Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Tuesday 5th week of Lent

Canon Michael's reflection for today. 
Readings: https://universalis.com/mass.htm (click on the correct day on the right hand column)

Today we have a reading from the Book of Numbers. A strange book and a strange title, it sounds like a telephone directory. Though there is a great deal in the book about what we would say was numbers (how many were in each of the twelve tribes of Israel etc), there are also some very ancient stories about the wanderings in the wilderness.

Today's first reading is one of those stories, in fact you couldn't make it up. It must be a true story because it turns everything about the Bible upside down. Moses makes a graven image (something which was expressly forbidden in the first commandment) of a bronze serpent. He was commanded to do so by God himself. Now the serpent had always been seen as a symbol of evil yet, here in this story, all who looked upon the serpent were healed. Astonishing!

Jesus says in today's Gospel that when he is "lifted up", a clear reference to his crucifixion, then the world will know the truth. The amazing truth is that though crucifixion had always been seen as proof that you were abandoned by God, that it was a sign of  desolation, it becomes through Faith the greatest sign of all healing. Through the Cross the sins of the world are redeemed.

It is so unexpected. This is how God works. In the book of Numbers a serpent becomes a sign of healing and the Cross, an instrument of execution, becomes the sign of the healing of the whole world.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Monday 5th Week of Lent

Canon Michael's reflection for today. 
Readings: https://universalis.com/mass.htm (click on the correct day on the right hand column)

The Gospel today is of the famous story of the woman found guilty of adultery and threatened with stoning by a mob. Christ says: "let him who is without sin cast the first stone". The woman's life is saved.

We love the gentleness and mercy of God as he tells the woman "to go and sin no more".

Sin is terrible, an offence against God, harming not only ourselves but often others too. There are times when we only acknowledge our sins after having been found out, like the woman in today's Gospel. Is it true that we only learn humility after being humiliated? Well possibly. I only know that God to whom nothing is hidden, who knows every one of our sins, desires only that I come to appreciate his Love and mercy and gentleness and that he wants me to live my life in integrity and "sin no more". To live life to the full and not to live in fear.

Scholars say that this story is not actually part of John's Gospel but a much later interpolation of an old story. Whatever the facts I am glad it's  in the Gospel. It's a brilliant story.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

A story from the Holy Land

About twenty years ago I made my first visit to Bethany and the site of the tomb of Lazarus. It was in January and there were very few visitors at that time in the Holy Land. Bethany is only two miles from Jerusalem on the other side of the Mount of Olives. However, because of the Israeli security wall you can't walk there. The only way is either by taxi or bus which takes a very roundabout route to the village where Lazarus lived. It is now an Arab village called Al Laziriya.

Anyway, my friend Fr Lawrence Jones and I got there. The place was pretty deserted. We found the beautiful Franciscan church and were beginning to find our way to the site of the tomb when an  elderly Arab gentleman volunteered to be our guide. He led us through the church garden naming all the plants as we went along. We met a Franciscan, who looked at us and without saying a word gave us a look which undoubtedly meant we were caught!

The Arab gentleman took us to Lazarus' tomb and then played out the whole scene of his dramatic resurrection. It was brilliant. A tour de force. I wondered how many times he had told the story. he shouted " Lazarus come out", at the door of the grave. For those who have been to Bethany getting down to the tomb is quite a deep descent though well worth it. At the end of our visit we knew we had to give the man a tip. We duly did so. It was not enough. The gentleman said he had sixty four grand children. We had to give some more. Thankfully he was satisfied. I can't read the story of Lazarus without recalling the day Lawrence and I ha a virtuoso performance of the story with a sting in the tale

5th Sunday of Lent: The friendship of Jesus

Readings, Gospel and Homily (Fr Richard) for the 5th Sunday of Lent

Readings: http://www.universalis.com/mass.htm (Check you have the correct date on the right hand column of the universalis page)

Homily: The friendship of Jesus

"If your friends ask you to meet, you should say 'no'."

This was one of the many instructions the Prime Minister gave us on Monday that really hit home. The idea of jumping in the car to meet up with a good friend or go round to their house is currently out of the question. When we’re deprived of something we take for granted, personal contact with our friends, we realise how much we love them, we realise how precious friendship is.

