Vocations Sunday 2016

A reflection for Vocations Sunday, 17 April 2016, from the National Office for Vocation:

Isn’t it strange that people have to change in order to stay the same? So, for example, people who ran stagecoaches with horses had to change to motor coaches with engines if they wanted to stay in the transport business. Of course, they could have kept with the stagecoaches but then they would soon find themselves in the leisure business and no longer a serious transport provider.

Human beings are the same. Being a disciple who follows Christ involves continuous development. Childhood prayers must evolve into adult prayer, an easy going friendship may lead to marriage, a person working at a simple task could aspire to the demanding responsibilities of leadership. If prayer, relationships and work never change over a lifetime then the person will no longer be as fully alive as God intends Christian disciples to be.

That’s why Blessed John Henry Newman’s insight is so important: ‘to live is to change.’ Those called to consecrated life and priesthood live this out in a special way: a divine disruption takes their lives in unimagined directions. In turn, their changed lives influence others and help many people make the changes necessary to growing in faith, in relationships and in responsibility.

The apostles are the most startling example of divinely disrupted lives. ‘Follow me,’ said Jesus, and they left their fishing nets and went, so that untold numbers of people might hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. Today we pray especially that those God is calling may allow the divine disruption into their lives so that they might become the disciples Christ intends them to be as priests and religious.

Find out more at www.ukreligiouslife.orgwww.ukpriest.org or www.ukvocation.org.

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Obedience of Christ

Peter in this Sunday’s first reading tells us, “Obedience to God comes before obedience to man” (Acts 5:29). He has learned this lesson the hard way from Christ himself; indeed he was the man who sought to bend Christ to his will.

However much they loved Jesus, indeed because they loved Jesus, Peter and the disciples could not face him being handed over to death. They sought to prevent it, in fact. One of them, identified as Peter in John 18:10, went as far as to cut off the ear of one of the party who came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Peter is not being completely unreasonable: humanly speaking, handing oneself over to what appears to be a futile death does not seem a rational thing to do. But the wisdom of God far transcends human reason. There was method in the divine plan, even if Peter could not understand it at the time.

And so Christ – hearing, understanding and submitting to the divine plan – was obedient to the will of his divine father, rather than the dictates of human beings, even when they were his friends. This is gloriously summarised by St Paul writing to the Philippians (2:8-9):

“[Christ] humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name.”

Through this experience, Peter came to understand that loving Jesus and loving God meant seeking to understand and do the will of the Father: feeding his lambs and sheep even to death. In the light of Easter and the risen Christ may we similarly seek to understand God’s will and devote ourselves to it wholeheartedly.

I am not like Thomas…

The great Eucharistic hymn Adoro te devote, attributed to St Thomas Aquinas, contains a verse most commonly translated into English (by Gerald Manley Hopkins SJ) as:

I am not like Thomas, wounds I cannot see,
but can plainly call thee Lord and God as he;
this faith each day deeper be my holding of,
daily make me harder hope and dearer love.

Perhaps St Thomas is having a little joke with us when he writes that he is not “like Thomas”. But he is also making a serious point. We do not see the risen body of Christ in the same way St Thomas does. But we do see the body of Christ.

We see Christ’s body in the Church, our brothers and sisters who with us are members of Christ.

We see Christ’s body – with all its wounds – in the sick, the suffering, and the oppressed of this world.

We see Christ’s body present sacramentally in the Eucharist.

And when we affirm our belief that Christ is risen, we affirm too that he raises up all who have been baptised into him; he raises up suffering humanity; and he raises up those who are nourished in the Eucharist.

This Easter time may our devotion to Christ’s body – in all its aspects – be redoubled as we celebrate with joy his resurrection and ours.

Solemnities Transferred

The early Easter has meant we weren’t able to celebrate two great feasts on their usual days, and they have been transferred to Low Week – that is, the second week after Easter.

The Solemnity of the Annunciation, normally 25 March, fell this year on Good Friday; and so will be transferred to Monday 4 April. Mass will be celebrated at 9:15am.

And we would have celebrated our Patronal Solemnity of St Cuthbert on 20 March, had that not been Palm Sunday; instead we will be celebrating St Cuthbert on Tuesday 5 April with be a sung Mass at 12:15pm. It is not often that we get to celebrate our holy patron in the splendour of the Easter light – so do come along and join the feast.

Easter Collections

Collections taken at the Easter Masses are taken for Parish Funds, in the same way as at Sunday Masses throughout the year.If you would also like to make a Easter gift to the Dominican Community of Friars which serves St Cuthbert’s, you may do so using one of the blue envelopes available on display in the narthex. Envelopes can be dropped into the collection basket or returned to the presbytery.

