Category Archives: Spiritual

Lent Day of Reflection at Ushaw

Lent is a time of preparation for Holy Week and Easter.  The Lent Day of Reflection at Ushaw on Friday 15th March invites us to reflect on the phrase “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” from the Lord’s Prayer.  The day will also include Mass in St. Cuthbert’s Chapel, and Stations of the Cross. 

The day starts at 10.15am, with refreshments on arrival, and finishes by 3.30pm.  The Day of Reflection costs £10.  Bring your own lunch, or lunch can be bought in Ushaw’s café. 

Tickets available at

Celebrating the Year of St Joseph, 2021

The Finchale Partnership has 4 churches with a dedication to St. Joseph, and during this Year of St. Joseph we will be celebrating by providing a variety of different materials for you.

St. Joseph’s church in Gilesgate is part of Durham Martyrs parish, and they have produced a prayer pack and resources for the Feast of St. Joseph on March 19th. The pack includes a summary of Pope Francis’ note on the Year of St. Joseph, prayers based on the 7 Sorrows and 7 Joys of St. Joseph, a history of St. Joseph’s church in Gilesgate and activities for children. You can find the pack on Durham Martyrs website at

Ignatian Spirituality

Join us on Thursday 28th January, at 7.00pm, on Zoom, for the fourth session in our series on Spirituality.

We live in uncertain times, to say the least! Something this world seems desperately in need of is spiritualities that are embedded in that reality, unafraid to engage with the complexity, in ways which foster Life. This evening, join us for a workshop exploring Ignatian spirituality – a down-to-earth mysticism for these modern times.

For the link to join this session, see the details of the event in the Parish Facebook Group or email

The Spirituality of the Benedictines

The Finchale Partnership and the University Chaplaincy have organised a series of events on the Spirituality of the religious orders. The events take place on Zoom.

The third event in our series is The Spirituality of the Benedictines.

Speaker: Scholastica Jacob was a nun of Stanbrook Abbey, and is now living as a Benedictine in Durham, conducting research at the Centre for Catholic Studies on the experiences of English Benedictine nuns in the early 19th century.

Date: Thursday 26th November at 7.00pm

Details of how to join the session are available in the parish Facebook group or by contacting

The picture is a statue of St. Benedict at Monte Cassino.

The Spirituality of the Dominicans

The Finchale Partnership and the University Chaplaincy have organised a series of events on the Spirituality of the religious orders. The events take place on Zoom.

The second event in our series is The Spirituality of the Dominicans.

Speaker: fr. Benjamin Earl OP. fr. Ben lived in Durham as Parish Priest at St. Cuthbert’s and University Chaplain, from 2012 to 2016.

Date: Thursday 29th October at 7.00pm

Details of how to join the session are available in the parish Facebook group or by contacting

Who is this?

Who is this?

‘Who is this?’ the people ask, as the Lord enters Jerusalem. And the reply comes back: ‘This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth.’ Jesus is given many different titles in the course of Matthew’s account of the Passion. Some are proclaimed in joy and faith, others in cruel mockery. When he enters the city, the crowd acclaim him as a prophet and as ‘Son of David,’ recognising a king who comes to his people humbly, riding on a donkey. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is in stark contrast to the power of Rome, or the pomp of Herod’s court. He is modelling a different kind of leadership and authority.

When Judas greets Jesus as ‘Rabbi’ – Teacher – it is a traitor’s signal. When the High Priest asks Jesus if he is the Christ and the Son of God, he describes himself instead as Son of Man – the Messiah who has come to fulfil the Scriptures, and who will be seated at God’s right hand. The claim is blasphemous to the Jews; it is enough to seal Jesus’ fate.

Jesus’ last title – King of the Jews – is nailed above the Cross, as a dire warning to any other king who might be tempted to rebel against Roman rule. And yet, the Roman centurion and his squad recognise Jesus as a ‘Son of God.’