The great English saint of our Diocese, St Aelred of Rievaulx, who wrote the masterpiece “Spiritual Friendship”, wrote:

“No medicine is more valuable, none more efficacious, none better suited to the cure of all our temporal ills than a friend to whom we may turn for consolation in time of trouble, and with whom we may share our happiness in time of joy.”

Jesus also cherished friendship. In today’s Gospel, he travels to Bethany with his disciples who are close by his side. St John throughout his Gospel uses the word philia, the love of friendship, to describe his relationship with the disciples. He’d also made great friends with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. We hear today that Jesus loved them. Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus and the people who saw his emotion said: “See how much he loved him!”

Although the wonders of modern technology mean we’re still able to speak to and even see our friends, it might be the case we don’t meet up with them for weeks, perhaps even months now. And, sadly, as people die of coronavirus and indeed of any other illness at this time, some people will not see their friends again (at least on earth).

But in our isolation, whatever form that currently takes, we know our best friend, Jesus Christ, will be always with us, as long as we call on Him. A good priest friend of mine chose for the words on his ordination card John 15:15, Jesus saying: “I call you friends.” Indeed, Our Lord is very close to us. We know this because of what St Paul tells us in our second reading today. As Christians, our interests our spiritual, “since the Spirit of God has made his home in you.” He tells us that “if Christ is in you then your spirit is life itself because you have been justified…” In other words, by Christ’s Incarnation, Passion, death and Resurrection, He dwells in our hearts. He has breathed his Spirit deep within us to give us life. We know where one Person of the Trinity dwells, there are the other two.

At this time of isolation, we know that Jesus our friend lives among us. This wonderful reality means that, rather than calling this period a time of isolation, we can turn it on its head and think of it rather as a time of solitude, a time of resting with our greatest friend, the Lord.

If we stay faithful to Jesus our friend, he will raise us up like he did his friend Lazarus. As St Paul again tells us today: “he who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies through his Spirit living in you.” Jesus will lift our spirits, bring us joy and peace, and lead us, when Our Father calls us, to the everlasting joys of heaven.

As we today rededicate our country as Our Lady’s Dowry, we call on Mary, Mother of Christ and Mother of us all, to bring us deeper into friendship with her Son, who will console us and raise us up.

Duccio di Buoninsegna's: "The Raising of Lazarus"

A very Happy Sunday! Here is the latest in our series of depictions of the day's Gospel:

Duccio di Buoninsegna (Sienna, c.1260-c.1319), The Raising of Lazarus, 1310-1311, tempera and gold on panel, 43.5 x 46 .4  cm, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth (Texas)[CC]

This painting is a visual storytelling of John’s detailed account of the resurrection of Lazarus. From left to right, we see Christ and his apostles arriving too late at Bethany; Mary, followed by Jewish mourners, falling at His feet; the ever practical Martha questioning the order given by Jesus of opening of the tomb, as the body may already smell, a fact confirmed by the man plugging his nose; the risen Lazarus still bounded with strips of material. Duccio highlights the deeper meaning of this event, a public display of faith in Christ, by giving central stage to Martha who proclaimed her faith in Him before the miracle. 

Duccio also uses his revolutionary talent in portraying emotions by suggesting the distress of the Lord on His face. The genial idea of giving to Lazarus an upright position against the dark of the tomb creates an intense face to face between Christ and his friend whose cheeks are getting rosy. It is indeed a public prefiguration, but just known to Him, of His forthcoming death and resurrection.

At the beginning of the 14th C., Duccio played a capital role in the history of painting by introducing more naturalism and life in the prevailing Byzantine style. This panel was part of the huge double faced altarpiece, a Maesta, now dismantled, that he painted for the cathedral of his home town, Sienna. The panel was certainly the last one on the right of the predella, at the bottom of the altarpiece, close to the altar.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Rededication of England as the Dowry of Mary

Remember tomorrow that we're asked to join our brothers and sisters across the country by rededicating England as the Dowry of Mary. The rededication takes place at 12 Noon and will be led by the Rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, Mgr John Armitage. The rededication can be done at home by making both a "personal promise" and a "communal entrustment".

More information and instructions can be found here: https://www.cbcew.org.uk/home/events/re-dedication-of-england-to-mary/

You can watch the rededication Mass from Walsingham live here: https://www.walsingham.org.uk/live-stream/. It begins at 11.45am.

