Fourth Sunday of Lent – 11th March 2018

We continue to explore the symbols of the Icon of the Christ of San Damiano, now hanging in our three churches…

By studying the eyes of Jesus in the icon we see they are wide open, showing Jesus to be the Living One. He said “Do not be afraid…. I am the first and the last, the Living One. I was dead but now I live forever and ever.” We can also notice that the eyes of Jesus are very large, disproportionately so. This is a way of saying that he is the “Seeing One.” Jesus wants to share with us his vision of the Father, As He says in St. John’s gospel, “Who sees me, sees the Father.” St. John make it even clearer, “All we know is, that when all is revealed we shall see him as he really is.”  We might ask the question, “Why are the eyes of Jesus focused between heaven and earth?” Because, as our mediator his glance needs to be directed half way between us on earth and heaven. Also we need to know that the eyes of Jesus also see us. He is the Shepherd who “knows his sheep and calls them each by name.”

The wounds in the hands, feet and side of Jesus have become fountains that flow abundantly with the Blood of the Lamb of God. If we look at the wounds on the nailed hands, we can see opposite each hand an angel, their hands pointing towards Jesus’s constant bleeding hands. Other angels under the arms of Jesus express their astonishment before the spectacle of the blood shed by the One Son of God. St. Peter writes, “Even the angels long to catch a glimpse of these things,” the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would come after them. If you look at the wound in the right side of Jesus; according to specialists who have studied the Shroud of Turin, it would have been necessary for the lance to have pierced the right side in order for the blood and water to have flowed from the heart. The prophet Ezekiel in speaking of the temple, said twice, that the stream flowed from the right side of the temple. This temple was a symbol of the Body of Christ which is the site of the new spiritual worship. As to the blood of Jesus, St. Paul explains, “Christ has entered the sanctuary once and for all, taking with him not the blood of goats and bull calves, but his own blood, having won eternal redemption for us. How much more effectively the blood of Christ who offered himself as the perfect sacrifice to God through the eternal spirit, can purify our inner self from dead actions so that we do our service to the living God.

Michael Hargreaves

Gift of Books – Thorneyholme

Thorneyholme Primary School is a collection point for ‘Gift of Books’, a unique campaign in Greater Manchester.  The aim is to reduce book poverty for the region’s most disadvantaged children. The ‘Gift of Books’ campaign is calling on your spirit of generosity and asking you to donate a favourite childhood book—complete with a printed note explaining why you want to share it (available from school or online –  This in turn will be gifted to one of the 40,000 children in Greater Manchester who have no books of their own.  To help with this, drop a book off at the collection point at school, from now until 31st May.


Third Sunday of Lent – 4th March 2018

The San Damiano Crucifix 

The picture of the San Damiano crucifix (pictured above) that has been introduced to our churches is a copy of the cross before which St. Francis of Assisi was praying when he received the commission from the Lord to rebuild the Church. It is a fitting icon for us to meditate on as we follow the Hope in the Future programme.

We say “read” an icon, because each particular detail of an icon is something to understand and not only a thing to look at as in a common picture. Therefore, we look at a picture and we read an icon. So it is with the icon of the crucified Christ that we see now displayed in our Churches.

Even theologians can find great pleasure in reading the immense and profound messages within this icon. In the large figure of Jesus, we can see the Primacy of Christ. His garment identifies him as a High Priest of the New Covenant interceding for us in heaven.

For us to spend time, on this page exploring the meaning of all the symbols we see in the icon, just to mention a few: the Seashells, the Crown of Glory, the Frame, the Veil, the Centurions, the Rock and the Rooster, we would run out of space in this Newsletter.

So, in the newsletter over the coming weeks we shall explore in greater detail each of the symbols and their meaning, so that the spirit of light can enlighten our hearts and enable us to appreciate and understand the profound teaching contained in this icon.

This icon, is often referred to as an Icon of Hope, for we see the Risen Jesus, victorious over death and evil. The black background represents evil and emphasises Christ’s victory over evil. The Virgin Mary smiles at John. Jesus shown ascending into heaven (at the top) is also smiling. All the characters are shown in a state of joy.

The border of the icon is formed of a number of shells. Among the ancients the seashell was a symbol of the beauty and eternity of heaven, because of its beauty and endurance. So, this border of seashells shows us that the icon is destined by its very nature to reveal a heavenly mystery. However, the border is not fully complete. It is not closed at the base but a space has been left free to allow for an entry. (For us when our time is right.) Right at the opening we see some characters that might be believers, they are already in heaven, possibly us in the future.  Two of the characters are easily discernible; the others probably have been erased by the kisses of the faithful venerating the icon.

