Climate Action Durham is a group that aims to encourage participation by the whole community in actively reducing the carbon footprint of Durham City, and to raise awareness of the importance of the climate emergency. Find out more at www.climateactiondurham.co.uk
This year’s CAFOD North East Team pilgrimage to Holy Island will take place online from 1st–11th July. From 1st July, there will be a daily reflection and prayer from Fr Jim O’Keefe, as well as shared memories of past pilgrimages, videos and stories from our partners around the world, and up to date news about CAFOD’s latest campaigns. At 3pm on Saturday 11th July, Fr Chris Hughes will live-stream a special pilgrimage Mass for us from his parish. We would also love you to share your memories and photographs of being part of a pilgrimage – from anywhere in the world! Email us at email@example.com and tell us your story. The online pilgrimage will be hosted at https://cafodhexhamnewcastle.wordpress.com/
Today we celebrate the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. Though they are saints, they weren’t perfect. Peter was a hotheaded character; he was impulsive and generous, but sometimes unreliable. There was an irony in Jesus’ renaming Simon as ‘the Rock.’ In today’s Gospel, Peter makes a bold statement of his faith in Jesus: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.’ But on the night that Jesus was arrested, Peter, afraid for his own life, denied even knowing his friend. He would reproach himself for his betrayal for the rest of his days. But Jesus forgave Peter, and told him, ‘Feed my sheep’ – take care of the disciples.
Peter was an ordinary working man, a fisherman. Paul was more educated; he had been trained as a rabbi, and had studied the Scriptures and philosophy. Paul, too, could be hot-tempered and outspoken. Peter became the leader of the early Church, while Paul was the first great teacher and missionary. But it was a bumpy road. We read in the New Testament of the arguments between Paul and Peter, as the faith spread and the Church grew.
What Peter and Paul had in common was that their encounter with Jesus changed their lives. Peter was one of the first disciples to be called. The call of Paul happened on the road to Damascus. For each of them, once they had met the Lord, there was no going back. Both apostles gave their lives for the faith; they were martyred in Rome at the time of the Emperor Nero.
To be a Christian is to put our faith in Jesus, as Peter and Paul did; to say with Peter, ‘You are the Christ.’ Once we have made our act of faith, there is no going back for us. We will face challenges and we will sin. But, just as the Lord did great things through the apostles, now he wants us to play our part in building his Church.
The call to be a prophet is not an optional extra for Christians. It is at the heart of our baptismal vocation. Jesus tells his disciples to ‘proclaim from the housetops’ the teaching that they have heard from him, and to be ready to ‘declare themselves for him.’
The prophet’s calling could be dangerous and costly. Jeremiah continued to speak the Word of God, even when his message was rejected; even when he was ridiculed, rejected by his friends and, in the end, thrown into a prison cell. Jeremiah trusted completely in God’s care for him.
Jesus himself did not flinch from speaking out, though he knew that to do so would bring him into conflict with the authorities and lead him to the Cross. The first disciples understood clearly the cost of following Christ. Many of the early Christians gave their lives for the faith, and the witness of their martyrdom became a sign that drew others to the Church.
We too are called to be prophets. By our baptism, we have a mandate to declare ourselves for Christ, to stand up for truth and justice, and to denounce injustice and structural sin, wherever it is found. The injustices of our day are different to those of the Lord’s time, but the call to stand with those who are poor, oppressed or marginalised is the same. It takes some courage to proclaim our faith and values, but God is with us. Every hair on our heads has been counted.
This Sunday 21st June is the annual day of prayer for human life. The theme for Day for Life 2020 is Choose Life, with a particular focus on protecting mothers and unborn children, and bringing hope and healing after abortion. More information, including helplines and details of how to support the Church’s work for life, at www.dayforlife.org
We stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in the USA as they challenge the evil of racism and the brutal killing of George Floyd. As the US Bishops made clear: ‘we cannot turn a blind eye to these atrocities and yet still try to profess to respect every human life. We serve a God of love, mercy, and justice.’
Systemic racism is embedded in our own society. The disproportionate harm suffered by BAME people throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted profound inequalities, marginalisation and injustice here in the UK. The peaceful Black Lives Matter protests taking place in our towns and cities this week reflect the understandable anger that so many people feel about this.
