Fourth Sunday of Easter – 22nd April 2018

Dear Parishioners,

You may have noticed in last week’s newsletter that Deacon Callum Brown is to be ordained to the priesthood next month. Callum was studying at Lancaster University with the aim of a career in teaching until God intervened in his life and Callum realised that he was being called to become a priest. So, he applied to the diocese, passed selection and began his 6 years of training. It was as a part of this training that he came to our parish in September 2015 for four months of pastoral experience to observe the reality of living and serving in a parish, as had Fr Frankie Mulgrew and Fr Mark Paver before him.

He has all but completed his studies and will be ordained a priest in Salford Cathedral on Saturday 21st July at 1pm. A bus will take and return as many parishioners who wish to attend the ceremony and the reception that follows to the two pickup points in Clitheroe and Sabden.

This year Callum is the only priest to be ordained for our diocese, so those who attend should have no difficulty in finding a good vantage point.  Please note that parking is very difficult in and around the Cathedral, so if you wish to attend, I advise that you catch the bus and do not attempt to drive there! First come, first served so sign up on the list at the back of the church if you intend to go.

Fr Callum’s first Mass will be celebrated the following day, Sunday 22nd July at 2pm in his home parish of St Mary’s Haslingden. Friends are welcome.

At the parish Forum we decided to arrange a parish reception and presentation to Callum on a Friday night after the holidays and also invite him to celebrate the parish’s weekend Masses. In consultation with Callum we have agreed on Friday 14th to Sunday 16th September.

To collect for the presentation, envelopes are being printed. Please use these if you wish to contribute to the presentation. There will be only one presentation made on behalf of the whole parish, to the exclusion of individual gifts from friends, families, societies or each church community. As always, please remember that we are one parish community. Envelopes may be left at the Presbytery or handed in with the Sunday offertory collection. Cheques should be made payable to Our Lady of the Valley Parish.

Fr John

Third Sunday of Easter – 15th April 2018

Dear Parishioners,

On Monday Pope Francis published his third exhortation entitled: Gaudete et Exultate (Rejoice and be Glad) In the introduction to the exhortation, the Pope re-emphasizes that the goal of his exhortation is to “re-propose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges and opportunities.”

An apostolic exhortation is considered the second-highest form of papal teaching after an encyclical letter. Since his election, he has issued two other exhortations: Evangelii Gaudium and Amoris Laetitia

The following is a response from Cardinal DiNardo, the President of the American Bishop’s Conference

“‘Do not be afraid of holiness,’ These words of the Holy Father jumped out at me when I first read them. In a way, each one of us has a fear of striving for holiness – a fear that we would be mocked, ignored, or even hated by others because we would stand out. Yet that is what the Lord has called each and every person to! Pope Francis calls us out: ‘A Christian cannot think of his or her mission on earth without seeing it as a path of holiness, for this is the will of God, your sanctification.’

The Holy Father describes how holiness comes through the daily struggles each of us face. In the ordinary course of each day, the Pope reminds us, ‘We need to recognize and combat our aggressive and selfish inclinations, and not let them take root.’ Yet, he says, this ‘battle is sweet, for it allows us to rejoice each time the Lord triumphs in our lives.’

One paragraph, in particular, points out the continuing need we have for civility in all our interactions, especially in the media. ‘Christians too,’ the Holy Father writes, ‘can be caught up in networks of verbal violence through the internet and the various forums of digital communication.’ Even in our heated disagreements with one another, we always need to remember that it is God who judges, not man.

In the light of Easter joy, as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, I encourage every Christian to rekindle their baptismal call to be holy by reading this wonderful exhortation by Pope Francis, especially the beautiful section on the Beatitudes. Through an exploration of the Beatitudes, and by offering examples of how to live out our call to holiness in everyday life, the Holy Father has given us a wonderful tool for renewing our love for God and for each other.”

I’ll order copies when English translations are available. Meanwhile the document and a summary is available on the Diocesan Website.

Or click here to download:

Fr John

Pray for peace in Syria


Samara Aid Appeal is the charity we used to get the last batch of knitted blankets and things to those in desperate need in Syria.  Samara ask for our prayers as an alternative to more violence.  Click on the image to take you to our webpage and get the full letter from them.



Second Sunday of Easter – 8th April 2018

We continue to explore the symbols of the Icon of the Christ of San Damiano, now hanging in our three churches

The figure on the right in the red cloak is the centurion whose son was cured by Jesus. It is from his act of faith that we take the words before receiving Holy Communion, “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof… On his left shoulder we can see his son’s face and if we look attentively behind the boy there are what is thought to be the foreheads of three persons. These three persons represent the centurion’s family who had all been brought to the faith. The painter did not place a halo around the centurion’s head, probably because he felt it more important to have space to include the centurion’s son. However, the faith of this man is expressed in two ways. First of all, his eyes are focused intently on Jesus; the three extended fingers of his right hand symbolise his belief in the Trinity, while the two fingers that remain closed show his adherence to the two natures of Christ. The centurion represents the multitude of people who coming to faith in later life have responded faithfully to the constant inspiration of the Holy Spirit in their hearts.