Michael Hargreaves

An interactive guide to the San Damiano Crucifix; click here…

Second Sunday of Lent – 25th February 2018

Dear Parishioners,

Pope Francis has chosen Dublin to host the largest international gathering of families in the world. The World Meeting of Families will take place this summer from 21st to 26th August.

Bishop John wishes to invite people from our Diocese to accompany him to take part in the gathering at which, it is anticipated, Pope Francis will be present. Travelling by luxury coach, with six nights dinner, bed and breakfast in the 4* Plaza Hotel, the trip included attendance at the three day congress and tickets for the Festival of Families and the Final Mass which, it is expected, Pope Francis will celebrate. This may be of interest to families, married couples or parishioners involved in marriage preparation and support. The cost is £690 per person, £500 for children 4-12. A single room supplement is payable.

Each parish of the Deanery is invited to select one family who are willing to attend and on their return report to Parishes or Deanery. Each of the selected families will be entered into a draw and the winning family or couple will be part-funded by the Deanery.

Individuals are quite welcome to investigate travelling to Dublin independently for further details please see me or go to

A National Eucharistic Convention will be held in Liverpool from Friday 7th to Sunday 9th September. Friday is a Symposium Day with lectures or presentations on the Eucharist in Scripture, and in the teaching and the life of the Church. The day concludes with Mass in the Cathedral.

Saturday’s events begin with Mass in the Cathedral followed by a day of events in the ACC Liverpool Echo Arena, ending with Exposition, Benediction and Vespers of Corpus Christi.

Sunday begins with 2 Solemn Masses in the Cathedral followed by an Outdoor Eucharistic Procession and finishing with Benediction.

The cost for the Friday and Saturday events is £40 per person per day. On Friday numbers are not restricted but on Saturday there may be only four participants from each Parish. Sunday is free and numbers are not restricted.

I have copies of the programmes, so if you are in any way interested, please ask for one. The deanery has 97 places available.

Fr John

First Sunday of Lent – 18 February 2018


Our newly launched Laudato Si group (formed to promote Pope Francis’ concern for the poor and for the earth (our common home) has decided to challenge the parish to earn CAFOD’s Live Simply Award. This will encourage us to care for the planet and work for a fair sharing of the planet’s resources among all people.  It will also link in with the many activities already taking place in the parish: the Hope in the Future programme, the work of the SVP, the Food Bank, the refugee support initiatives, work on behalf of the unborn, the threats to introduce euthanasia and the support of victims of human trafficking to mention only some.

CAFOD’s focus for Lent this year is on children suffering from hunger and malnutrition. Next week Lent Family Fast Day, will concentrate on helping families, particularly in Zimbabwe, ensure that their children grow up healthily and enjoy their childhoods. Every pound raised during Lent will be matched by the UK Government!

As a CAFOD trustee, Bishop John has travelled to places where he has seen the people who live from what they find on piles of rubbish. Speaking on Laudato Si last September, he asked that we See, Judge and Act.  We must SEE what is happening in the world, JUDGE where it is wrong and then ACT. In 2012 the UK wasted 7 million tons of food whilst 1.2 billion people worldwide went to bed hungry. We must ACT by changing our attitude to the food we buy and the way we spend our money.  It is estimated that 30% of the food on our plate goes into the bin.

World hunger will only be eradicated if we take action both at home and overseas.

This Sunday CAFOD distributes Family Fast Day envelopes.  This year we ask that you keep your envelope throughout Lent and each time you resist a treat or otherwise abstain or sacrifice put the money you save in the envelope and then return the envelope on Easter Sunday.

This Lent, try to live simply so that others may simply live — and also help save the planet!.

Laudato Si and CAFOD groups

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 11 February 2018

Dear Parishioners,

In Lent we are asked to prepare for Easter by prayer and sacrifice.  If you haven’t decided yet what you will do for Lent then please

consider one of the following (or more than one!).

*Give God some silent attention each day.

*Buy (£1) the ‘Walk With Me’ booklet which will help you pray and reflect each day of Lent.

*Join the Stations of the cross in Clitheroe at 7.30pm on Fridays and in Sabden at 7.30pm on Tuesdays.

*Attend the three Hope in the Future Parish meetings

*Spend a little time each day reading the Bible in the quiet of your home.

*Attend daily Mass (details weekly in the newsletter)

*Come to Exposition on Saturday mornings between 11am and 12noon

*Pay a visit to the church which is open daily during daylight hours.

*Encourage someone who has been away from mass to return to practice and accompany them to church.

