Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Weekly Update from CCM

Dear Students,

Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ!  I hope you all had a wonderful three-day weekend and you are all back in Cullowhee now, well rested and ready for your classes.  To help you to stay rooted in your faith and to find rest in God during the week, we have several opportunities for you to participate in CCM activities.  

I want to begin by encouraging everyone to participate in one of our small groups.  As I said on Sunday, small groups are very good, low-key ways to engage the Scriptures, student-to-student, and to foster not only your relationship with God, but your relationships with fellow students.  It can be hard to get to know everyone at our larger gatherings.  Small groups generally have anywhere from 3 to 12 students participating, so it is much easier to build relationships; and solid relationships with fellow Christians are going to be a real help in sustaining your faith through college.  We have three small groups that meet currently each week on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Please give one a try - there is no commitment to come each week.  And feel free to bring a friend you think might benefit.

Here is this week's schedule:

Adoration: 12:00 noon.  Come spend 30 minutes of quiet, quality time before the Blessed Sacrament.  If you can't make it for all 30 minutes, even a few minutes is worthwhile!

Small Group: 6:30-7:30pm.  Our Tuesday small group meets in the Lobby area of Balsam.  

Lector Meeting: 5:30pm.  Anyone who plans to be on our lector schedule for Mass this semester (or who would like to be), please meet in the chapel at 5:30.  If you can't make it, please email me to schedule another time.

Vespers; 6:00pm.  We will be offering Vesper (Evening Prayer) service in the chapel each Wednesday.  If you have never prayed Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours before, don't worry.  We'll walk you through it.  

Supper @ the Center: 6:30-8:30pm.  This week, Bekka and Mairenn are cooking for us (thanks!), and Alex Bogart is leading up our program, which will be on "Faithful Citizenship."  There are a series of political debates scheduled on campus during September and October.  What role should our faith have in shaping our approach to politics?  

Adoration: Noon - 12:30.  Thirty minutes of quiet prayer with Jesus!

Small Group: 5:30-6:30pm.  Our Thursday small group meets on the UC Balcony.  If it is raining, please gather in the sitting area inside the balcony doors on the second floor.  

Choir Practice:  6:30-7:30pm, in the chapel.  If you are interested in singing in our student choir, please contact Joseph Coca at acksno@live.com.  

Parking Fundraiser: Noon-3:00pm.  This Saturday is our first home football game of the semester.  One of the important ways we raise money to fund our CCM activities is by event parking for home games.  We need at least two students signed up to work two to three hours before each home game (once the game has started, or the lot is full, you are free to go).  To sign up, please email me, or put your name on the sign up sheet on our fridge (like any family, we keep our important papers on the fridge in the kitchen).  

Altar Server Training: 3:00pm.  Anyone wishing to be on our server schedule for this semester please meet with Father Voitus in our chapel for instruction.  If you've never been an altar server before, our small chapel is a great place to learn!

Rosary/Confession: 3:30pm.  Please gather early before Mass to pray the Rosary with us.  Father is also available to hear Confessions at this time.

Mass: 4:00pm.  Until the schedules for altar servers, lectors, and EMHCs are published, I still need volunteers for these duties.  Please email me if you can volunteer for this Sunday.

Credo: 5:15 - 6:30pm.  As so many of our regulars were out of town this past Sunday we did not have a formal Credo session last week.  So this week we will pick up where we left off, at the beginning of our exploration of the Creed, with "I believe."  What is faith?  Is it a noun?  A verb?  Both?  And why is it important?  Come with your questions!

Small Group: 6:30-7:30pm.  Our Monday small group meets in the Village Commons building.  If you are involved in Greek sorority or fraternity life, this small group would be a great Bible study for you; please feel free to invite fellow Greeks, Catholic or not.  

Simply Stitched: 8:00pm.  Our student knitting/crocheting group meets Monday nights at Alex Cassell's house.  If you need a ride, please meet at CCM at 7:45 (and let Alex know on Facebook).  All knit items are donated to charity.  If you don't know how to knit or crochet, they will teach you.  And it's not limited to the ladies, so guys please feel free to come!

Sept. 19-20, Charlotte, NC.  The 10th annual Eucharistic Congress of the Diocese of Charlotte is in just a few weeks!  We will have a group from WCU attending, and we'd love for you to join us.  If you have never been before, the Congress is a large gathering of Catholics, centered around the Eucharist (what Vatican II calls "the source and summit of our faith"), featuring music, guest speakers, a great Eucharistic procession, Catholic vendors and organizations, and wonderful fellowship.  You can see more information on the official web site: www.goeucharist.com.

For college students, there is a special Friday night gathering culminating in a procession to St. Peter's in downtown Charlotte where there will be all-night Adoration.  Students will sign up for one-hour shifts, sleeping in a "lock-in" in the basement of the church, and participate in the Eucharistic Procession on Saturday morning.  $15 gets you space at the lock-in, a t-shirt, and lunch on Saturday.  To register, please go to:

Many "polite" people today think religion and politics should be taboo subjects, especially when the two are discussed together.  This is nothing new.  Back in 1906 G. K. Chesterton wrote in his newspaper column, "I am not allowed in these columns to discuss politics or religion, which is inconvenient; as they are the only two subjects which seem to me to have the slightest element of interest for a sane man."  

