Rev Fr Paul Kelly M.A., D.Phil, Our Parish Priest
Welcome to the Website of St Michael’s Roman Catholic Church, Linlithgow, Scotland. Father Paul and the parishioners warmly welcome new parishioners and visitors to our church. In this Web Site you will find details of our services and information related to the Parish.
St. Michael's Roman Catholic Church is situated in the historic and picturesque town of Linlithgow. The present church is situated at the East end of the town near the Low Port (entrance to the town). It is located beside the banks of Linlithgow loch and close to the old palace where Mary Queen of Scots was born. Next to the palace is the Parish Church of St Michael's the original seat of the Catholic Church prior to the reformation. This brief history chronicles the Catholic Church in Linlithgow from inception to the present day. The historic town of Linlithgow has a long association with Catholicism in Scotland. Although the present church has been in its current position by the side of Linlithgow Loch for a few years more than a century, St Michael has been associated with Linlithgow since the 13th century. St Michael's Parish church, in the centre of the town next to the remains of Linlithgow Palace, had a long association with the Stuart Kings and Scotland's most famous Queen; Mary Queen of Scots. Mary Queen of Scot's was born in Linlithgow Palace towards the end of 1542 and was baptised in St Michael's Church.
Records of the charter of David 1, in which he gifted not only the church but also "…its chapels and lands, and all other rights belonging thereto…", indicate that even in 1138 St. Michael's Church of Linlithgow was of considerable size and influence. Indeed, long before 1242 when David de Bernham, Bishop of St. Andrews, officially dedicated this beautiful medieval church it was known as a mother church. Located atop the mound and beside Linlithgow Palace the building stands testimony to the power and influence of pre-Reformation Roman Catholicism. The hierarchy of the Church of St. Michael's Linlithgow did without doubt exert great influence on the daily lives of the population of Scotland although much of this influence was secularised through its links with the Establishment.
However, it must not be forgotten that the church was built by local people as a permanent dedication to the greater glory of God. By the 16th century the Church was beset on all sides with calls for reform of various degrees of severity. Moderates, justifiably, wanted internal reform to rid the Church of much that was corrupt. One such was Linlithgow priest Ninian Winzet, who courageously stood up to more militant reformers who wished to see an end to Roman influence. Others were much more militant, for example, John Knox "…whose "rascally multitude" desecrated the church of St. Michael's Linlithgow, among others…" . To put it mildly feelings were running high and the outcome was the radical reformation of worship throughout the land... Click here to read more
In a letter which will be read in all of Scotland’s 500 Catholic parishes this weekend (9/10 April 16) Scotland’s eight Catholic Bishops will urge parishioners to "be active participants in shaping a better society” not simply "passive spectators” they will also encourage greater participation in the political process, suggesting; "you might well consider it worthwhile to join a political party” while reminding Catholic voters that "Only if you use your vote can you make a difference and influence our political leaders.”.
St Michael’s held an organ afternoon for beginners, and those helping them, on Saturday, 28 May, led by parish organist Dr Evelyn Stell. There were fourteen participants altogether, representing six different parishes in our archdiocese, which was quite a lot for this sort of event. Two of them were even playing three-manual instruments on Sundays. Five of our own beginners were there, and everyone seemed very enthusiastic and keen.
Father Paul started the session off with a prayer. We then looked at the nature of the organ itself, touched on the things to remember when leading the people, and, I regret to say, spent some time on an item called ‘shortcuts and surgery’, which told people how to cheat their way through a difficult or inadequate hymn setting; perfection is not the name of the game here. Working with chords was also a theme, with the emphasis on being simple and smooth. You can’t strum the organ.
The scandals involving abuse in the Catholic Church are only too well known. As a result, rigorous safeguarding procedures have to be in place in every parish. There are staff working at this at the diocesan level, at the national level of the Church in Scotland, as well as at parish level. Volunteers working with children and vulnerable adults have to be cleared through the PVG scheme. This is indeed a legal requirement with which the Church must comply.
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The most authoritative account of the history of the parish is William Hendrie’s St Michael’s Catholic Church, Linlithgow, 1893-1993, published on the centenary of the building of the church. The mission (as it was before it became a parish) was first dedicated to St Joseph. It was changed to St Michael in 1887, though the school, built just before the church, was dedicated to St Joseph. These notes are derived from diocesan archives at present deposited in the Scottish Catholic Archives, Columba House, in Edinburgh, and from the valuation rolls in Linlithgow Public Library.
