Fifth Sunday of Lent – 6 April 2014

Dear Parishioners

The Parish Forum meets on Wednesday in the Social Centre at 7.30pm.

Parish Forum is our parish council, though it differs to most parish councils in that meetings are open to any parishioner who wishes to attend. All who attend have the right to speak and to vote. Minutes are published on the notice board and are emailed to those who leave their e-addresses.

Forum offers me the opportunity to report on past and future events, to seek advice, to listen to new ideas and to receive complaints. For parishioners it is your opportunity to own your parish. Reports are also received from various parish committees and organisations. Invariably there is a full agenda but the Chair does endeavour to ensure that we finish by 9pm for tea and biscuits. This Wednesday, among others, we shall receive reports on last year’s accounts from the Finance Committee and a progress report on the Parish Centre in addition to planning forthcoming summer events. So, do come along and be your Parish Forum.

One thing that we must begin to discuss is Evangelisation – a word that makes us want to run a hundred miles away but which basically means: faith sharing. The following is an extract from a speech made by Pope Francis in June last year.

“I want to tell you something. There is a beautiful passage of the Gospel which tells us about the shepherd who realized that one sheep was missing. He left the ninety-nine others and went in search of it. He went off to look for one! But brothers and sisters, we have only one sheep; we have lost the other ninety-nine! ‘We must go out, we must go out to them! In this culture – let us tell the truth – we only have one; we are a minority! And do we feel the fervour, the apostolic zeal to go out and find the other ninety-nine? This is an enormous responsibility and we must ask the Lord for the grace of generosity, and the courage and patience to go out, to go out and preach the Gospel. Ah, this is difficult. It is easier to stay at home, with that one sheep! It is easier with that sheep to comb its fleece, to stroke it. But we priests and you Christians too, everyone, the Lord wants us to be shepherds, he does not want us to fuss with combing fleeces. Shepherds!

Fr John

Fourth Sunday of Lent – 30 March 2014

Dear fellow Parishioners

St Mary’s community hall in Sabden was recently transformed into a theatre for a production of “Jack and the Beanstalk” by Sabden’s panto group, the New Village Folk. So now we have a facility which is suitable for all kinds of amateur dramatics, shows or concerts.

The group, which was founded in 2006, used to be based at St Nicholas’s Church Hall but recent renovations made it impractical to stage productions and the panto group had to move out.

Fortunately St Mary’s gave the New Village Folk a warm welcome and as many of the group are connected with the church and every member except one lives in Sabden, it was good to find a new home in the village and be able to carry on performing.

But we did have a job on our hands. St Mary’s stage is quite small and only had access at one side. There was no stage lighting or sound facilities, and no access to the toilets from the top room which had to serve as a backstage dressing room.

Fr John gave us permission to install new wiring and fit the hall with stage lights, all round sound and speakers and stage microphones (as long as we paid for it!).

The next challenge was to board out the stage and make a passage along the back to allow access at both sides. We finished off by having new curtains made to carefully match the hall’s decor. The Village Folk spent around £1,000 on these and the result is a hall fit to stage any type of amateur dramatics or concerts.

We didn’t manage to build any backstage toilet facilities, but got around the problem by hiring mobile loos for the cast for the duration of the show! We also paid £500 in total to hire  the hall for rehearsals and four performances. In addition the group is making a £1,000 donation to St Mary’s towards the ongoing upkeep of the community hall. And Fr Frankie is hoping that no-one claims the £50 lucky programme prize as we will donate it to his favourite charity, Mary’s Meals.

The four performances of “Jack and the Beanstalk” were a sell out and received lots of wonderful comments and reviews from audiences, which we were pleased to see included many of our friends from SS Michael and John’s.

The Village Folk is happy to be connected with St Mary’s and already planning our next panto early next year.

Margaret Parsons

Third Sunday of Lent – 23 March 2014

Dear Parishioners,

The following is an abbreviated extract from a recent homily of Pope Francis.

Through the Sacraments of Christian initiation — Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist – we receive new life in Christ. Now we have this life “in earthen vessels”, we are still subject to temptation, to suffering, to death and, because of sin, we can even lose this new life. This is why the Lord Jesus wished His Church to continue His work of salvation, in particular with the Sacrament of Reconciliation and that of the Anointing of the Sick, which can be united under the name of “Sacraments of Healing”. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, when I go to confess, it is to heal myself, to heal my soul and to heal my heart. The biblical icon that expresses best their profound bond is the episode of the forgiveness and healing of the paralytic, where the Lord Jesus reveals himself at the same time as doctor of souls and of bodies.

