Ash Wednesday

fasting-ash-wednesday-2015-4Wednesday 10 February is Ash Wednesday. Masses will be at 12:15pm (said) and 6:30pm (sung); the Chaplaincy Choir will sing at the evening Mass and the music will include Allegri’s Miserere during the imposition of ashes.

Vespers will be at the slightly earlier time of 6:00pm.

Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving


An early Easter this year means an early Lent… and a timely shift to a penitential mode. Once again, in the words of the Collect for Ash Wednesday, we take up the “weapons of self-restraint” in our “battle against spiritual evils”: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Perhaps these weapons have been sitting in a spiritual cupboard for a while; it’s now time to get them out and dust them off!

In Lent we lift up our hearts and minds to God in more intense prayer: as well as our own private prayer, why not make an effort to get to Mass or Divine Office during the week? During Lent there will also be Vespers and Stations of the Cross from 6:15pm each Friday.

Lent is a time we practise fasting: the Church requires those aged 18-58 to fast on Ash Wednesday and on Good Friday, though many extend that to other days in Lent (e.g to CAFOD’s Lent Fast Day, coming up on Friday 19 February). Fasting means having just one modest meal per day, with two light “collations” to keep us going, but no snacks! Those aged 14+ are also required to practise abstinence from meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays throughout the year. During Lent we offer a simple soup lunch after the Friday 12:15pm Mass, which enables us to observe this small penance together.

Fasting and abstinence remind us of our dependence on God’s providence, but also our obligations to those less fortunate than ourselves: that is, our practice of almsgiving. What we save through more modest eating, and ideally more besides, can be used to combat poverty both at home and abroad. As a parish and chaplaincy community we continue to support CAFOD, and more locally NEPACS working with prisoners’ families; but there are many other ways that each of us can help in need, by giving money, time or talents.

Through all these observances may we be bound closer together as a community, closer too to our brothers and sisters in need, and above all closer to God, as we prepare for the annual commemoration of Christ’s death and resurrection.

And, especially in the Year of Mercy, may we make good use of the Sacrament of Penance (Confession) in the coming penitential season; confession is available from 6:30pm on Wednesdays except Ash Wednesday, from 9:45am on Saturdays, by appointment or usually on call.

Catholic Theology Research Seminar: History and Church in Augustine’s understanding of self

AugustineSelfFr. Luigi Gioia (Pontifical University of S. Anselmo, Rome) will speak on “History and Church in Augustine’s understanding of the self” at the Catholic Theology Research Seminar on Tuesday 9 February.

5.15pm for drinks; seminar 5.30pm-7.00pm
Venue: Seminar Room C, Abbey House.

A group will share a meal afterwards at a local restaurant.

All are welcome to attend. Please email or call 0191 334 1656 if you wish to attend, noting whether or not you wish to dine afterwards.

Time to Reflect: Lenten weekend for lecturers

BoarbankThe dreaming spires have long disappeared. Today’s university lecturers are fighting exhaustion and overwork, and rarely have space to ponder, to potter or to pray. Here is the chance to enjoy a bit of space from the pressure, with like-minded colleagues, and to reflect at a deeper level on why the job is worth doing, and on how we ought to be doing it.

The Augustinian Sisters of Boarbank Hall offer Time to Reflect over the weekend of 11-13 March 2016. The weekend will include talks and discussion, time to walk or sight-see, the opportunity for shared prayer, with time to relax and reflect in beautiful and peaceful surroundings.

The weekend is aimed in particular at university and college lecturers who are Christians of any persuasion. Anyone with teaching experience in higher education who is sympathetic to its general aims would also be welcome to come. For more details see or contact Sr Margaret Atkins OSA on or 015395 32288

Prayer for Peace

Hear my voice,
for it is the voice of victims
of all wars and violence
among individuals and nations.

Hear my voice,
for it is the voice of all children
who suffer and will suffer
when people put their faith
in weapons and war.

Hear my voice
when I beg you to instill
into the hearts of all human beings
the wisdom of peace,
the strength of justice
and the joy of fellowship.

