Usually, May is a month full of celebrations – First Holy Communions, Confirmations, and it’s the beginning of the “Wedding Season”. On May 11, Francis Sutcliffe will be ordained to the priesthood. Most of Francis’ adult life has been spent in ministering in the Anglican Church. However, he felt called to join the Catholic Church and Pope Francis has given permission for him to be ordained into the priesthood in the Catholic Church. I am sure you will keep him and his wife Barbara in your prayers as he approaches this wonderful event, which will take place in his home parish of St John of Beverley. 

Of course, May, Spring Bank Holiday, is also the time of our annual Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes. St Bernadette was born on January 7 1844 and was baptised on January 9. So this year we are celebrating the 175th Anniversary of her birth and on April 16 we celebrate the 140th anniversary of her death. 

The theme for this year in Lourdes is from the Beatitudes in St Luke’s Gospel: Blessed are the poor, for the Kingdom of God is theirs. In choosing this theme, we are not being asked to say that poverty is a good thing in itself. That would be so wrong and also very demeaning and insulting to those who, despite their best efforts, find themselves the victims of misfortune.

Rather, we are being encouraged to follow the path offered to Bernadette by Our Lady. We have to die to self in order to find true life in Christ. Here in Lourdes, we have the time to take a good long look at the way we live our lives. We have the opportunity to get rid of the clutter and rubbish that we often drag around with us. We have the chance to see what is really important to us, and to focus on it. 

For me, Lourdes has always been a place where the Gospel works in a very clear and visible way. The last can become first and the poor can become rich, the lame can walk, those who have been laid low by sickness and depression can rise up again – the Kingdom of God is truly present among us here! And its joy!

All of us are poor in some way – financially, perhaps, but physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally, intellectually, socially. Our Lady told Bernadette that she did not promise to make her happy in this world but in the next. While the Diocesan Pilgrimage is in Lourdes, I ask all of us to pray that we may recognise our own poverty so that we may experience the joy of being called into God’s Kingdom, even here and now. 

Finally, I draw your attention to the article in this month’s Voice introducing Extraordinary Mission Month October 2019. I’ll be telling you more about this important initiative from Pope Francis in the month’s leading up to the celebration.

Yours in blessed hope,