If you are a UK taxpayer, you can increase the value of your gift by completing the Gift Aid declaration on the envelope. Cheques should be made payable to “The Dominican Council”.

Thank you for your generosity both to the Parish and to the Dominican Community now and throughout the year – the Friars wish you a fruitful celebration of Holy Week and a joyous Easter!

A change and co-incidence of time

There are two temporal co-incidences this Holy Week which perhaps can help us in our spiritual life… First of all, the clocks go forward from 1:00am GMT to 2:00am BST on Easter Sunday Morning. This means that, unusually, the whole of the Easter Triduum takes place before summer time starts; as a result we are able to start the Easter Vigil a little earlier than usual, at 7:30pm on Saturday 26 March. Especially if you haven’t been accustomed to the Easter Vigil, why not take advantage of the earlier start and experience this highlight of the Church’s whole year? We take the liturgical passage from the darkness of sin to the light of the resurrection through procession, song, scriptures and sacrament. Truly the death and resurrection of Christ mean that we have moved from one time to another, from one era to another.

The second co-incidence is that Good Friday falls on 25 March; which in other years is the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord – that is, the day that the angel Gabriel appeared to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Son of God took flesh in her womb. The fact that Christ’s incarnation and his death fall on one and the same day shows us what it was Christ come among us to do: to bear our sins on the cross, and to give us hope by rising from the dead. We won’t miss out the Annunciation entirely this year: it will be celebrated on Monday 4 April, once the Octave of Easter is over.

Holy Week and Easter

Principal celebrations during Holy Week and Easter Week will be:

Palm Sunday, 20 March: Masses at 10:00am (with procession) and 6:30pm.

Holy Thursday, 24 March: Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 7:00pm followed by watching, concluding with Compline at 11:50pm.

Good Friday, 25 March: Tenebrae (Office of Readings and Lauds) at 10:00am, followed by Confessions; Solemn Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion at 3:00pm.

Holy Saturday, 26 March: Tenebrae at 10:00am, followed by Confessions; Easter Vigil and First Mass of Easter at 7:30pm.

Easter Sunday, 27 March: Mass at 10:00am BSTPlease note that the clocks go forward one hour on the morning of Easter Sunday; and also that there is no evening Mass on Easter Sunday.

Easter Monday, 6 April – Easter Saturday,11 April: Lauds at 8:45am (except Monday), Mass at 9:15am, Vespers 6:15pm.

Full details of the celebrations at St Cuthbert’s during Holy Week and Easter are available on our website at www.stcuthberts-durham.org.uk/holyweek and cards with this information are available at the back of church.

Please sign up on the list in the narthex if you can welcome, usher, read or minister Holy Communion during the Triduum and Easter morning. Please respond generously.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord

The first part of the Sanctus has not always been followed by ‘Benedictus qui venit…’ as it is today. Its history is not entirely clear. At one time, the whole of the Sanctus included part of Ezekiel 3.12: ‘Blessed be the glory of the Lord from his place’ (KJV; for those interested, the Vulgate reads, ‘magnae benedicta gloria Domini de loco suo’). One conjecture how and why this sentence (Matthew 21.9) came to replace Ezekiel’s words is that it began to be used one Easter, and it just stuck. (See Bryan Spinks, The Sanctus in the Eucharistic Prayer.)

Now we, too, come near to that point in the Church’s year in which we welcome him, ‘who comes in the name of the Lord,’ echoing the very first acclamations in Jerusalem, and joining with Christians since at least the fourth century. Yet Palm Sunday arrives with a mix of joy and confusion. Jesus met a crowd in Jerusalem who seemed ready to recognise him as their king; yet he rode in on a donkey. Not the most triumphant mode of transport; and the next few days followed a course nobody (except Jesus himself) expected. Who in that crowd would have guessed that the one who came into Jerusalem amidst shouts of praise would be put to death not long after?

The Benedictus should remind us, all the year through, of the lowliness of Jesus’ human estate, and the hiddenness of his glory. Lent may be nearing its end, but the suffering of Jesus remains with us all year, even as we celebrate his resurrection and anticipate his glory each Sunday. As we live in him and he in us, we can expect a mix of joy and confusion in our lives as well. This is not bad news, however, for it is not the end: the end will come when the glory of the Lord (which fills heaven and earth!) is revealed — and his resurrection will at last be ours as well.