At Easter the Lord appeared to the disciples and after greeting them, “Peace be with you,” he breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven”. This passage reveals to us the most profound dynamic that is contained in this Sacrament. First of all, the fact is that the forgiveness of our sins is not something that we can give ourselves. I cannot say: I forgive my sins. Forgiveness is asked, it is asked of another and in Confession we ask for forgiveness from Jesus. Forgiveness is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who fills us with the purification of mercy and grace which flows incessantly from the wide open heart of Christ crucified and risen. In the second place, it reminds us that only if we allow ourselves to be reconciled in the Lord Jesus can we really be in peace. Pope Francis then explained that Reconciliation is a communal exercise because the Holy Spirit works within the community and also because sin has a social dimension, it destroys trust and relationships. “One may say: I only confess with God. Yes, you can say to God “forgive me” and say your sins, but our sins are also against others and the community of the Church. For this it is necessary to ask forgiveness from the community in the person of the priest. “But Father, I am ashamed….” Well, even shame does us well, because it makes us more humble, and when Confession is ended, one feels free, great, beautiful.

When was the last time that I confessed? If a long time has passed, don’t miss another day, go. Jesus is there, and he receives you with so much love. Be courageous and go to Confession! Dear friends, to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation is to be wrapped in a warm embrace: it is the embrace of the infinite mercy of the Father.

Fr John

Second Sunday of Lent – 16 March 2014

Dear Parishioners

There was an air of celebration in Salford Cathedral last Sunday when, Bishop Brain welcomed five parishioners together with the Elect and Catechumens from around Salford diocese who are completing the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) and will be received into the Church at Easter. The Elect are those who will be baptised, their title indicating that it is God who has called them, who has elected them, to seek Baptism and join the family of God. Catechumens are those who have already been baptised in another Church but who now wish to join the Catholic community. Our elect are Brent, Becky and Benjamin Kelly and Lauren Bate who with catechumen Tom Clay will be baptised and received into the Church during the Easter Vigil service next month.

This week in an important week for our children in both Clitheroe and Sabden who will receive the sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time. (First Confessions as we oldies knew it) Parishioners, family and friends are encouraged to come along to both offer their support and also take this opportunity to experience God’s love, mercy and reconciliation for themselves. The service begins in St Mary’s Sabden at 7pm on Tuesday and at 7.30pm in St Michael and St John’s on Wednesday.

Please do remember to pray for Fr Peter Birmingham who began a course of chemotherapy last Friday. He is unable to receive visitors but has received many cards and assurances of prayer.

The Pro-Life Committee met this week and arranged the dates for two important annual events. The first is the Day of prayer which will be in three weeks on Saturday 5th April beginning with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at 9am and continuing until the evening Mass. There is ‘watching list’ at the back of the church for you to sign and so ensure that there are at least two or three people in church throughout the day. The watching slots are only half an hour, so please do consider during Lent giving a half hour to the Lord. There was a cohort of parishioners who could be relied on in the past but many have now become housebound or have gone to the Lord – people such as Peter and Teresa Tomlinson, to mention only two!

The second event is the Right to Life sponsored Walk on which we are joined by Lord David Alton and some MPs. It will take place on the Spring Bank Holiday, 26th May.

Fr John

First Sunday of Lent – 9 March 2014

Dear Parishioners

Lent has begun but have you? Here are a few suggestions.

  • Buy (£1) the ‘Walk With Me’ booklet which will help you pray and reflect on each day of Lent.
  • Join the Stations of the Cross in Clitheroe at 7.30pm on Fridays and in Sabden at 7.30pm on Tuesdays.
  • Spend a little time each day reading the Bible in the quiet of your home.
  • Attend daily Mass. (Details weekly in the newsletter)
  • Come to Exposition on Saturday mornings between 11am and 12 noon.
  • Pay a visit the church which is open daily during daylight hours
  • Encourage someone who has been away from Mass to return to practice and accompany them to church.
  • Recite the Rosary at home or join the weekday recitation in church at 9.30am.
  • Is there someone you know in need of help or friendship or maybe an elderly relative you haven’t visited for a while?
  • Make up a longstanding quarrel.
  • Help to clean the church on Monday mornings at 9.30.
  • Give up a favourite treat like sweets, drink, watching too much TV or cigarettes.
  • Keep ‘Family Fast day’ on Friday.
  • Every Friday abstain from eating meat for your spiritual good and that of the planet!
  • Make a clean sweep. How long is it since you made use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession)? Confession is available every Saturday in Clitheroe from 11 to 11.45 and during the Stations of the Cross on Fridays.
  • Attend the series of Lenten talks “The Church at the Crossroads” on Saturday mornings in the Hall at 11am. (Coffee from 10.30)
  • Join with Fr Frankie on Wednesdays at 7.30 in the Hall to look at Pope Francis’ recent letter ‘The Joy of the Gospel’.
  • For the first time the Deanery has organised four Lenten Station Masses. Join the first at St Mary’s Langho on Wednesday at 7.30pm.