At 10am, Fr Phil Cunnah will celebrate Mass from our Cathedral, followed by the rededication prayers: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrHHOTloR8TPdwQEC8IlPVw (click the live stream)

The title "Dowry of Mary" goes back to 1381, when on the Feast of Corpus Christi, King Richard III dedicated the country as Mary's Dowry. The title means that England was "set aside" as a gift for Our Lady under her guidance and protection. The rededication, which we've been preparing for these last couple of years, has taken on an extra significance in recent weeks as we ask Mary to protect us from the coronavirus pandemic.

Live stream Masses information page

The Diocese has a webpage of details and information about the Masses available on livestream: https://middlesbrough-diocese.org.uk/streamed-masses-in-our-diocese-2/.


In these days our attention turns particularly to those who may be in need. The 'StoreHouse' food-bank scheme at the Influence Church, Victoria Road, Richmond, is still operating as it is an essential service.

Donations of appropriate food can be placed in the large blue bin outside the Influence Church at any time from Tuesday until Friday, 10am until 4pm. Financial donations can also be made. Cheques can be made payable to 'The Influence Church', marked "Store" on the back. Cash donations can be put through the letter box in an envelope marked "Store".

Saturday of 4th Week of Lent: The justice of Nicodemus

Readings, Gospel and Homily from a Mass celebrated by Fr Richard for Saturday, 4th Week of Lent

Homily: The justice of Nicodemus 

Listen: Click here

I’m always fascinated by the figure of St Nicodemus. In God’s Divine Providence, He chose this Pharisee and prominent member of the Sanhedrin to be the “discreet” disciple of Jesus, the one who helps to ensure a dignified burial of the King of kings after the Crucifixion.

In today’s Gospel we see this upright man refusing to join in with the “crowd” of Pharisees who want rid of Jesus. How easy it is for us to “go along with the consensus”, even if our conscience judges an action to be unjust. It’s easy to stay quiet for fear of being shot down or, even worse, persecuted. But Nicodemus is not afraid to “stick his head above the parapet” and, in a measured way, questions the intent of the chief priests and Pharisees. He reminds them of their responsibility to give someone a fair hearing. He is defending justice – the moral virtue of giving God and man what is owed to them.

St Nicodemus is a wonderful example for law makers and those in positions of authority and influence. No matter what the majority is saying, we’re called to follow Divine Law, to defend the voiceless and defenceless. Imagine how many times, for instance, the great leader of the anti-slave trade movement, William Wilberforce, was shot down and laughed at for defending the rights of the exploited? And yet – it was he who was the good and upright man.

Nicodemus was just because, albeit quietly, he had committed his cause to the Lord (a declaration of the prophet Jeremiah we hear in the last sentence of the first reading). Nicodemus had clearly been moved by Christ’s words to him when he’d gone to visit Our Lord at night earlier in St John’s Gospel. Jesus had said to him, face to face: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” (Jn 3:16)

In hearing and believing those words, we also make our personal dedication to Our Saviour: “I have committed by cause to you.” By this consecration to Christ, we will also promote true justice in the world. 

Friday, March 27, 2020

Friday of the 4th Week of Lent: Hope of life eternal

Homily from an evening Mass celebrated by Fr Richard for the Friday of the 4th Week of Lent

Readings: https://universalis.com/mass.htm or click here and click the page under "Readings at Mass"

Homily: Hope of life eternal

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve often thought to myself: what must this be like for an atheist? We know that only a very small proportion of people who contract coronavirus die but, nevertheless, current events have brought to the fore the reality of our own mortality. They’ve made the words spoken to us on Ash Wednesday ever more a reality: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

For someone who doesn’t believe in eternal life, the thought of death could indeed be quite scary and lead to a great panic. They could quite easily say along with the “godless” portrayed in today’s reading from the Book of Wisdom: “Our life is short and dreary, nor is there any relief when man’s end comes, nor is anyone known who can give release from Hades.”

For us Christians, when the Lord calls us, our death is not the end, but just the beginning. We long to identify with the virtuous portrayed in the reading. If we strive always on the path of virtue - those lasting habits by which we serve each other and come closer to God – then we see our final end is eternal happiness. Our sure hope is that “holiness will be rewarded”.  

