God does not have favourites

The first reading for this Sunday reminds us that “God does not have favourites” and that “anybody of any nationality who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34-35).

I am writing this text before the result of the General Election and the composition of the new government is known. But, given what the major parties have said during the campaign, it seems clear that tough immigration rules and targets will remain. Indeed, things may yet get more difficult for those who want to come here to live, work, study or visit.

It is, of course, reasonable that a society should protect itself from those who would harm it; but we must remember that welcome to people of all nations is part of what Christianity is built upon. St Peter and St Paul, those pillars of the early Church’s preaching, both became migrants. St Paul was shipwrecked three times and spent a night and day in the open sea (2 Cor 11:25). It is through their efforts to reach distant nations that we can now rejoice in the name of Christian.

Peter and Paul both got to Rome, where they died martyrs’ deaths; many hundreds of people each year do not make it as far as Italy, but drown in the Mediterranean or die in other futile attempts to cross borders. Whether these people are called migrants or refugees, the causes of their situation are complex; but the human tragedy is all too plain.

We have in the last few weeks focussed, unsurprisingly, on what is for the good of our national society; but now the election is over we must remember that our duties to a national society are secondary to our fundamental obligations as human beings and as Christians to cherish, support and welcome all human life. We must urge our newly-elected leaders to make these values a reality.

Celebration of Marriage

Bishop Séamus will celebrate Mass in St Mary’s Cathedral on Saturday 9 May at 11.00am to
give thanks for the Sacrament of Marriage. All are welcome for what promises to be a wonderful celebration providing affirmation and support for Marriage across the diocese and to the wider North-East community.

General Election 2015

This coming Thursday, 7 May, sees one of the most significant responsibilities most of us have in making a decision for the good of our society. The Bishops of England and Wales, in their recent letter, remind us:

“The Gospel is radical and challenging. It is the saving message of Jesus Christ. It is a way of life. It teaches us to value each person: the vulnerable child inside the womb; the parent struggling with the pressures of family life; the person striving to combat poverty; the teacher inspiring students to seek the truth; the stranger fleeing violence and persecution in their homeland; the prisoner in his cell in search of redemption; the child in a distant land claiming the right to a future; and the frail elderly person needing care and facing the frontier of death.

“As Catholics, we are called to work for a world shaped by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel proclaims the mercy of God and invites us steadfastly to love God and our neighbour. Our relationship with God leads to the desire to build a world in which respect, dignity, equality, justice, and peace are our primary concerns…

“At this General Election we are asked to think about the kind of society we want here at home and abroad.”

Having heard the candidates, may we take time to pray and ponder this week about how best to serve our society by the way we vote. May the Holy Spirit give us the gift of right judgement in casting our votes, and rest upon the counsels of all those who are elected.

The Bishops’ letter is available at the back of the church or on-line at www.catholicnews.org.uk/election15.

Ordinary Synod on the family

Ahead of the forthcoming Ordinary
Synod on the Family to be held in October 2015, Pope Francis has
asked us to reflect with ‘true spiritual discernment’ on the themes
relating to marriage and family life that emerged from the
Extraordinary meeting of Bishops held in Rome in October 2014.

The Bishops of England
and Wales have published a document to help the faithful reflect and
discern on this crucial aspect of Catholic life. This 5-page
document, entitled The Call, The Journey and The Mission, is
available from the front page of our diocesan website
www.rcdhn.org.uk or

It is recommended that
we join together in our parishes to pray together and discuss the
issues that face the family today. Consequently we are all invited to
a meeting in the Parish Room
at 7:30pm on Friday 1st May 2015.

Feedback from this
meeting will be submitted to the Curia so that our Diocesan Summary
can be given by Bishop Séamus to Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Bishop
Peter Doyle who will attend the Synod.

Parliamentary Election Hustings

Durham Churches Together (DCT) is organising hustings for the Parliamentary Election for the City of Durham Constituency. These will be held at Durham Town Hall on Monday 27 April at 7:30 pm. The Dean of Durham Cathedral, Very Rev. Michael Sadgrove, will chair proceedings.