As Catholics we recognise that racism is an evil which must be opposed; we all have a responsibility for actively promoting racial justice. Whenever we ignore racism or dismiss BAME people’s experience of it, we are complicit in violations of human dignity. We pray for God’s help to overcome racism in all its forms and that we might protect everyone who suffers its consequences. We are all made in God’s image
St Mary’s Cathedral, Newcastle and St Mary’s, Sunderland are now open for private prayer for some time each day. There will be a phased opening of more churches, once the necessary safety measures have been implemented. More information at www.rcdhn.org.uk
Please pray for the six men in formation for priesthood for the Diocese of Hexham & Newcastle, and especially for Rev Jonathon Bowes, who will shortly be ordained to the priesthood, and Luke Wilkinson, who will shortly be ordained a transitional deacon. Their ordination dates have had to be postponed due to the pandemic, and new dates will be announced when possible.
God led his chosen people from slavery in Egypt to freedom in their own land. Israel journeyed for 40 years through the desert, and while they were wandering, God gave them water from the rocks, and manna from heaven to eat. In today’s First Reading, we hear Moses tell the people that the food and drink were a sign of God’s power, and of God’s love for them. “Remember – do not forget,” Moses warns the people, and to this day the Jewish people recall how God provided for them in the desert.
In the Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that he will give them his own body and blood as food and drink. It seems an incredible teaching, and in fact, many of Jesus’ disciples left him after hearing it. But he was teaching them about the Eucharist, in which his body and blood are given to us to eat and drink – living bread for those who believe. Our sharing of the living bread unites us with Christ, and with each other – St Paul says that we become one body, because we share one bread. The Eucharist is the sign and symbol of God’s love for us, his people.
Today, on the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ, we celebrate the gift of the Eucharist. God does not leave us alone on our journey through life, but provides us with food and drink in the Mass. At the moment, the coronavirus pandemic prevents us from gathering to celebrate Mass, and we cannot receive Holy Communion. But, like the people of Israel, we are called to remember. We are not alone on our journey. We are still united with Christ and with one another, and we will gather again to receive the living bread.
This Sunday is the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi), when Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion would normally renew their commitment to service. Fr. Adrian Dixon, head of the Diocesan Department for Liturgy, has produced a short reflection for the day, which you can find at www.rchdn.org.uk
HM Government has announced that churches and other places of worship can open for individual prayer from Monday 15th June. As advised by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, not all churches will immediately reopen, due to the ongoing Covid-19 safety measures which are necessary to protect clergy, parishioners, staff and volunteers.
The first five churches to reopen for individual prayer in the Diocese of Hexham & Newcastle are:
St. Mary’s Cathedral, Newcastle
St. Aidan’s, Ashington
St. Patrick’s, Consett
St. Mary’s, Sunderland
St. Joseph’s, Hartlepool
There will be a phased opening of more churches after safety measures have been assessed and implemented. Further details, including the date and times of opening, will be announced as they become available. Volunteers will be needed for the cleaning and stewarding of church buildings.
If you would like a particular intention to be prayed for at a weekday Mass, please let Fr Andrew know by email, telephone or letter. No offering is needed for a Mass intention.
The Catholic Universe and Catholic Times are continuing to publish during the period of lockdown. From this week, the two will be combined in a single newspaper, with the Catholic Times appearing as a supplement within the Catholic Universe.
The Catholic newspapers will continue to be available in a box outside the church door, together with paper copies of the parish bulletin, and copies of ‘Walk with Me,’ a booklet of Eastertide prayers and reflections. If you pass St Cuthbert’s during your daily exercise, or while doing essential shopping, please pick up copies for yourself and your neighbours, especially for anyone who is quarantined.
You could also consider ordering the Catholic papers for delivery to your home, at https://www.thecatholicuniverse.com/ or by phone on 0161 820 5722.
Our diocesan newspaper will only be available online by subscription while the coronavirus crisis continues. The June issue is available now. You can subscribe at https://www.northerncross.org.uk/subscriptions
Today, on the Feast of the Holy Trinity, we celebrate a mystery. God has revealed himself to us as three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. How can there be three Persons in one God? It’s a mystery that is beyond human understanding.