The true Christian is not scared of dying because in Jesus Christ, we see everlasting life. We’re called to imitate him in our living of virtue because he is truly God. The people of Jerusalem in today’s Gospel can’t recognise Jesus’ Divinity. They see him just as a man who’s come from a poor family in Nazareth. But Jesus reveals to us that he’s not only fully human, born of Mary, but also fully Divine: He comes from heaven above. He is true God and true man. And as the famous quote from St Athanasius goes: “The Son of God became man so that we might become God.” [St. Athanasius, De inc. 54, 3: PG 25, 192B.]

The liturgy is now pointing us towards the Paschal mysteries – when the Incarnate Word dies and rises again so that we may be able to follow him to the Father’s Kingdom. By our striving for virtue with the help of God’s grace, we can demonstrate to others that life on earth is but a mere preparation for the eternal life to come.

May our witness to Christ lead non-believers to convert to him and to hope in him.

Urbi et Orbi

Urbi et Orbi, Easter Day 2018 (Photo: Fr Richard)
Pope Francis is inviting us to join him at 5pm our time today (Friday, 27th March) for an extraordinary Urbi et Orbi "to the city and to the world" blessing. This apostolic blessing will come live from the loggia at St Peter's, Vatican City. Urbi et Orbi is only ordinarily given on Christmas Day and Easter Day. The Urbi et Orbi will include readings from Scripture, prayer, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the blessing itself, which is received by all those who watch live and carries with it the possibility of a plenary indulgence, that is, a remission of all temporal punishment due to sin.

For more information, see:

The news release from the Diocese: https://middlesbrough-diocese.org.uk/join-pope-francis-for-special-blessing/

Or Vatican News: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-03/pope-universal-prayer-covid-19-streaming-hearing-impaired.html

To watch the Urbi et Orbi with English commentary, go to Vatican Media Live: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJHI8bI0LWg on the Vatican News YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxIsefyl9g9A5SGWA4FvGIA. I assume it was also be live on EWTN available online and at Sky Channel 589.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Harrison Torr R.I.P

Tomorrow's "live stream" Masses at Our Lady of Lourdes and St Peter Chanel, Hull (9.30am) and St Mary's Cathedral, Middlesbrough (10am), will be for the repose of the soul of Harri Torr. 

Harri, aged 15, passed away last night after a brave battle with cancer. He was a parishioner of St Bede's in Hull, where Canon John Loughlin (Canon Michael's brother) is parish priest. Harri went on the Diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes last year and will be known to those of you who were there also. He had also featured recently on the TV programmes Make a Wish and Love Your Garden. He was a very impressive and inspiring young man.

There is a short tribute to him on the St Mary's College, Hull, website here.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, 
and let perpetual light shine upon him, 
may he rest in peace. Amen.

Live streaming of Masses

There are now a plethora of options to see live streams of Masses.

There is a daily Mass from our Cathedral at 10am each day. Please click here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrHHOTloR8TPdwQEC8IlPVw

Some from outside the Diocese include:

Thursday, 4th Week of Lent: The conviction of belief

Reading, Gospel and homily from an evening Mass celebrated by Fr Richard on the Thursday of the 4th Week of Lent. The Mass was celebrated for the Intentions of NHS workers

Homily: The conviction of belief

Faith is perhaps tested none more so than at difficult, challenging moments. At this time when there’s no Mass in public and churches are closed, it might be a temptation to think – has God abandoned us? Where is He now? Do I really believe in Him amidst this crisis in the world?

But we must not be like the Israelites in our First Reading who turned away from God and the Jews in today’s Gospel who refuse to believe in Jesus. Instead, we must hold firm to our faith in Him. We believe that God is Love and that He has come to save us precisely because of Jesus’ words and actions. Our Lord cured the sick, the blind, and the lame; He cast out devils; he has raised men from the dead; he himself died and rose again for us. Jesus said: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6). He declared Himself as the Son of Man to the blind beggar as we heard on Sunday. He said: “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). He told Pilate: “Yes, I am a king” (John 18:37).

We believe, then, that Jesus is God-made-man, precisely because we believe in the testimony of the Son of God Himself. This act of belief is not something we can be convinced about one day and not the next, when things get tough. But if we truly believe in Christ and His power to protect and save us, our conviction is both permanent and certain; our faith will then sustain us in all we do.