The Catholics of Linlithgow in the 1850s, as in other areas of West Lothian, were overwhelmingly Irish immigrants, who arrived in Scotland in great numbers after the Irish potato famine. They were poor and constituted indeed a church of the poor. The first priest in charge of the mission, the Rev Francis McKerrell, served from 1851-1853. His mission included Bo’ness and Bathgate. He lived in a rented house in Linlithgow Bridge. His successor, Andrew Dempsey (1853-1857) noted in his annual returns to the bishop that his charge of Linlithgow, Bo’ness and Bathgate measured twelve miles in area with a population of 1300 Catholics.
At first Mass was celebrated in a hired room. Francis McKerrell remarked in August 1852 on “the urgent need of a Chapel in the Linlithgow Mission. There at present the faithful are obliged to meet for worship in a most inconvenient room, destitute we may say of all the requisites for religiously worshipping God.” The Catholic Directory for 1855 records that “Public Service” – the word ‘Mass’ would have been too provocative for the Protestant population of the time – was held every second Sunday at 9 and 11.30. On the other Sundays the priest had to travel to Bathgate for Mass. The parish accounts for 1857 reveal that it cost £26 “for driving to Bathgate for 52 Sundays.” A separate mission was established in Bathgate in 1858.
The priest continued to live in a rented house until the present house was built in 1890. However, it would have been a substantial dwelling, which included a separate room for a servant. The parish accounts for 1886 show that £20 a year was paid for the rent of a house. In about 1880 it was £18. By 1886 the rent had gone up to £22.10s.
Rent also had to be paid for a hall in which to say Mass. In 1857 that rent was £15. By that date, according to the valuation rolls, the hall was located at 310 High Street (roughly where the Health Centre now is) and the owners of the property were “Mr Ritchie, Edinburgh, and Miss R.I.A. Spence”. Previously it had been a “tan yard and cutting shop”, also known as “Spence’s Tannery”. In 1876 the Baird Hall (now a private house at 224 High Street), which had been a sessional school since 1863, was bought for the mission. The new chapel could seat 250 people. The mission was now in debt. In 1880, James McCartney, now in charge of the mission, wrote to Archbishop John Strain: “After a good deal of struggling through very hard times, I have managed to be able to reduce the debt on Linlithgow Chapel by £50 more, which will now leave the debt at £300.” The Catholic population was then 525. By 1882 the debt was only £12.
The Catholic population was growing. In 1881, the Rev John Lee reported that there were 680 Catholics, of which between 250 and 280 came to Mass on Sunday. The only group in the parish was “The Living Rosary Society”. Clearly the Baird Hall, with seating for only 250, was no longer big enough and Lee’s successor, the energetic and gifted John Murphy, set about plans for building the present church. Further, there had been no Catholic school. This was built just before the church. The final stages of the building of the school and church were supervised by the Rev Donald Easson (1890-1898). The original chapel at the Baird Hall was sold to the Church of Scotland.
Easson was an energetic pastor. In 1898 he was appointed Vice-Rector of the Scots College in Valladolid. The college was in a delapidated state and Easson was not looking forward to his appointment. On 12 March 1898 he wrote to Archbishop Angus MacDonald: “The financial condition of the College must be already at breaking point.” He then began organising collections for the College in the Scottish dioceses. However, the bishops decided against this. In September 1898, Easson wrote again to Archbishop MacDonald from St Margaret’s, Ayr, where he had preached at the opening of a chapel at Annbank, declaring that he would travel to Spain the following May, even though he was by no means looking forward to the prospect. But he noted: “The collection that has been so generously responded to in this Diocese [Galloway] will go some little way to make the college habitable”. He died at Vallodolid in March 1899, aged thirty-five. He had been a priest for twelve years, and for nine of them he had been the priest in charge of the mission at Linlithgow. There is a commemorative plaque on the wall of the church near the sacristy.
The early Christians would have gathered in the morning and evening for prayer and praise and recited psalms and scripture in a recurring cycle. By tradition the Book of Psalms is considered an essential ingredient of the Liturgy of the Hours as psalms had an honoured place in Jewish piety.
By the 3rd century Christians prayed at 9am, 12 noon, 3pm, 12pm, at cock crow, plus morning and evening prayers – in all 7 times. These times are relevant in Our Lord’s passion and are rooted in the Paschal Mystery. Today in most monasteries they still pray 7 times.
