It has been a week of tributes, services and customary traditional ceremonies of state which will eventually lead to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s funeral on Monday. In his homily at our Cathedral Memorial Mass last Tuesday Archbishop Malcolm referred in passing to the times that the Queen visited Liverpool during the course of her reign. The only time that she came to our Cathedral was during the visit to Merseyside as part of the Silver Jubilee celebrations in 1977. By the time that Her Majesty reached our Cathedral she was running behind schedule and Archbishop Worlock who had bought a new set of three grand chairs with the coat of arms embossed in the leather had hardly managed to sit them down and give his speech of welcome than the Queen and Prince Philip had to move on to view the pageant of school children along Hope Street on their way to Liverpool Cathedral. We have some lovely photos of the occasion in the Cathedral archive and fortunately we were able to put the set of chairs to good use here afterwards.
We are host to the Relics of St Bernadette Soubirous this weekend. Many of you will be familiar with the story of the apparitions at the grotto in Lourdes that took place in 1858. How Bernadette who was a poor young teenage girl of 14 was with her sister and friend gathering wood by the stream at the grotto in an area known as Massabiele when she first saw this vision of a woman in white at the grotto. What followed was a series of fourteen apparitions to Bernadette alone, during which the woman revealed herself as the Immaculate Conception and asked that a church be built at the grotto and people be encouraged to come in procession. Bernadette a sickly child who had little formal education was left with the task of convincing the parish priest and others of the authenticity of the visions and the request that had been made by the Virgin Mary. The holiness and integrity of St Bernadette was evident throughout the whole experience of the apparitions and in her attempts at convincing people of the importance of the message she received and in 1862 the apparitions were declared by the church as worthy of belief. From that time to this day people have been going on pilgrimage to Lourdes from across the world and it has become a place of prayer and of healing for the sick. Bernadette, who continued to suffer from ill health, lived the rest of her short life as a religious sister in a convent in Nevers and died at the age of 35. The introduction to the relic tour includes a quote of St Bernadette summarising her life following the visions of the beautiful lady who appeared to her. ‘I shall do everything for heaven. There I shall find my mother in all the splendour of her glory. I shall delight with her in the joy of Jesus himself.’
The Relics will arrive with a short welcome service at 3.30pm on Saturday followed by Mass at 5pm and then a torchlight Procession at 7.30pm around the Precinct of the Cathedral. There will be Masses throughout Sunday with the afternoon Mass at 3pm having a special focus on prayer for the sick with the anointing of the sacrament of the sick. On Monday due to the Funeral Service of Queen Elizabeth taking place, following 8am Mass, there will just be a quiet time for Veneration of the Relic and periods of prayerful reflection during the day. There will be no Midday Mass but we will still have the final Farewell Mass on Monday Evening at 7pm.