Today, I invite you to remind yourself of your baptism – that moment when you, or your parents and godparents on your behalf, declared before God: yes, Lord I believe. I also invite you to think back to the first time you remember consciously experiencing the power of God in your life. May these moments sustain us in our conviction of faith that we may be brought, one day, to the everlasting joys of heaven.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Mass for the Annunciation: Canon Michael's Homily

Here is a summary of Canon Michael's homily for the Solemnity of the Annunciation today


Today is a joyful day as we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation. The Angel Gabriel brought the greatest of news to Our Blessed Lady - that she was chosen to be the Mother of the Saviour of the world. We all need Good News: this is true especially for us now at this time of the coronavirus pandemic when many are anxious.

Because of Our Lady's "yes" to Saint Gabriel, the Good News is, as Isaiah prophesied, that God-is with-us. He is one with us, he shares our humanity, our fears, our joys, our anxieties, and our hopes. Our God is not a distant, removed God but One who took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Today we rejoice in the Good News of the Incarnation: that Jesus is Emmanuel, God-with-us.

Ludovico Carracci's: The Annunciation

One of our parishioners from Richmond has very kindly offered to contribute wonderful works of art, along with a short commentary, on particular days of the liturgical calander. These will no doubt help us enjoy the day and enter into the mysteries of our faith. The first, for the great Solemnity of the Annunciation, is given below.

Ludovico Carracci (Bologna 1555-Bologna 1619), The Annunciation, 1584, 182,5 x 221 cm, Bologna, Pinacoteca Nazionale 

Mary is reading a prayer book, kneeling in front of a lectern in the intimacy of her bedroom. Having gently entered the room, the Angel Gabriel offers her a lily, symbol of her purity. He then delivers God’s message, in an explicative gesture that reveals who sent him, our Father who is in heaven. Mary’s arms crossed on her chest show that she has just said: “Here I am, The Lord’s servant, let it happen to me as you have said." Therefore the Holy Spirit, represented as always by a dove, is flying through the window “to come upon her”. The white sheet in her stitching basket foreshadows Christ’s Shroud. 

The first characteristic of this painting is its sheer simplicity and the lack of ornamentation. Lodovico Carraci is a leading painter of the Catholic Reformation. From his native town of Bologna, visible through the window in the painting, he aims at helping his contemporaries, and us too, to understand Mary’s extraordinary trust in God. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Walsingham livestream

A very happy Solemnity of the Annunciation!

It's a fitting day to mention another great resource: the 24hr livestream from the Catholic National Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. The Norfolk village is of course where Our Lady appeared to Richeldis de Faverches in 1061, asking her to build a replica of the House of the Annunciation in Nazareth. It's also the centre of attention this week as we prepare to each make an act of Rededicating England as the Dowry of Mary on Sunday.

There is a full schedule of Masses, devotions, and talks on the livestream each and every day. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament continues throughout the night. For the schedule and the livestream itself, visit: https://www.walsingham.org.uk/live-stream/.

Tuesday, 4th Week of Lent: Reading, Gospel, Homily

Readings, Gospel, and Homily from the Mass Father Richard celebrated today

Audio: Click here

Homily: Do not fear

“God is for us a refuge and strength, a helper close at hand, in time of distress, so we shall not fear though the earth should rock, though the mountains fall into the depths of the sea.”

Isn’t it amazing how the scriptures the Church gives us on a particular day are exactly what we need to hear? We have now an acceleration of the spread of coronavirus. Last night the Prime Minister’s instructed us to stay at home for all but essential reasons. It really does appear as though the earth is rocking, a reality that brings with it the temptation to immediately panic. And yet the Psalmist tells us today: God is with us in times of distress; “do not fear though the earth should rock.”

Yes, our Government has issued clear commands to not go out unless for certain reasons, but so too our God gives us a clear command “do not fear”. Yes, this indeed a command of God. If you’re panicking about the future, don’t. God insists: “do not fear, be not afraid.” Why? Because as the response to the Psalm says: “The Lord of hosts is with us: the God of Jacob is our stronghold.” Even though we’re not able to go to God’s House for the time being, the Lord is very much with us as we invite Him into our hearts this day. He never abandons his people. He’s always the rock on which we build and sustain our whole lives. He has opened for us the way to heaven, He leads us by the hand to life eternal.

We’re already seeing the fruits of this rejection of fear. The Italian priest Father Giuseppe Berardelli had no fear when he selflessly gave up his ventilator for a younger man. Our NHS staff and other key workers are putting any fear they have aside in their heroic treatment and care for people on the front line of this pandemic. These fruits of the rejection of fear are like those fruits which sprang up from the river that flowed from the Temple in our First Reading: flowing water that symbolises God’s love and grace.