You are encouraged to send in questions for all candidates to the DCT Secretary, Kirsty Thomas, at thomas.kirsty@gmail.com.

Candidates present will be: Roberta Blackman Woods (Labour), Rebecca Coulson (Conservative), Jonathan Elmer (Green Party), Craig Martin (Lib-Dem), John Marshall (Independent)

If you haven’t already done so, please take a copy of the Bishops’ letter to Catholics for the General Election (available at the back of the church), or view information from the Bishops’ Conference on-line at www.catholicnews.org.uk/election15. This may well raise some questions which you would like to put to candidates!

Retreat Day: The Risen Lord and the Community of Disciples

fr. John Farrell OP, Prior Provincial, will be giving a day retreat at St Cuthbert’s on Saturday 25 April on the theme of The Risen Lord and the Community of Disciples. Refreshments will be available from 10:00am, with the day beginning at 10:30am, and finishing by 4:00pm. The programme will include Mass at 12:15pm (which will be the Parish Mass that day), a “bring and share” Lunch and will conclude with Vespers. All are welcome to attend.

This day is particularly recommended to all undertake particular ministries at St Cuthbert’s: music, reading, catechesis etc. It will count as the annual day of recollection which all Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion undertake to participate in.

NB As a result of this retreat day, Mass will be celebrated at the later time of 12:15pm instead of 9:15am; the Mass is for everyone, not just those participating in the retreat day.

Eight Days Later

Caravaggio, The Incredulity of St Thomas (c. 1601-1602)

It is no mere co-incidence that the gospel passage we read on the Second Sunday of Easter – the eighth day of the Easter season – is always that of St Thomas, who did not encounter the Lord when first he rose, but only eight days later (John 20:19-31).

For Christians there is always a link between the first day of the week and the eighth. It’s not really correct to talk of Sunday as a “Christian Sabbath”. Saturday is the Sabbath day, the seventh day; Sunday is the first day of the week. But as Sunday is also the day which saw the Lord rose from the dead, we speak of it as being the first day of the new creation: the day after the Lord rested. The first day of the new creation is then, in a sense, the eighth day of the old creation.

The most intense part of the Easter celebration is also an eight-day festival, an “octave”. Every day in this Octave is Easter Day, and the liturgical celebrations of the octave – with Gloria, sequence and extra alleluias – recognise this. One single 24-hour period is insufficient for the joy of Easter Day.

So Thomas is not late when he meets the Lord on the eighth day: for the eighth day is Easter Day. The slight delay has the benefit of enabling Jesus to demonstrate how real the resurrection is: Thomas can touch him, and recognised him not just as his friend and teacher risen from the dead, but as his Lord and God.

On this Octave Day may we too recognise Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, and believing have life through his name, eternally singing, “Alleluia!”

Tenebrae and Triduum

Holy Week and Easter are times of the year when Catholics use words which we never use at other times of the year, and which perhaps leave us a little bemused if we’re not quite sure what they mean!

The Easter Triduum is the high point of the Church’s year, and consists of a liturgy in three acts over three successive days as we follow Christ through his Passion and Resurrection. It begins with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 7:00pm in which we commemorate Christ’s washing of his disciples’ feet, the institution of the Eucharist and his night of intense prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.

The “second act” of the Triduum is the Solemn Commemoration of the Passion of the Lord at 3:00pm on Good Friday. We recall Christ’s death on the cross, by which the sins of the world are taken away. It is a hugely moving yet stark and solemn liturgy.

The climax of the whole liturgical year comes with the Easter Vigil beginning at 8:30pm on Holy Saturday, a dramatic celebration of Christ’s resurrection with full sensory immersion! The liturgy starts with the blessing of the new fire and the proclamation of the resurrection, continuing with a vigil of readings and psalms, celebration of baptism and confirmation, and first Mass of Easter. Appropriately enough, after the liturgy we celebrate with a joyful Paschal party in the Parish Room!