The Passion story prompts us to ask, ‘Who is Jesus for me?’ In normal times, the liturgy invites us to enter into the story. We sing ‘Hosanna’ with the crowds as Jesus enters Jerusalem; we walk with him to Calvary; we wait quietly on Holy Saturday for the Lord to burst from the tomb on Easter Sunday. This year, we cannot celebrate the liturgies of Holy Week together. Instead, we are called to enter individually into the Lord’s Passion; to walk prayerfully with him in our own homes; to share his suffering in our own hearts, knowing ourselves to be in communion with one another and with the Church around the world. We witness to our faith in Christ by our care and compassion for one another, and we wait in hope for new life.

This is my Beloved Son

Jesus knows that the Cross awaits him in Jerusalem, and he has begun to prepare his disciples for his suffering and death. He takes Peter, James and John to the mountain top, where they are granted an astounding vision of Jesus in his heavenly glory. Moses and Elijah appear, symbolising the Law and the Prophets, which are to be fulfilled and completed in Jesus. And then the disciples hear the voice of God the Father. No wonder they are overcome with fear.

The disciples had been following Jesus for some time, but they often failed to understand him, especially when he foretold his Passion. The vision on the mountain would, in a way, be encouraging for them; Jesus, the Teacher they had chosen to follow, truly was the Son of God. But it was also a stark confirmation of the road that Jesus was walking – the road that led to Calvary. This was what it meant to be a beloved Son; this was the road that they, as disciples of the Son, were also called to walk. Only after the Lord’s death and resurrection would his disciples understand. Today’s Gospel reminds us that, for disciples of Christ, the road to glory goes by way of Calvary.

But I say this to you…

Jesus’ disciples would be shocked to hear him say that they had to be more virtuous than the scribes and the Pharisees. These were the people who were admired by other Jews, for their scrupulous observance of the demands of the Law. But Jesus challenges his followers to go further. External compliance with the Law is not enough; he wants their whole hearts to be given to him. The Law prohibits murder, but Jesus warns his disciples against destructive anger and hatred. Adultery is forbidden, but the Lord teaches us that adultery begins with the lustful look that objectifies another person. Moses allowed a man to divorce his wife (though a woman could not divorce her husband); Jesus upholds marriage as a sacred bond for both spouses. If we are people of truth and integrity, we will not need to swear oaths, but only to speak with simple honesty. These are the laws of the kingdom of heaven.

Your Light Must Shine

Jesus tells his disciples that they are ‘the salt of the earth.’ Before the invention of refrigeration, salt was commonly used to preserve food, as well as to season it. Just as a small amount of salt makes a big difference to the flavour of food, Jesus calls his disciples to be people who make a difference to the world. The same idea is expressed by the image of being ‘the light of the world.’ The good works of the disciples of Christ should shine out, in our families and our communities. The prophet Isaiah tells us what are the good works that the Lord desires: feeding, clothing and sheltering the poor; renouncing violence and siding with the oppressed. Such works are the marks of the disciples of Christ. Without them, the Lord says, we are good for nothing.

Light for all the Nations

Today, forty days after Christmas Day, we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord – Candlemas. We carry lighted candles into church to symbolise Jesus, the Light of the World, born among us at Christmas. When Mary and Joseph bring the baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem to present him to God, he is recognised by Simeon and Anna. Simeon prophesies both the suffering that lies ahead for the child and the salvation that he will bring. Anna witnesses to others that Jesus will bring deliverance for the people. Simeon and Anna are faithful children of Israel. They have waited in trust and hope for the coming of the Christ, and God grants them the joy of recognising and proclaiming him when he comes. In Jesus, God fulfils his promises to the people of Israel and, as Simeon proclaims, brings salvation to all the nations of the world. Throughout his life, Jesus will be welcomed by the poor and the little ones, but rejected by the high priests and the leaders of the people. Today’s feast challenges us, like Simeon and Anna, to recognise, worship and proclaim Christ as Saviour.