So, the overwhelming message today is: do not fear, but go to the endless saving stream of Faith in Christ we received at the moment of our baptism, and the Lord of hosts will always be with us.

In the words of St John Paul II: “Do not be afraid, open wide the doors to Christ.” [John Paul II, Homily for the Inauguration of His Pontificate, Oct 22, 1978]

Monday, March 23, 2020

Readings, Gospel and Homily - Monday, 4th Week of Lent

The reading, Gospel and Homily from Mass celebrated by Father Richard this evening

Homily: Confident trust in the Lord

The healing of the court official’s son teaches us to trust in the Lord always. Some in Jesus’ home region of Galilee had rejected him as a prophet. But amid this unbelief, there were people who did believe in Him – there was the steadfast faith of the royal official.

The man demonstrates the confidence we should have in the Lord to hear and answer our pleas. He asks Jesus: “Sir, come down before my child dies.” This request made of the Lord demonstrates the official’s confidence in Him on two levels. Firstly, that Jesus has the power to heal his son; and secondly the immense conviction in Jesus’ willingness and longing to restore him to health. At the drop of a hat, the court official believes immediately what Jesus tells him: “Go home, your son will live.” Without hesitation, he does what Jesus tells him, quietly trusting that all will be well.

It’s that same steadfast and unwavering trust in the Lord that we need at this time. When we daily plead with the Lord to end this pestilence, to heal the sick, to calm the anxious, to comfort the lonely, we must believe confidently that the Lord will answer and act on our prayers, in accordance with his Divine Wisdom.

God already knows our needs. Our prayer of petition is our act of faith in Him. It’s our demonstration of confidence that He will hear and restore us. May we follow the example of the court official as we make our humble petitions this night, confident in God’s loving mercy and consolation.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Laetare Sunday: Readings, Gospel and Homily

Here are the readings, Gospel and Homily from an evening Mass celebrated by Father Richard today - Laetare Sunday

To listen, click here

“Rejoice” is the first word of today’s Mass. The Introit begins: “Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her.” Listening to this, you might be saying: “Father, are you having a laugh?!” Rejoicing is perhaps the last thing that springs to mind at the moment as we worry about the coming weeks. But it’s precisely this sense of Christian joy that will sustain us in these testing times.

In our second reading, St Paul speaks of darkness and light. We do have to acknowledge the darkness we experience at the moment: uncertainty, loneliness, concern for our vulnerable family and friends, financial worries. We particularly have to look out for our neighbour’s mental health as well as their physical health at this time. St Paul reminds us, though, that “we must be like children of light, for the effects of the light are seen in complete goodness and right living and truth.”

“Living as children of the light” – that’s what we’re called to do amid the darkness. The light that shines on us, of course, is the light that radiates from the Person of Jesus Christ who tells us in the Gospel: “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” We know that Jesus is in our midst today and that his light of hope shines out. We know he is acting in the world and bringing people his healing touch.

Trusting in him, we can say together with the Psalmist: “The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” We hear further: “Near restful waters he leads me, to revive my drooping spirit.” Yes, the Lord offers us the comfort and healing of his saving waters.

By his saving action, Jesus sends the blind man in the Gospel to the Pool of Siloam. By bathing in this water, the beggar is healed of his physical blindness. But we discover he heals the man of his spiritual blindness too. Jesus opens up that man’s soul so that he’s able to receive the gift of faith in Christ. Although the beggar doesn’t at first know fully who his healer is, he testifies to Jesus in front of the Pharisees. Jesus then rewards his openness to faith by revealing that he is the Christ - Son of Man. The man who once walked in darkness has been led by Christ into the “radiance of faith”, as the Preface for this Mass says.

Today, too, Jesus the Divine Physician heals those whom he chooses of their physical illnesses by His Divine Will. As well as healing the body, Jesus also heals and strengthens our souls too. If we stay close to Him in these challenging times, he will lift us out of any darkness we experience into His marvellous light that will bring us joy.

Being unable to come to Sunday Mass and receive the Lord in the Eucharist will be heart-breaking for you - I know. It must be very difficult to have faithfully come to Sunday Mass all your life and then all of a sudden not be able to.