Many of the most important things in life are a mystery to us. The gifts of life and of love, and the beauty of the world that God has created, are all mysteries that we can never fully grasp, but can only accept and reflect on. We come to know another person little by little, as we share friendship and love with them – but in some way, they always remain a mystery to us. And, in a similar way, God gradually revealed his mysteries to the people he created. The peoples of the ancient world believed in gods that were remote and frightening, but the true God revealed himself to the people of Israel as ‘a God of tenderness and compassion.’ God remained faithful to his chosen people, and continued to love them, though they turned away from God again and again. Jesus tells Nicodemus that, in his faithful love, God sent his only Son into the world as our Saviour. The Father and Son send the Holy Spirit to give life and unity to the Church. God never abandons us.
The mystery of the Holy Trinity is that there are relationships within God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, loving one another. Out of the love within God, God creates the world, and creates beings that can know and love God – men and women. God loves us, and calls us to respond by loving him, and loving one another. We can never understand the mystery of the Holy Trinity – we can only live it.
A Diocesan Day of Scripture: Friday 19 June will be a diocesan Day of Scripture, as part of our 2020 Year of the Word celebrations. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales have declared 2020 to be a year of special focus on the Bible, marking the tenth anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s letter Verbum Domini, (The Word of the Lord) and 1600 years since the death of Saint Jerome, who translated the Bible into Latin. Details and full programme for the day at www.rcdhn.org.uk
At present, there is no change in the Government regulations which means that all churches and other places of worship remain closed and public acts of worship are forbidden. The Bishops of England & Wales are working with the Government to prepare for the gradual reopening of churches for private prayer, and later for public worship. Bishop Robert and the Diocese have begun planning for the reopening of some of our churches when that is approved by the Government, taking into account:
- The safety of parishioners, volunteers, staff and clergy to be the highest priority.
- A very small number of churches will be opened first as a pilot. The Bishop is consulting with the Chapter of Canons and Partnership Deans to decide which churches will open first.
- A full risk assessment will be carried out on each church by the Diocese to ensure health and safety.
- The Diocese will provide the necessary equipment for a deep clean of the churches, and for essential regular cleaning.
- Volunteers will be needed for church cleaning, and as stewards to ensure social distancing when the church is open.
- Full compliance with Diocesan health and safety regulations and procedures will be required by clergy, employees and volunteers before a church is opened.
The Bishop has instructed that no action is to be taken until further guidance is received.
Fifty days have passed since we celebrated the Lord’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Today, the Feast of Pentecost brings the Easter season to an end. In the Gospel, Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit on his disciples, bringing peace and forgiveness of sins. Yet in the First Reading, the coming of the Spirit seems anything but peaceful. The signs of the coming of the Spirit are a noise like a strong wind, and tongues of flame that rest on the disciples’ heads.
Today’s feast celebrates the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives power to Jesus’ disciples to overcome the divisions of the human race, caused by our different languages and nationalities. At Pentecost, people from the many nations of the Roman Empire can hear and understand the disciples’ preaching about the marvels that God has worked. The disciples themselves are transformed; they leave behind their fear and anxiety, and become bold preachers and missionaries. They are no longer afraid to give their lives for Jesus.
We receive the Holy Spirit in the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. The Spirit can be as powerful in us as in the first disciples. The Spirit has power to overcome division, to bring peace and understanding, and to forgive our sins. The power of the Holy Spirit can transform us into fearless witnesses for Christ, just like the disciples. In this time of pandemic, the powers of this world seem to be shaken up and disrupted. We see clearly that all earthly power has its limits. But there is no limit to the power of the Holy Spirit.
Congratulations to Jakub Betinsky and Justina Betinska, whose son Emanuel was born this week at University Hospital of North Durham. Emanuel weighed in at a healthy 3.7 kg, and he and his mother are both well. Please pray for them all.
The Chaplaincy St Vincent de Paul Group raised £80 (before lockdown) for St Gemma’s Hospice in Leeds. The Senior Fundraiser for the hospice writes: ‘Thank you so much for your recent donation to St Gemma’s Hospice on behalf of St Cuthbert’s Catholic Church in Durham. I just wanted to get in touch today to let you know that we really appreciate your kind support during this time, and ask that you please pass our sincere thanks on to everyone at the church who kindly contributed to the donation.’