I have seen and I am the witness

In today’s Gospel, we see the mission of John the Baptist approaching its fulfilment. The Baptist made it clear from the start that he himself was not the Christ, but the prophet sent by God to prepare the way. Now, John the Baptist sees Jesus, recognises him as the Lamb of God and points him out to his disciples. Jesus is the one whose coming John was sent to proclaim; the Chosen One of God.

As disciples of Christ, we have been baptised with the Holy Spirit and set free from our sins. We too are called to see, recognise and bear witness, as the Baptist did. This is how the Church can be a light to the nations, as Isaiah foretold. This is how, as St Paul says, we will take our place among the saints – the vast assembly of believers who acknowledge Christ as Lord. Every baptised Christian is called to witness.

Are You the One?

Last Sunday, we met John the Baptist; a powerful, fearless prophet, like the prophets of ancient Israel. In today’s Gospel, John has been imprisoned by King Herod, and will soon be executed. John sends messengers to Jesus, with a question that reflects his own uncertainty. John prophesied the coming of the Messiah, but he expected a king who would sit in judgement. The prophecy of Isaiah in today’s First Reading, with its promise of the ‘vengeance’ and ‘retribution’ of God, reflects the hopes of many in Israel at that time. Jesus’ reply is meant both as a reassurance and a challenge to John. The kingdom of heaven is at hand; Jesus is bringing life and healing for God’s people. The prophecies are being fulfilled, as John foretold. But Jesus comes with mercy and not vengeance; forgiveness and not retribution. The powers of evil will be judged and defeated – not by violence, but by love and mercy. So Jesus challenges John to open his heart to God’s ways; to keep faith, and to recognise that Jesus truly is the one who is to come. As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, we too are challenged to recognise the child in the manger as our Saviour.

Complacency and Conversion

On the Second Sunday of Advent, John the Baptist bursts onto the scene. John lives and speaks like the prophets of the Old Testament. He calls the people to repentance: a change of direction; a change of heart. The ordinary people of Israel flock to John, to confess their sins and be baptised as a sign of conversion. But the religious elite – the Pharisees and Sadducees – may be tempted to believe that their status as ‘sons of Abraham’ is a guarantee of their place in God’s kingdom. John wants to shake them out of their complacency. Everyone needs to repent, and to produce the fruits of repentance – a renewed faith and trust in God. The Baptist’s message is a stern and challenging one, but it comes with a promise; the kingdom of heaven is close at hand. In God’s kingdom, as Isaiah says, our worldly relationships of power and exploitation will be overthrown, and God will bring justice. John’s preaching challenges our complacency, too: he calls us to repentance in preparation for Christ’s coming.

A Crucified King

As Jesus is dying on the Cross, he is mocked by the religious leaders, by the soldiers who crucify him, and even by one of the criminals who is being executed with him. And yet, the titles that they give him in cruel mockery are all true. Jesus really is the Christ of God, the Chosen One, the King of the Jews and of all nations. He shows us a different kind of kingship. Jesus is a King who comes to seek out the lost, to heal the sick and to forgive sinners. He welcomes the outcasts and upholds the dignity of the poor. He even forgives those who nail him to the Cross. Jesus’ authority was such an affront to the Roman and Jewish leaders that they had to crush him utterly.

Only the ‘good thief,’ the repentant criminal hanging on his own cross alongside Jesus, recognises him as King, with power to forgive sins. His act of faith wins him the promise of paradise. Today’s feast of Christ the King reminds us that we are citizens of a kingdom that is not of this world. We have put our faith in the crucified King.

Pray Continually

Today’s parable is intended for disciples living in the time between the first and second comings of the Lord. As Christians, we are people of faith and hope. Faith tells us that Jesus, the Son of God, came into the world to save us from our sins. Faith also enables us to see God at work in our lives today. The Christian virtue of hope assures us that God has a plan for the world, and that each one of us has our part in the unfolding of God’s plan. This is what our lives are for.