Hear my voice,
for I speak for the multitudes
in every country and in every period of history
who do not want war
and are ready to walk the road of peace.

Hear my voice
and grant insight and strength
so that we may always respond to hatred with love,
to injustice with total dedication to justice,
to need with the sharing of self,
to war with peace.

O God, hear my voice
and grant unto the world
your everlasting peace. Amen

A prayer for peace by John Paul II that can be used to pray for an end to the war in Syria and for peace for the Syrian Refugees fleeing violence.

Voices of Mercy

“Visit the Imprisoned” will be held on Wednesday 24 February at 7:00pm, in St Mary’s Parish Centre, Bridge Street, Sunderland. On this evening we will be listening to the voices of people who visit the imprisoned, and have an opportunity to reflect on what this means for us. No booking required. For further information please contact Department for Spirituality telephoning 0191 243 3302, or email

Divine Liturgy of St John Chrisostom

ChrisostomFr Mark Woodruff of the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in London (and alumnus of St Chad’s) will celebrate the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom at St Cuthbert’s on Wednesday 3 February at 7:00pm. This is the form of celebrating the Eucharist (the Mass) in the Eastern churches following the Byzantine tradition, both Catholic and Orthodox. The Ukrainian Catholic Church is the largest of the Eastern Catholic Churches, which are in full communion with the Pope.

All are welcome to participate in this celebration of the Divine Liturgy, which will be sung in English and will last a little over an hour. We will be celebrating the “after-feast” of the Encounter of Our Lord in the Temple – i.e. a special liturgy for the day following the Feast of the Presentation. Those normally able to receive Holy Communion at Mass may receive Holy Communion at the Divine Liturgy.

Please note that in order to allow for preparations for the Divine Liturgy, there will be no confessions or exposition beforehand.

Catholic Theology Research Seminar: Election of Israel


Prof. Susannah Ticciati (King’s College London) will speak on “Are apophaticism and nonsupersessionism potential allies? Towards an apophatic account of God’s election of Israel” at the Catholic Theology Research Seminar on Tuesday 2 February.

5.15pm for drinks; seminar 5.30pm-7.00pm
Venue: Dun Cow Cottage Seminar Room.

A group will share a meal afterwards at a local restaurant.

All are welcome to attend. Please email or call 0191 334 1656 if you wish to attend, noting whether or not you wish to dine afterwards.

Septuagesima Sunday

PeterInPenitenceAlthough little noted in our contemporary liturgical observance, Septuagesima Sunday once marked an important point in the Church’s year. In the middle ages, some religious began the Lenten fast at Septuagesima, not forty days but up to seventy (as the word indicates) days before Easter. Before Lent properly began, there was a ‘little Lent’, a time of preparation for the penitential season. Even though we no longer observe this ‘little Lent’, there are good reasons at least to mark the day. My attention was drawn to the Church’s bygone practice in a homily I heard a few years ago, which has shaped my attitude to Lent (and in good measure to the spiritual life more generally). Lent is a time of preparation for Easter, but the mode of our preparation is not prescribed with rigorous detail. (More to come on what is specifically asked of the faithful during Lent.) We choose to give up things we enjoy, or take on things which will challenge us.

Marking Septuagesima Sunday gives us a chance to consider prayerfully how we ought to observe Lent. Waiting until Ash Wednesday to make our minds up won’t prepare us adequately for this important period in the liturgical year and in our own spiritual lives. Nor ought we to regard our Lenten observance along the lines of New Year’s resolutions, which once blown tend to be tossed aside until next year. We may well stumble in our striving for true penitence. But God’s grace abounds during Lent, and we are invited to get up and try again, as many times as we fail. So we can take on something that is a challenge, something we are not certain we can do. Still, struggling through Lent, depending on God’s grace, might be just the right way to prepare for the celebration of Christ’s victory (which is also our own) at Easter.

Part of a series by Medi Ann Volpe

Holy Half Hour

Most Wednesdays during university term (and continuing through Lent) we have a “Holy Half Hour” before the 7pm Mass – after the celebration of Vespers at 6:15pm, the Blessed Sacrament is exposed and there is opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance (Confession).