These times, then, call for us to plunge ever deeper into the waters of our Catholic faith. We need to constantly go back to our Baptism when we were washed clean in water and the Holy Spirit, when we made our baptismal promises to believe in God, the Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints, the Forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. We need to plunge ever deeper into our spiritual life, to dedicate ourselves more and more at home to quality time with the Lord in contemplation and meditation on the Scriptures.

If we grow in faith and love of the Lord in these difficult days, then he will continue to heal us and bring us deep joy. In the words of Saint Paul: “Rejoice in the Lord always; I say it again, rejoice!” (Phil 4:4).

Appeal for Volunteers - Quaker Lane Surgery, Richmond

The Quaker Lane Surgery is appealing for 20-30 volunteers to help with a phone survey of vulnerable patients in the next two to three weeks.

The appeal has been sent to us by Richmond Town Councillor for the Richmond West Ward, Ian Woods.

Letters are to be sent out by the surgery to people in the "vulnerable" categories with regard to Covid-19 and volunteers are required to follow up the letters with a phone call to identify any support patients need.

Volunteers must be competent, have a good telephone manner, and have the ability to hold a telephone conversation with someone who may be anxious. Ideally, volunteers will have previous medical experience but this isn't essential.

Cllr Woods is looking to put a list together as early as tomorrow (23rd March).

His contact details are:
07596 048258
01748 824434

Light a candle this evening

The ecumenical network 'Churches Together in England' has issued a national call to prayer in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

They ask to us to light a candle in the windows of our homes at 7pm this evening (Sunday, 22nd March) "as a visible symbol of the light of life, Jesus Christ, our source and hope in prayer." Let's join this call this evening to unite in prayer.

The Churches Together statement also says: "Alongside your prayers, take the opportunity to telephone or email someone who is isolated, buy some additional food for your local foodbank, or offer to deliver shopping for an elderly neighbour. We may not be able to touch physically, but we can make connections in so many other ways."

Read the Churches Together news release here in full.

Leyburn/Ulshaw Bridge Lenten Goma Project

Organisers of the Lenten Goma project appeal at Ss Peter & Paul/Ss Simon and Jude have announced details of how you can donate given current events.

The appeal raises funds for the Bernadine Sisters who run a school for children in Goma. Parishioners have been invited to pay £18 for a desk for one child at the school, or make a donation to the appeal either at Church or by putting coins into a Smartie Tube.

Donations can now be made by cheque, made payable to "TOBS Hyning" (this stands for the "Trustees of the Bernadine Sisters). Please send these to:

Liz Field
61 Brentwood,
DL8 5HW.
Tel: 01969 624791

If the donation is to pay for a desk, please include a note to explain this inside the envelope. Alternatively, you can hang on to the Smartie tube filled with coins until this current situation passes.

Many thanks to all those involved in organising the appeal.

Further Mass live stream links

Happy Laetare Sunday! The Diocesan website has a new page of all the links and times to Masses being streamed live: https://middlesbrough-diocese.org.uk/streamed-masses-in-our-diocese/.

At Mary's Cathedral will now being streaming Mass live each day, this morning at 10am.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Readings, Gospel and Homily from today's Mass

Here is the text of Fr Richard's homily for the Saturday of the 4th Week of Lent, along with an audio recording of the readings and homily at the Mass he celebrated today:

 Homily: Living the joy of Lent by humility

Perhaps we’re not inclined to think of Lent as a joyful season, especially amid this worrying period we live in. But the first word of the collect for today’s Mass is the word “rejoice”. “Rejoicing in this annual celebration of our Lenten observance, we pray, O Lord, that with our hearts set on the paschal mysteries, we may be gladdened by their full effects.”

As we approach Laetare Sunday, then, the liturgy is beginning to point us towards the events of Holy Week and Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead. Although it looks like we’ll not be able to celebrate the Paschal mysteries together liturgically in Church this year, we will still meditate deeply on the Passion, death and Resurrection of Christ in our homes, we will welcome the Risen Lord into our hearts in a few weeks’ time. The Prophet Hosea today assures us: that the Lord will come “is as certain as the dawn”. These words bring us great comfort and hope – yes the Lord will come in glory, in fact, he is already here in our midst.

And so we continue to prepare ourselves for the saving mysteries of our Redemption. The Gospel reminds us of the disposition we should take during this Holy Season: humility. Not the false humility demonstrated by the boastfulness of the Pharisee, but the true humility of the tax collector: “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” To recognise the greatness of God, to acknowledge our need for His mercy and forgiveness, to allow Him to purify our hearts – these are the preparations we can make for what remains of Lent.