But while we wait in hope for the Lord to return, we face many difficulties and struggles. The Christian response is to pray constantly, bringing all our fears and anxieties to God. The widow in the parable is a woman without power or status – one of the ‘little ones’ of Israel. But she obtains justice from the unjust judge by her persistence. All the more, Jesus says, will God, our loving Father, see justice done for his children. Sometimes, we feel that God is slow to hear and answer our prayers, but he asks us to persevere and trust in him.

Faith & Gratitude

Leprosy – Hansen’s disease – is a disease that causes disability and disfigurement. Today, leprosy can be easily cured, though there are still many people in the world who suffer from the disease because of poverty and poor hygiene. But in our Lord’s time, with no treatment, leprosy was a cause of fear and horror. Sufferers were labelled as ‘lepers.’ They were considered unclean, isolated from family and society.

In last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus taught his disciples about the power of faith. Today, ten men suffering from leprosy approach Jesus on the edge of the village. They have faith that Jesus can cure them, and he does. But only one man, finding himself cured, comes back to thank Jesus. His faith is completed by gratitude. Faith is a trusting readiness to receive the great things God does for us, and also a grateful recognition of what God has done and is doing in our lives. Ironically, the one man who comes back to give thanks is a Samaritan, a despised foreigner. Jesus welcomes everyone who has faith in him.

The Power of Faith

In today’s Gospel, Jesus presents two challenges to his apostles. He tells them that a tiny amount of faith – the size of a mustard seed – can accomplish things that seem impossible. Then the Lord reminds his apostles that, although they have been chosen for a role of leadership in his Church, they are no more than God’s instruments. All that they achieve is brought about by God’s grace, and they are merely servants of God’s people.

Christian faith is not only belief that the teachings of the Church are true: even more importantly, faith is belief in Jesus as the Son of God. That faith in Christ can transform us. The apostles’ faith was found wanting when Jesus faced his Passion and death, but afterwards, with the help of the Holy Spirit, they accomplished amazing things in spreading the Gospel. As disciples of Christ, we can achieve remarkable things too, with just a little faith. But we are merely servants, and all that we achieve is God’s gift.

Tainted Money

Today’s parable is a difficult one to understand and interpret. The steward is in a position of trust, and he uses his position dishonestly for his own benefit. Yet he is praised ‘for his astuteness.’

We should consider the situation of Jesus’ disciples. They lived in a grossly unequal society, where working people were ruthlessly exploited and heavily taxed by those who were wealthy and powerful. The words of the prophet Amos, denouncing injustice against the poor, were still relevant in the Lord’s time. So perhaps those hearing the parable would assume that the master had acquired his wealth unjustly, and that the steward was simply redressing the balance in favour of the poor people who were in debt to him. Certainly, the master seems to act ruthlessly in sacking his steward after an accusation of dishonesty. The deeper message of the parable is that we cannot serve two masters. If money is our master, we will be ruthless and even dishonest in our pursuit of wealth. If we are true disciples of Christ – children of light – we will give money its proper importance, and use it for good and worthwhile purposes.

The Narrow Door

Jesus is asked, ‘Will there be only a few saved?’ And his answer is ‘No.’ People from all nations will be welcomed to the feast in the kingdom of God – from east and west, from north and south. No one is excluded; God offers salvation to everyone. So why is the door narrow? Jesus gave this teaching to the people at a time when he was making his way through towns and villages on his way to Jerusalem. Many of the people heard his teaching, and saw the miracles that he worked; but only a few, it seems, became his disciples. The door was narrow for them, because Jesus’ call to conversion was too much of a challenge. The door is narrow for us, too, if we are overly attached to the things of this world. But if we respond to Christ’s call, and go through the narrow door, we find that it opens onto the infinitely wide love and mercy of God.