the Immaculate Virgin.
A few years ago I was leading a walking tour of Lourdes with Canon McBride.  As we went around the various places associated with St Bernadette he suggested that we offer an alternative tour pointing out the various places where pilgrims from our diocese have got engaged over the years!!!
Lourdes is not just a place to receive a vocation to the priesthood but also to marriage and family life.  We commend to Our Lady's care all our young families - those who form our diocese pilgrimage and those who work in our parishes all around the diocese. It is from good, strong families that future vocations will come.


Our Lady told Bernadette to 'ask the people to come in procession.'  At Lourdes this request is fulfilled on a daily basis with the evening Marian Procession and the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament in the late afternoon.
People from all around the world gather to walk with the Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament and then to spend some time in silent adoration in the Underground Basilica. The procession concludes with the Blessed Sacrament being carried amongst those who are sick and Benediction given.  It is interesting to note that the vast majority of healings and miracles that have occurred in Lourdes have done so at the Blessed Sacrament Procession. 
The central theme of Lourdes is always that fact that leads us to Her Son.  The banner bearing Her imagine is carried at the front of the Blessed Sacrament Procession, but it is Her Divine Son that She wishes us to meet in the Blessed Sacrament Procession that is led into the underground basilica by the People of God and the Priests.

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.  Well....it 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