*Recite the Rosary at home or join the weekday recitation in church at 9.30am.

*Visit someone in need of help or friendship or perhaps an elderly relative you haven’t visited for a while?

*Make up a longstanding quarrel.

*Help to clean the church on Monday mornings at 9.30

*Give up a favourite treat like sweets, drink, watching too much TV or cigarettes.

*Keep ‘Family Fast day’ on Friday

*Every Friday give up eating meat.

*Make a clean sweep. Go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession), available Saturdays in Clitheroe from 11 to 11.45

*Attend the series of ecumenical Lenten talks on Saturday mornings in the Hall at 11am (Coffee from 10.30)

*Attend the Deanery Stations Mass  on Wednesday 7th March at 7.30pm in St Joseph’s Blackburn.

*Think before you take your car.  Walk in town and fight Global Warming.

Wishing you a fruitful Lent.

Fr John



4th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 28 January 2018


Caritas Diocese of Salford is the official charity that co-ordinates Social Work within the diocese. Its vision is that the lives of all people should be free from poverty, disadvantage and discrimination. It helps the most vulnerable children, young people and adults in our communities to transform their lives and fulfil their potential. It raises awareness on human trafficking and campaigns for justice.  It welcomes the stranger and visits the housebound.  It works in schools and supports young mothers and babies.  Four young parishioners from Sabden raised £100 towards St Augustine’s High School total of around £800 to decorate the Caritas Young Parents Home in Blackburn.

Last year this parish raised £793 for Caritas’s Refugee Response, out of a total of £37,238, this went directly to the ground-breaking work across the Diocese to welcome refugees and asylum seekers.  From almost zero activity just two years ago, Caritas has set up Refugee and Asylum Centre Drop-Ins in Haslingden and Wythenshawe to provide casework support and a welcome face to those escaping war or persecution.  They have provided Volunteer-led English lessons; worked with Revive in Manchester to arrange days out in our parish communities in the Ribble Valley and Irlam; and in October they launched the Refugee Come Dine with Me parish initiative, after a pilot involving many of our parishioners.  Caritas has continued to pioneer the Refugee Community Sponsorship Programme, taking the Canadian model, where a community group welcomes a Refugee Family; from meeting them at the airport, to finding local accommodation, helping with schools, medical registration and providing friendship.  From the original pilot at St Monica’s, Flixton another nine parishes have followed suit and Caritas worker Sean Ryan received an MBE in the New Year’s honours list as a recognition of his leadership and coordination of his leading-edge work with refugees.

Caritas offers emergency accommodation to the destitute, and supporters are campaigning for individual asylum seekers, even in some instances housing them in their own homes! They continue to respond to poverty and social injustice in our parishes in whatever form it might take.  This year’s second collection will enable us to reach out with compassion to those greatest in need.

To learn more, go to or contact the parish’s Caritas Representative, Anthony Brown on 01200 422811.

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – 21 January 2018

Dear Parishioners,

The Maintenance committee met on Tuesday to review recent projects, ongoing work and urgently required maintenance.

Major completed projects include the external repair and redecorating of SMSJ’s church, presbytery and social centre. Inside the church the loop and audio system have been improved by relaying wires and introducing four auxiliary speakers.

The total refurbishment of the porch/sacristy in Sabden is nearing completion. A steel H beam replaced the main roof support which had rotted, the plaster and cement were hacked off the walls, an area of dry rot was eliminated, the window replaced and floor, walls and ceiling were insulated to warm the coldest room in Sabden! The outside steps have also been replaced.

Major redevelopments begin in Dunsop this week to extend the extremely cramped sacristy and provide storage space for the church by incorporating a back room from the presbytery. The house will be divided from the church before a total refurbishment will make it an attractive rental in the property market. The income will eventually repay the parish for the budgeted cost of £66,000 and then provide financial security for St Hubert’s Church which as you are aware is now listed at grade II. A new toilet will be introduced next to the Church.

From Monday 26th February to 9th March work will be carried out in the porch of St Michael and John’s. During this period, entrance to the church will be by the side door, though for Sunday Masses on 3rd & 4th of March we may have to lay some temporary flooring.  As many of you may be aware, the heavy oak church doors are difficult to open, not because of the weight of the doors but because the floor has risen. This is the result of the iron tray holding the door mat rusting and lifting the floor tiles. The iron will be replaced by stainless steel and the tiles will be relaid.

Two smaller jobs in Clitheroe will be an extension of the CCTV surveillance. In the Social Centre the doors between the top bar (the School Room) and the Hall (the Assembly Hall) will be sound proofed.

So, enough to be getting on with!

Fr John