All are welcome to come along for this time of quiet prayer and reflection.

Hoper Dixon Trust

The Hoper Dixon Trust is a registered charity associated with the Dominican Friars which makes grants for the relief of poverty of those who live near or are connected in some way to a Dominican house. Grants can be made for essential household items, furniture, white goods etc.; help with educational expenses; or for participation in activities, retreats and courses. If you or someone you know might be able to benefit from a grant, please speak to fr. Ben.

Ushaw Lecture: History and Fiction

NovelistsPiers Paul Read will deliver an Ushaw Lecture History and Fiction: how novelists shape the past on Tuesday 26 January. Piers Paul Read is the author of works of fiction, reportage, history, biography and journalism. He is best known for Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors.

5.30pm for drinks; lecture 6:00pm-7.30pm
Venue: Ushaw College

If you wish to attend the lecture you must register with Dr Hannah Thomas, or 0191 334 1656.

Resurrection of the Dead

pascha-01The creed concludes by directing our attention to our own end: we ‘look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come’. Maybe by the time we get to the last line, our attention has moved on to the next part of the Mass, or even to what’s for Sunday lunch. Or maybe the repetition week by week has dulled our perception of its oddity. The resurrection of the dead? The life of the world to come? However often we say these things, and however much we might know about the Church’s teaching on resurrection and new life, the future remains ultimately mysterious: we believe, but we do not grasp these things.

Yet remembering our end is of critical importance: even the New York Times advises us to do so. In a recent article Arthur Brooks advised readers to bear their death in mind in order to live a more fulfilling life. (This week our mortality has been brought into incredibly sharp focus, too, by the deaths of David Bowie and Alan Rickman.) Rather than making us more gloomy, he says, remembering the transitory nature of our life heightens our capacity for humour and joy. Not only that: Brooks suggests that concentrating on the ‘scarcity of time’ can help us to choose our pastimes more consciously, focusing on those things that bring real satisfaction (and those listed include prayer and worship) over those that merely distract us.

The op-ed section isn’t the place I would usually turn for spiritual guidance. In this case, though, Brooks points to something we ought to know: that growth in our spiritual life requires a form of attention that directs us to our ultimate end. For his readers, death is the end. We look forward to something else: the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Contemplating this mystery forms a crucial part of the practice of Christian life, and bathes our ordinary experience in everlasting light.

Part of a series by Medi Ann Volpe

Apostleship of the Sea

Bishop Seamus Cunningham will be celebrating Mass on Thursday 4 February, 7:00pm at St Bede’s Church, South Shields, to commission the port chaplains and ship visitors of the Apostleship of the Sea for their work with seafarers on behalf of the Church. The Mass will be followed by a reception in the parish hall. Everyone is welcome to both the Mass and reception. For further information please contact Paul Atkinson (07906 212426) or Peter Barrigan (07713 924504).

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

The week of Prayer for Christian Unity Week runs from 18 to 25 January. Events planned include:

  • Durham Churches Together Prayer Breakfast on Wednesday 20 January at 8:00am at North Road Methodist Church hosted by Deacon Annette Sharp. All are welcome and there is no charge to attend. Please do book your place by contacting Kirsty Thomas or Deacon Annette Sharp on or
  • Gareth Davies-Jones, singer-songwriter, leads an “alternative Evening Service of songs and stories to entertain, challenge and inspire” on Sunday 24 January at 6:00pm at Elvet Methodist Church.

Catholic Theology Research Seminar: Disordered Bodies and the Body of Christ

Prof. Gerard Loughlin will speak on “Disordered Bodies and the Body of Christ” at the Catholic Theology Research Seminar on Monday 18 January.
5.15pm for drinks; seminar 5.30pm-7.00pm

Venue: Seminar Room B, Abbey House, Palace Green

A group will share a meal afterwards at a local restaurant.

All are welcome to attend. Please email or call 0191 334 1656 if you wish to attend, noting whether or not you wish to dine afterwards.

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