We warmly encourage those who are able to join us for the celebration of all three parts of the Triduum. The Vigil may be a little late for young children, but is an intensely moving experience for teenagers and adults. It is also much easier to find a seat at the Easter Vigil than at the packed Easter Sunday morning Mass.

A quieter celebration is the office of Tenebrae at 10:00am on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. This is a meditative service of psalms, readings and prayers as we think on Christ’s passion and death. It lasts about 45 minutes, and is followed by an opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance (Confession).

Icon Exhibition: Twelve Northern Saints

Until 13 April, Durham Cathedral is hosting an Exhibition of Icons of twelve of our local Saints. These icons were “written” by amateurs – in prayer and fasting at the Centre for Prayer and Mission, Seaham, part of the Evangelisation Team of the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle. The icons are part of our evangelising outreach, for just as these saints carried the Gospel to all around them and even gave their lives in times of persecution, so we are encouraged to go out to live the Gospel in our times and circumstances. Many visitors praying with the icons would be a great witness to the strength of our faith.

See the Diocesan website for more information, including a “prayer walk” along the Wear.

In the Garden of Gethsemane – a Lenten meditation

Dr Angela Kim Harkins will give a Lenten talk at St Cuthbert’s Church on Saturday 28 March at 10:30am entitled, In the Garden of Gethsemane: The Bodily Experience of Prayer.

Angela is an Honorary Fellow at the Department of Theology and Religion here at Durham, and has been a member of our Parish and Chaplaincy community since coming to Durham eighteen months ago. She also holds a Marie Curie International Incoming Fellowship at the University of Birmingham, where she is undertaking research on emotion, prayer and religious experience at Qumran. Her talk will reflect her research and consists of a Lenten reflection on the Garden of Gethsemane prayer in Matthew 26:36-46. All are welcome.

Deanery Penitential Service

There will be a Lenten Penitential Service for the Durham Deanery at St Patrick’s Church, Langley Moor on Sunday 22 March at 4:30pm. Priests from around the Deanery will be available to hear individual confessions.

Of course, the Sacrament of Penance (Confession) is also available at St Cuthbert’s from 6:30pm on Wednesday evenings during Lent and from 9:45am on Saturday mornings, or by appointment, or on call. There will also be extra opportunities for Confession during Holy Week.

This is an excellent time to bring our sins before the Lord, and prepare to celebrate Easter cleansed and renewed by him.

Lenten Fridays: Vespers, Stations, Film

Each Friday in Lent we are be celebrating Vespers and Stations of the Cross at 6:15pm. Following Stations (c. 7:00pm), we will also show an appropriate film. Do come for some or all of the evening. 

Friday 27 March is the last Friday of Lent before Good Friday; being “Passiontide” we will show Mel Gibson’s powerful (and at times disturbing) film The Passion of the Christ, starring Jim Caviezel as Christ as he endures his last twelve hours. NB not suitable for children.

Visit of Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle

Prominent during Pope Francis’ tour of the Philippines, where he gathered a record crowd of over 6 million people for the celebration of Mass, was the Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle and we are fortunate that he will be visiting St Mary’s Cathedral, Newcastle on Monday 9 March. He will celebrate the 12.05pm Mass (which will be sung), and will speak at an Evening Celebration at 7.00pm. Cardinal Tagle is an inspiring communicator and is well respected for his involvement in many social issues and his work among the poor. Everyone is welcome.

Church Stewarding

The church is open for prayer and
visiting on Thursdays and Fridays after Lauds until 3.30pm and
Saturdays after the 9.15am Mass until 12:00pm. We are looking for
more volunteers to be stewards whilst the church is open. There will
be a new rota starting from 16th March if you have any
mornings or afternoons spare to help out then please contact David
Crookes davidcrookes@talktalk.net
or Ciara in the parish office on 0191 3843442

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