Part of a series by Medi Ann Volpe

Celebrating God’s Mercy

On Thursday 28 April at 7:00pm St Joseph’s, Gilesgate, Durham will host our Deanery Service for the Year of Mercy.There will be a preparation meeting held at St Joseph’s on Tuesday 29 March at 11am, and we will be joined by Kathryn Turner, Head of the Diocesan Department for Spirituality and Sister Michael from the Evangelisation Team. Their role is the help us as a deanery prepare a unique liturgy specifically tailored to the choices of our deanery – i.e. our favourite readings about mercy, hymns etc. If you would like to attend the preparation meeting please contact Ciara Herbert in the Parish Office (office@stcuthberts-durham.org.uk; tel. 0191 384 3442).

The Passion and the Arts

Churches Together in Elvet & Shincliffe invite you to explore “The Passion and the Arts” on three Tuesdays in Lent. The last session is on 15 March, focusing on Music; it will be hosted at St Cuthbert’s, starting at 7:30pm. All are welcome and light refreshments will be provided.

Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini

As we come to the fourth Sunday of Lent, change is coming. We look up from our penitential practice, to the horizon. Rose-coloured vestments suggest the dawning light of the Easter morning. We sing benedictus qui venit… (blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord) with a fresh anticipation. Though Lent is not over — we have three weeks yet! — we have made it halfway. If we have not been as disciplined as we had hoped, here is an opportunity to make a fresh start. With the Lord, it is never too little, too late.

Just as the father received back his son, the one who had squandered everything and debased himself; just as the father welcomed and forgave the older son who sulked, so also he holds his arms open to us. Whatever we have done or failed to do this Lent, now we can put it behind us and, even in the midst of Lent, try again. Now, as ever, we depend not on our own merits, but on God’s abundant mercy. He waits for us, with a patience that is unimaginable.

As we return to him, as we are called to do especially in Lent, we begin to receive the joy that will be ours on Easter morning. So let us unite ourselves to the one ‘who comes in the name of the Lord’ now in our penitence, that come Easter we may be found in him, rejoicing.

Part of a series by Medi Ann Volpe

Heaven and earth are full of your glory

The glory of God might seem an odd topic for reflection during Lent. After all, we omit the Gloria at Mass, and we direct our attention to the Lord’s temptation and his passion. But the Sanctus reminds us, week by week — even during Lent — that ‘heaven and earth are full of [God’s] glory’. We don’t always recognize that glory: it is hidden. As John’s gospel tells us: ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father’ (1.14). Jesus makes God known to us; all the fullness of the Godhead was pleased to dwell—hidden—in Christ. Peter, James and John glimpsed that glory at the transfiguration of the Lord. They learned to see in Jesus, even after his brightness subsided, the radiance of divine glory. So also we learn to see the world differently as the eyes of our hearts are trained by faith: to see Christ’s presence in the Eucharist, for example; or to see his face in the faces of the poor and the marginalized.

Learning to see in this way does not give way to full vision, however. The mystery of God’s presence in the world is like the mystery of the Incarnation itself. How does God become human without eliminating or overriding the human? The Old Testament reading from today gives us a way in to contemplating the mystery: Moses encounters a bush that burns, but is not consumed. So also God’s presence with us and in us throughout creation enlivens and enlightens us, but does not consume us. Only that which is incompatible with God’s presence (that is, sin) cannot survive the coming of the Lord. The flame of God’s holiness burns in us—as in the burning bush—but all it consumes is sin.

As we sing ‘pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua’ (‘heaven and earth are full of your glory’), let’s remember that ‘caeli et terra’ includes us. We strive for holiness in the hope that the glory of God may one day be revealed in us as well.

Part of a series by Medi Ann Volpe

RCIA Open Session – Social Living

AnnaRowlandsThis year’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) programme for those exploring the Catholic faith is nearing its conclusion, and some of the last few sessions are being opened to a wider audience. All are welcome to join the group in the Parish Room on Thursday 10 March at 7:00pm when Dr Anna Rowlands of the University’s Centre for Catholic Studies will speak on A Catholic understanding of social living.

Ushaw Mass and Lecture: Monarchy and Catholics in Britain

MonarcyAndCatholicsProf. Philip Williamson will deliver an Ushaw Lecture Monarchy and Catholics in Britain, 1689-2012 on Wednesday 9 March. Prof. Williamson is Professor of Modern British History and Durham, and is a historian of twentieth-century British politics, political culture and government.

5.30pm for drinks; lecture 6:00pm-7.30pm

Venue: Ushaw College, Exhibition Lecture Theatre

The Lecture will be preceded by a Mass of Thanksgiving for the Centre for Catholic Studies at 5pm in St Cuthbert’s Chapel.

If you wish to attend the lecture and/or Mass you must register with Dr Hannah Thomas on hannah.thomas2@durham.ac.uk or Jane Lidstone on 0191 334 1656, indicating whether you are coming to the lecture, the Mass, or both. If you need help with transport to and from Ushaw College, please mention this when booking.

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