The Church teaches us that humility is the foundation of prayer. Only with humble and contrite hearts are we able to grow in friendship with God. Remember also, although we can’t celebrate Mass and liturgies together at the moment, Canon Michael and I can still hear your confessions upon request, of course with appropriate distancing. The Sacrament of Reconciliation helps us to grow in humility – the modest estimate of ourselves that makes us look towards the Lord in trust and joy.

“Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.” In humility, may we look forward to the Paschal Mysteries with joy.

Newsletters for both Richmond/Wycliffe & Leyburn/Ulshaw Bridge

Available shortly on the parish website: https://www.stjosephsfx.co.uk/

Daily readings and prayers

We are encouraged to pray and reflect on the daily readings for Mass at home and also to join in with all or parts of the Divine Office of the Church. There are several places online where these can be found.
  • The popular Magnificat monthly publication has announced that their content is now available for free online, both on their webpage and their app:  https://us.magnificat.net/free
  •  Universalis is a service providing the whole of the Divine Office, Readings for Mass, the Order of the Mass, and other prayers and devotions. Content for the current week is available on their website (https://universalis.com/) and the whole of their content is available on their app (a one-off payment of around £10). You can search for the app on your Apple or Play Store.

What is a spiritual communion and how do I make one?

 Members of the faithful are being encouraged to make a spiritual communion at home in these days when Mass isn't being celebrated publicly. Making this act of spiritual communion unites you in prayer to the Masses being celebrated by priests.

Making a spiritual communion is a traditional practice recommended by saints throughout the ages. The Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, described Spiritual Communion as “an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the Holy Sacrament and a loving embrace as though we had already received Him."

The CurĂ© d'Ars, St Jean-Marie Vianney, said: “If we are deprived of Sacramental Communion, let us replace it, as far as we can, by spiritual communion, which we can make every moment; for we ought to have always a burning desire to receive the good God."

The traditional prayer of spiritual communion is that written by Saint Alphonsus Liguori. You can pray this either on your own or collectively with family and friends.

My Jesus,
I believe that You
are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things,
and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment
receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You.

St Alphonsus Liguori

Friday, March 20, 2020

Live streams of Masses

Although we don't currently have the facility to "live stream" Masses, there are many opportunities to watch Mass live on the internet. Here are just a few of them:
In the Middlesbrough Diocese:

Cessation of public liturgies

Logo of Catholic Bishops' Conference

By now, you are probably aware that the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have announced the cessation of public liturgies in all churches until further notice due to measures to curtail the coronavirus outbreak. They have dispensed all members of the faithful of their Sunday obligation to attend Mass. The measures come into effect this evening (March 20). This is obviously a desperately sad situation as there will be no public celebration of the Mass in any of the four churches until the lifting of restrictions.

The last public act of worship across our churches is Stations of the Cross at 7pm this evening at St Joseph and St Francis Xavier's, Richmond.

As ever, St Joseph's will remain open throughout each and every day for private prayer in the presence of the Most Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle.

Canon Michael and Father Richard will be celebrating Mass, albeit privately, each and every day and will be remembering all parishioners particularly in their prayers. The Church invites you to make a spiritual communion with us from home. Details on how to do this will follow shortly.

We intend this blog to be a way to keep in contact with you, to post information, spiritual and Catechetical resources, homilies and details on how to watch Masses live on the internet. 

May God bless you abundantly and protect you and your families in these days. May we go forward in joyful hope and trust in the Lord.

Canon Michael and Father Richard

(posted by Fr Richard)

Bishops of England and Wales Documents (https://www.cbcew.org.uk/)

Public Acts of Worship in Catholic Church in England and Wales - Covid-19: https://bit.ly/2wpmx3y

Liturgical advice in light of the Covid-19 pandemic: https://bit.ly/2wnUTUs

Prayers when Mass cannot be celebrated publicly: https://bit.ly/2J99eH3

From Bishop Terence Patrick Drainey

Pastoral Letter: https://bit.ly/3djyYi7

Liturgical Advice additions by Bishop Terry: https://bit.ly/2Ui3csQ

Thursday, March 19, 2020


Welcome to the new Dales Mission blog. More posts to follow shortly.