Wishing you a fruitful Lent!

Fr John

8th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 2 March 2014

Dear Parishioners

This Lent I invite you to celebrate God’s mercy – the richness and vastness of His love for each and every one of us. And to give you the opportunity of coming to know that love and mercy in an even deeper way we have invited the ex-gangster and internationally acclaimed speaker John Pridmore to share his amazing story Masses on 22nd & 23rd March.

John grew up in the east end of London and following his parents’ divorce he left home at 15. After a period of crime he ended up in a young offender’s prison.   By his 20’s he was a violent East End gangster. Drug dealing and protection rackets brought him a classic gangster lifestyle of flash money, women, sports cars, designer clothes and a penthouse flat.

Then one night outside a nightclub, he nearly killed a man and something extraordinary happened. He underwent a profound conversion experience and left his life of crime behind to work with people like Mother Teresa of Calcutta. He now lives in Ireland and over the past 14 years has spoken to over two million young people worldwide in prisons, universities and schools. At the World Youth Day in Sydney 400,000 young people listened to his story of conversion. His autobiography From Gangland to Promised Land is an international best-seller and recently he met producers in Los Angeles who are interested in turning it into a film. His third and latest book Journey to Freedom was published at the beginning of this year.

John’s life witnesses to the love and mercy of God. If you haven’t experienced this love and mercy for yourself or need reminding of it, then this Lent please listen to Pope Francis’ invitation: “Ask yourself: ‘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 priest – Jesus receives you. He will receive you with so much love! Be courageous, and go to confession. Don’t be afraid of confession. When someone is in line for confession they feel uneasy or worry – all these things, even shame – but then, when they have finished confessing, they leave feeling free, great, beautiful, forgiven, clean, happy. The sacrament of reconciliation is a sacrament of healing. 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.”

To invite as many Catholics as possible (practising or not) to hear and meet John we need your help to post leaflets advertising the weekend through the letterboxes of addresses on the parish database – as you do with cards at Christmas. Will you help?

Fr Frankie

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 23 February 2014

Dear Parishioners

First, I apologise for the cancellation of the Parish Forum on Wednesday but a great number of the women, some with husbands in tow, went to the musical Jekyll & Hyde that evening. Unfortunately, I don’t have a free Wednesday evening until 9th April, so we shall then meet in Forum at 7.30pm in the Parish centre.

After four years effort and over £2,000 expenditure St Michael and John’s have both pedestrian and road signs (7 in total) directing visitors to the church. I thank Mike Bradley for the time, tenacity and frustration it cost him in pushing this project. Without him there wouldn’t be now and never would be any signage.

A number of parishioners have commented on the new bench cushions at the front of the church. The one criticism is that they are too deep. So a couple of more slender cushions, borrowed from Trinity Methodist, are at the front for you to compare both types and let me have your verdict.

In Sabden the new barrier has been erected and hopefully will safeguard parking for both church and hall.

This Tuesday the parish website committee meets in the Presbytery at 7.30pm. Our plan to re-launch the website has proved to be a slow process because we have too few volunteers. So, if you have any expertise or simply a keen interest in website composition then please do either contact me or turn up on Tuesday night.  Some time ago I also appealed to parish groups to send information and photos either by email or by written or typed copy. The result? You can guess.

As we are now two priests the Sacrament of Conformation will be administered in both Clitheroe and Sabden on the feast of Pentecost and First Holy communions will be received on Corpus Christi.

Pentecost Sunday, 8th June 2014

Sabden: Confirmation at the 11o’clock Sunday Mass.

Clitheroe: Confirmation will be conferred during a special service with no Mass at 11.30am. The usual Sunday morning Mass will be celebrated at 9.30am.

Corpus Christi, 22nd June 2014

Sabden: First Holy Communions will be received during the 11am Sunday Mass.

Clitheroe: There will be an extra Sunday Mass for First Communicants 11.30am, following the usual 9.30am Sunday Mass.

Fr John

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 16 February 2014

Dear Parishioners.

On this Education Sunday I would like to share with you some thoughts and reflections upon teaching young people, given to me by the RE Department at St. Augustines.


As we let our light shine we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same

Nelson Mandela (Inaugural Speech 1994)


We are fellow workers with God

 St Paul (Letter to the Corinthians)


When will we teach our children in school what they are?

We should say to each of them:

Do you know what you are?

You are a marvel.  You are unique.

In all the world there is no other child exactly like you.

In the millions of years that have passed

there has never been another child like you.

and look at your body – what a wonder it is!

your legs, your arms, your cunning fingers, the way you move

You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven.

You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel?

 Pablo Casals (Joy and Sorrow)


My idea of education is to unsettle the minds of the young and inflame their intellects.