The morning and evening prayers, sometimes referred to Lauds and Vespers, are considered the most important. The psalms are often sung when in community.
After the first centuries of Christianity the recitation of the Psalms and scripture passages from the Divine office would have been left to the professionals - the clergy, monks and nuns. By the 12th century the Divine Office would have been said only in Latin.
The Second Vatican Council looked to renew the emphasis on the whole People of God and encourage more laity to find spiritual nourishment from the official Morning and Evening prayer of the Church. The Liturgy of the Hours is the public prayer of the Church and is intended to be the prayer of the whole church and laity are encouraged to recite the Liturgy with priests, in a group or even individually. Remember even if you are praying it individually, there are thousands of people doing the same at the same time 24 hours per day.
Many of the changes made by Vatican II regarding the Liturgy of the Hours are contained within the Council’s first conciliar document Sacrosanctum Concilium – The Sacred Liturgy, in December 1963 - and we also read in the Catechism CCC 1178, that this part of our Liturgy is like an extension to the Eucharistic celebration. Perhaps the biggest changes were to simplify the Liturgy of Hours and permit the use of the vernacular
I will highlight the structure of the morning and evening prayers as these are considered to be the hinges of the Daily Office
The full Liturgy of the hours is contained within 3 books. There is a shortened version which is useful to take on holiday etc as well as a larger daily version which contains most of the Liturgical Feast days. The prayers rotate around a four week cycle known as the Psalter, and there are a number of alternative prayers and readings for certain liturgical days e.g. at Easter, Christmas etc as well as for feast days and saints Memoria or optional Memoria. You will be able to find where we are by looking up an appropriate internet site or by looking at the Ordo.
The Divine Office starts with a short introduction followed by a hymn. It is fair to say that the hymns contained within the books are limited and can be changed to suit the assembly.
Following the Hymn we have in the morning prayers a Psalm, then an Old Testament canticle and then a Psalm of Praise. In the evening we have two Psalms followed by a New Testament canticle. Before and after each of the Psalms there is a short antiphon which provides a focus for meditation.
We then have a short Scriptural passage followed by a short responsory.
Next in the morning we have the Benedictus, which is the cancticle of Zachariah and in the evening the Magnificat, the canticle of Mary. Both are from Luke’s Gospel.
The Liturgy of the Hours concludes with Intercessions for the needs of the world and the Church – then follows The Lord’s prayer and the collect for the day. Where there is an ordained minister there would be a blessing.
It is normal in this group prayer to split into two, the first saying the first verse the second group the second verse and alternate thereafter. The psalms are not a race and should be said at a fairly slow pace.
The leader will recite the opening antiphon for each psalm followed by the first line. We stand for the introduction, the hymn and the first line of the opening psalm and then sit down until the Benedictus (or Magnificat) when we again stand.
Ideally in community a different person would read the scripture reading and another say the intercessions with everyone joining the responses. Again if there is an ordained minister in the congregation they would say the concluding prayer with a blessing.
Individuals, couples or a complete family team would be most welcome. The more the merrier! If you would like to help us serve the parish then please contact Stevie Gallacher via phone 07925-143350 OR email Stephen.email@example.com
This means that we have undertaken to use Fairtrade tea and coffee after services and in all meetings for which we have responsibility, move forward on using other Fairtrade products such as sugar, biscuits and fruit and Promote Fairtrade during Fairtrade Fortnight and during the year through events, worship and other activities whenever possible.
Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. By requiring companies to pay sustainable prices (which must never fall lower than the market price), Fairtrade addresses the injustices of conventional trade, which traditionally discriminates against the poorest, weakest producers. It enables them to improve their position and have more control over their lives. Fairtrade ensures farmers and workers receive an additional Fairtrade Premium to invest in developing their communities.
The FAIRTRADE Mark is an independent consumer label which appears on UK products as a guarantee that they have been certified against internationally agreed Fairtrade standards. It shares internationally recognized Fairtrade standards with initiatives in 20 other countries, working together globally with producer networks as Fairtrade Labeling Organisations International (FLO). The Mark indicates that the product has been certified to give a better deal to the producers involved – it does not act as an endorsement of an entire company’s business practices.
The FAIRTRADE Mark gives a guarantee to consumers that the farmers and workers have been paid a fair and stable price which covers the cost of sustainable production.
www.fairtrade.org.uk/ for more information