Near the left leg of Jesus, the artist has painted a rooster. This is not the cock that crowed as Peter denied Christ three times, because the icon shows Christ glorified with his chosen ones; the time of denials is past. Rather in past ages, when we lived close to nature, the rooster became a symbol of the rising sun. The cock is a symbol of what St Peter wrote in his letter that Jesus is the true light now and forever rising on the world. Clouds may obscure this Sun, but they are only clouds. We walk in his light in order not to stumble on obstacles along the way.

At the very base of the icon there appears to be a stone or rock. There are a number of options here. It could refer to the altar on which the sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated to mystically and seamlessly connect us to the one sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary. It may also recall the words of Jesus to Peter “You are Peter and, on this rock, I will build my Church”. Or it may be a personal message for each of us, reminding us of Jesus’ advice: “Everyone who comes to me and listens to my words and acts on them is like the man who, when he built a house, dug, and dug deep, and laid the foundations on rock; when the river was in flood it bore down on that house but could not shake it, it was so well built. But someone who listens and does nothing is like the man who built a house on soil, with no foundations; as soon as the river bore down on it, it collapsed and how great was the ruin of that house.”

Michael Hargreaves

Fifth Sunday of Lent – 18th March 2018

We continue our examination of the San Damiano Cross…

In the Bible, clothing generally reveals the true identity of a person. And so, the icon uses the symbolic language of clothing to demonstrate the vocation of the person.

The loincloth that Jesus is wearing is of linen with a gold border. Linen and gold were used for the Old Testament priestly vestments. The size of the loincloth was usually quite small. One of the prescriptions of Temple liturgy specified that the priest should not ascend the steps of the altar for fear of immodesty. It is a simple loincloth, Egyptian style, which in Hebrew is known as the ephod. Another passage in the Old Testament confirms the use of this small garment by the priests. We read of David exercising his priestly function: sacrificing before the Ark of the Covenant while wearing the ephod. In the Icon Jesus is depicted wearing a loincloth to show that he is both priest and sacrifice. We contemplate Jesus who fulfils to perfection both the priesthood of the Old Covenant and the temple sacrifice: he is both priest and the sacrifice, the Lamb of God

If we look carefully at Mary we can see running down her back and covering her hair, a great mantle of white. This mantle carries a three-fold message. In the first place it expresses the victory of fidelity to the Gospel: “The victor shall be clothed in white” Secondly, white vestments are a sign of the purification wrought by Christ. Justly Mary can be so clothed, she who from the beginning was preserved from every stain of sin. Thirdly, this vesture is a sign of the good works that God gives to the saints to accomplish, “Behold the wedding of the Lamb, His bride is ready and has been able to dress herself in dazzling white linen, because her linen is made of the good deeds of the saints” On the white mantle, although now faded, we would have seen a great number of precious stones arranged in rows, you can still see the markings, although not as impressive as when first painted, the jewels represent the divine favour with which Mary was and continues to be covered, according to the greeting of Gabriel “Rejoice, Full of Grace.” Under the great mantle, Mary wears a dark red vestment, practically burgundy in colour. Since red is the symbolic colour of love, dark red signifies intense love.  Finally, we see that Mary is wearing a purple tunic.  Purple reminds us that she is the Ark of the Covenant which bore the Word of God made flesh, Jesus Christ. The interior of the ancient Ark of the Covenant was lined with purple.

Michael Hargreaves

Fourth Sunday of Lent – 11th March 2018

We continue to explore the symbols of the Icon of the Christ of San Damiano, now hanging in our three churches…

By studying the eyes of Jesus in the icon we see they are wide open, showing Jesus to be the Living One. He said “Do not be afraid…. I am the first and the last, the Living One. I was dead but now I live forever and ever.” We can also notice that the eyes of Jesus are very large, disproportionately so. This is a way of saying that he is the “Seeing One.” Jesus wants to share with us his vision of the Father, As He says in St. John’s gospel, “Who sees me, sees the Father.” St. John make it even clearer, “All we know is, that when all is revealed we shall see him as he really is.”  We might ask the question, “Why are the eyes of Jesus focused between heaven and earth?” Because, as our mediator his glance needs to be directed half way between us on earth and heaven. Also we need to know that the eyes of Jesus also see us. He is the Shepherd who “knows his sheep and calls them each by name.”