Robert Maynard Hutchins


We are justified in thinking that the future of humanity lies in the hands of those who can provide coming generations with reasons for living and hoping.

Gaudium et Spes, Second Vatican Council


Let us all set about to collaborate with our teachers and priests to educate and inspire the next generation of young people.

Fr Frankie



5th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 9 February 2014

Dear Parishioners,

This weekend I wanted to tell you about my favourite saint – St Catherine of Siena.

Catherine was born in the year 1347 and lived till 1380. She was born the youngest of a very large family. From early on in her life Catherine experienced visions and practiced penances.  As early as the age of seven she consecrated her virginity to Christ and by 16 she had joined the third order of the Dominicans. Catherine had really desired to enter the Dominican convent but had felt God instruct her not to do so. For three years during her teenage years Catherine retreated to her room for intense prayer and mystical encounters with Christ, whereupon she immerged from her room to serve and assist her family, the sick, the poor and the un-churched.  The era of the 14th century in which she lived, was a troubled time within the Church and socially.  Her life was one spent dedicated to prayer and penance, serving others in charity.  God recompensed her charity to the poor by many miracles, often multiplying provisions in her hands. When the fame of her sanctity started to spread, she was inundated as a spiritual guide personally and through her letter’s to people of all position; politicians, nobles, ordinary people, artists, religious, etc,  the most notable being Pope Gregory XI who responded to her challenge to go back to Rome and leave his exile in Avignon.

Back then there was severe unrest not only within the Church itself, but between Church and state leading to a civil war between Florence and the Papal states.Catherine travelled a lot in order to try and encourage reconciliation and peaceable solutions even risking her own life.

Another renown characteristic she was famous for, was when hardened sinners would come to her aggressively and angry, but at the mere sight of her, and looking into her eyes which had such depth of love for them, they would be converted. In fact three Dominican Priests were commissioned by Pope Gregory XI, to hear the confessions at Siena, of those who were induced by the saint to enter upon a change of life; these priests were occupied, day and night, in hearing the confessions of many who had never confessed before. Most notably two famous assassins going to die with blasphemies in their mouths, and in the transports of rage and despair, were suddenly converted and repented in their last moments, by the saint’s prayers.

Catherine wrote her greatest spiritual work, ‘The Dialogue,’ (still available today) in which through prayer, she had a conversation with God – were she petitioned Him, and shared the mystical revelations she received back. Through this and her other notable writings she became a Doctor of the Church. And in 1999 she was made co-patroness of Europe by Blessed John Paul II, who quoted one of her most famous lines during his Pontificate ‘If you are what you’re meant to be you’ll set the whole world on fire.’

Fr Frankie

The Presentation of the Lord – 2 February 2014

Dear Parishioners,

I wanted to share with you an inspiring testimony from Bishop Paul S. Loverde of Arlington , Virginia in the United States. The accounts are personal and from the heart. It was part of a pastoral letter, which he wrote on the Feast of Christ the King last November (at the end of the Year of Faith). The pastoral letter was entitled “Go Forth With Hearts on Fire”, and below are extracts taken from the letter in Bishop Loverde’s own words.

“I share with you a very personal experience of Christ which occurred just several years ago, decades into my life as a priest and bishop. Without a doubt, I have understood, accepted, and experienced in many ways the love of Jesus for me precisely as a disciple, priest, and bishop. However, there was always a kind of glass wall in terms of experiencing His love. It was as if I could see Him through the wall, and He could presumably see me, but I did not experience His love to the depth that I so desired. That was not His fault, but mine: somehow, I was not receptive enough.

Then, during a silent eight-day retreat with a group of fellow bishops, the retreat director suggested that I bring these passages from Isaiah before the Lord in lectio divina and prayer:

“Because you are precious In my eyes and honoured, and I love you.

Fear not, I am with you… Do not fear, I have redeemed you.

I have called you by name.  You are mine.” (Is 43:2,4-5)

It was during prayer with these texts that the Lord allowed this glass wall to suddenly and unexpectedly shatter! I cannot express in words how profoundly I was touched. I knew without a doubt that He loves me. I was grateful beyond words! I recalled an antiphon from Morning Prayer for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart: “My son, give me your heart; note carefully the way I point to you.” As a result of His great mercy towards me, I live in a new way, not perfectly and not without all the struggles of daily life, but with an inner conviction that I cannot deny or ever forget. This experience can also be yours!”

And a few final words of encouragement from our last Holy Father along the same theme “Faith is above all a personal, intimate encounter with Jesus, and to experience his closeness, his friendship, his love; only in this way does one learn to know him ever more, and to love and follow him ever more. May this happen to each one of us.” Pope Benedict XVI (General Audience 21/10/09)

Fr Frankie