For a number of years now there has been an annual Aberdeen Diocesan Pilgrimage to Pluscarden on the last Sunday of June. On the 24 th June this year it has a focus upon the theme of education, timely in the wake of the statement by Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who recently said the government was an ‘unequivocal supporter’ of Catholic schools and committed a further £100,000 of funding to the
Catholic Teacher Education programme.
Bishop of Aberdeen, Hugh Gilbert said:
“The annual diocesan pilgrimage to Pluscarden on the last Sunday of June is an occasion to come together in a holy place at the heart of our diocese and to venerate our Lady, Mother of the Church. This year the pilgrimage falls on 24 June, the Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist. We are celebrating therefore the birth and growth of a child whose mission it would be to prepare a way for the Lord. It seems good therefore, in what is also the centenary of the 1918 Education Act (Scotland), to gather together children from our Primary Schools and other young people to give thanks for our Catholic Schools, to revive our own youthfulness of spirit and ponder our responsibilities towards our children. It is an occasion for us all to grow in Christ and in our common Catholic identity. The children will join the monks and the Diocesan Choir in leading the singing of the Mass. All are welcome.”
Dom Benedict Hardy OSB, Prior at Pluscarden added:
“The monastic community is delighted to welcome our Bishop and all the Pilgrims who accompany him for this act of faith and devotion. This year we are standing by to receive larger numbers than usual, including many children. We pray that this occasion may be an encouragement in the faith for all who come to visit this ancient and still living place of prayer. A Benedictine community stands for values that are rather rarely found in today’s world: stability in community, the primacy of worship, humble work carried out in joyful and whole-hearted obedience, and peace – all rooted in the determination to prefer nothing whatever to Christ. We hope that all our Pilgrims will find this occasion both uplifting and enjoyable. May they depart the better for their visit, and determined, please God, to return! Although in honour of St. John the Baptist on his Solemn Feast, the afternoon liturgy will end with a procession and devotions in honour of our Lady. May she bless all who come, and keep us united in faith and hope and love.”
With refreshments available in the marquee from 12 noon, the timetable of events for the day is 1.00pm – 2.30pm Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament (Lady Chapel); 1.00pm – 2.30pm Confessions (St. Benedict’s Retreat); 3.00pm Pilgrimage Mass & Procession (In honour of Our Blessed Lady).
Episcopal Vicar for Education and Dean, Colin Stewart, said:
“Sometimes, in an age of easy international travel, the attraction of local destinations is eclipsed by more exotic ones. The same seems to be true of pilgrimages. But local pilgrimages often contain more personal, hands on, meaning for pilgrims, because ‘local’ is where we live our lives. So, for example, the Pluscarden pilgrimage inevitably reminds me of of various close relatives who died in mid-summer, not least my brother, whose death occurred (many years ago) while I (home from seminary) and my mother were actually in the Abbey on the Diocesan Pilgrimage. Pilgrims come with memories. Pilgrims come with as yet unanswered questions. That’s one of the reasons why the Sacrament of Reconciliation is made available over several hours , leading up to the celebration of Mass. It would, however, be a maudlin affair if there were not more to it. Pilgrimage brings people together. There is certainly a common bearing of burdens as our travels (and travails!) unfold. But also a common rejoicing in being part of a group that still knows how to search for and worship God. A God who alone offers us meaning within our often perplexing and complicated journeys. But even that is not enough. Pilgrimage needs to be open to future. Otherwise it is a journey that goes precisely nowhere. This year, in Pluscarden, there is a special place for children. If plans work out in this ‘Education Act Centenary Year’ the day will be shared by many young people from schools around the diocese. We hope, then, that the past, present and future will all be found in Pluscarden on 24 June, and that, being found there, each of these dimensions will be touched by God, leaving us all richer – stronger – as we make our ways home.”