The wounds in the hands, feet and side of Jesus have become fountains that flow abundantly with the Blood of the Lamb of God. If we look at the wounds on the nailed hands, we can see opposite each hand an angel, their hands pointing towards Jesus’s constant bleeding hands. Other angels under the arms of Jesus express their astonishment before the spectacle of the blood shed by the One Son of God. St. Peter writes, “Even the angels long to catch a glimpse of these things,” the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would come after them. If you look at the wound in the right side of Jesus; according to specialists who have studied the Shroud of Turin, it would have been necessary for the lance to have pierced the right side in order for the blood and water to have flowed from the heart. The prophet Ezekiel in speaking of the temple, said twice, that the stream flowed from the right side of the temple. This temple was a symbol of the Body of Christ which is the site of the new spiritual worship. As to the blood of Jesus, St. Paul explains, “Christ has entered the sanctuary once and for all, taking with him not the blood of goats and bull calves, but his own blood, having won eternal redemption for us. How much more effectively the blood of Christ who offered himself as the perfect sacrifice to God through the eternal spirit, can purify our inner self from dead actions so that we do our service to the living God.

Michael Hargreaves

Third Sunday of Lent – 4th March 2018

The San Damiano Crucifix 

The picture of the San Damiano crucifix (pictured above) that has been introduced to our churches is a copy of the cross before which St. Francis of Assisi was praying when he received the commission from the Lord to rebuild the Church. It is a fitting icon for us to meditate on as we follow the Hope in the Future programme.

We say “read” an icon, because each particular detail of an icon is something to understand and not only a thing to look at as in a common picture. Therefore, we look at a picture and we read an icon. So it is with the icon of the crucified Christ that we see now displayed in our Churches.

Even theologians can find great pleasure in reading the immense and profound messages within this icon. In the large figure of Jesus, we can see the Primacy of Christ. His garment identifies him as a High Priest of the New Covenant interceding for us in heaven.

For us to spend time, on this page exploring the meaning of all the symbols we see in the icon, just to mention a few: the Seashells, the Crown of Glory, the Frame, the Veil, the Centurions, the Rock and the Rooster, we would run out of space in this Newsletter.

So, in the newsletter over the coming weeks we shall explore in greater detail each of the symbols and their meaning, so that the spirit of light can enlighten our hearts and enable us to appreciate and understand the profound teaching contained in this icon.

This icon, is often referred to as an Icon of Hope, for we see the Risen Jesus, victorious over death and evil. The black background represents evil and emphasises Christ’s victory over evil. The Virgin Mary smiles at John. Jesus shown ascending into heaven (at the top) is also smiling. All the characters are shown in a state of joy.

The border of the icon is formed of a number of shells. Among the ancients the seashell was a symbol of the beauty and eternity of heaven, because of its beauty and endurance. So, this border of seashells shows us that the icon is destined by its very nature to reveal a heavenly mystery. However, the border is not fully complete. It is not closed at the base but a space has been left free to allow for an entry. (For us when our time is right.) Right at the opening we see some characters that might be believers, they are already in heaven, possibly us in the future.  Two of the characters are easily discernible; the others probably have been erased by the kisses of the faithful venerating the icon.

Michael Hargreaves

An interactive guide to the San Damiano Crucifix; click here…

Second Sunday of Lent – 25th February 2018

Dear Parishioners,

Pope Francis has chosen Dublin to host the largest international gathering of families in the world. The World Meeting of Families will take place this summer from 21st to 26th August.

Bishop John wishes to invite people from our Diocese to accompany him to take part in the gathering at which, it is anticipated, Pope Francis will be present. Travelling by luxury coach, with six nights dinner, bed and breakfast in the 4* Plaza Hotel, the trip included attendance at the three day congress and tickets for the Festival of Families and the Final Mass which, it is expected, Pope Francis will celebrate. This may be of interest to families, married couples or parishioners involved in marriage preparation and support. The cost is £690 per person, £500 for children 4-12. A single room supplement is payable.

Each parish of the Deanery is invited to select one family who are willing to attend and on their return report to Parishes or Deanery. Each of the selected families will be entered into a draw and the winning family or couple will be part-funded by the Deanery.

Individuals are quite welcome to investigate travelling to Dublin independently for further details please see me or go to

A National Eucharistic Convention will be held in Liverpool from Friday 7th to Sunday 9th September. Friday is a Symposium Day with lectures or presentations on the Eucharist in Scripture, and in the teaching and the life of the Church. The day concludes with Mass in the Cathedral.

Saturday’s events begin with Mass in the Cathedral followed by a day of events in the ACC Liverpool Echo Arena, ending with Exposition, Benediction and Vespers of Corpus Christi.

Sunday begins with 2 Solemn Masses in the Cathedral followed by an Outdoor Eucharistic Procession and finishing with Benediction.

The cost for the Friday and Saturday events is £40 per person per day. On Friday numbers are not restricted but on Saturday there may be only four participants from each Parish. Sunday is free and numbers are not restricted.

I have copies of the programmes, so if you are in any way interested, please ask for one. The deanery has 97 places available.

Fr John