Religion deals chiefly with our relationship with God, while politics deals with our relationships with our fellow man.  These two spheres are, of course, related.  Thus Jesus sums up the entire law by saying, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and all your mind," and "you shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Mt 22:37-39).  So it is natural and good for us to talk about how our duties to God and duties to our fellow man inform one another.

We will be discussing this at our Wednesday dinner this week.  In preparation for that, here is a short article I wrote last year for our parish about Religion and Politics:

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops also has many resources available on its web site, www.faithfulcitizenship.org, including this hand out.

We hope to see you at our events this week.  And remember, the Catholic Student Center is open each day for your use.  Please feel free to come by if you need some prayer time, a quiet place to do homework, need a chat with your campus minister, or just want to hang out.

Pax Christi,

WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
(828)293-9374  |   POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Gospel for Today: 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time


Last week we read  the iconic scene in Matthew's gospel where Peter confessed his faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God, after which Christ told Peter, "You are Peter (rock), and upon this rock I will build my Church."  The Catholic Church still today stands firm upon the rock of Peter, living on through his successors, the Popes.  But today, just a few verses later in the same chapter of that gospel, we find Jesus telling Peter, "Get behind me, Satan!  You are an obstacle to me."  What gives?  Did Jesus have a change of heart?  No.  Jesus is the same in both instances.  It is Peter who has changed.  

Peter could not accept what Jesus was telling the disciples; namely that He must go to Jerusalem, suffer, die, and then rise from the dead.  Peter could neither stomach nor understand this teaching.  "God forbid, Lord!" he told Jesus.  "No such thing shall even happen to you."

Last week, after Peter made his confession of faith, Christ said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon-bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but your Father in heaven."  In other words, Peter was not listening to other people, or even his own thinking, when he said that Jesus was the Son of God.  He was allowing himself to listen to God, and to trust what God was telling him.  By contrast, in today's reading Christ tells Peter, "You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."  Peter was relying on his own inclinations and his own way of thinking.  He was trusting himself more than he was trusting in Christ, and that reliance on self is what led him astray.

Satan means "adversary," and it can be used as a name for Lucifer, the fallen angel; but it can also be applied to us when we allow ourselves to become adversaries of God.  We do this when we  rely on our own will above the will of God.  This is easy to do.  And it does not necessarily require a full and total rejection of God.   Peter was certainly not rejecting Jesus outright  when he told him He was not to die in Jerusalem.  Rather, what he was hearing from Jesus was hard for him to accept.  According to his human mind, what Jesus was saying did not make sense.  Why should the Messiah suffer?  Peter could not understand it, and so he denied it.  It was not a total rejection of God, but a lack of faith on the part of Peter that caused Christ to say, "Get behind me, Satan!"

It is easy for us to also lack faith, especially when confronted with a difficult teaching of the Church.  And let's face it, there are plenty of them.  Many of the Church's teachings can be hard for us to wrap our minds around intellectually.  How can God be both one and three?  How can a virgin give birth to a Son?  How can Christ be fully human and also fully God?  How can bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ?  

But for us today, more than the theological teachings of the Church, it is the moral teachings that confound us -- not necessarily because we do not understand them, but we find them hard to practice in our lives.  The "seven deadly sins" are called deadly because they have a way of anchoring themselves into our hearts and turning us away from the love of God.  We all have sins that we find especially hard to resist.  Take your pick -- pride, lust, envy, green, sloth, gluttony, wrath -- any can easily ensnare you.  We know these things to be bad for us.  Yet we allow ourselves to fall into bad habits and then we cannot see a way out.

The Church tells us we are to be holy.  But when we think about our own lives and how attached we are to sin, we can easily start to think that what the Church demands is unreasonable.  We can never live up to God's standards.  And so we don't even try.  We give up.  We become adversaries both to Christ and to our own good, and so Jesus rightly rebukes us. "Get behind me, Satan!"  

But Jesus rebukes us in order to correct us, and ultimately heal us.  He does not want us to give up.  Rather, He wants us to keep up the struggle, no matter how hard.  The fact that we struggle with sin is not a sign of weakness.  It is a sign of strength.  The struggle means we have not given up.  Ultimately, though, we must recognize that we cannot win the battle against sin by relying on ourselves.   We need His help.  Christ tells us, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me."  We must deny ourselves because we are totally unable of saving ourselves.  We take up the cross of Christ because only there we find our salvation.

G. K. Chesterton once said that Christianity has not been tried and found lacking; rather it has been found difficult and not tried.  That is true in our day even more than in his.  We are afraid to even try, because the goal seems unreachable.  Yet, it is that goal -- the goal of being authentic, holy, people living in the love of God -- that calls to us in the deepest part of our beings, even as we try our best to deny that we need Him.  Our first reading today from Jeremiah beautifully describes the feeling that many who have distanced themselves from the Church experience, but dare not admit to.  "I say to myself, I will not mention Him, I will speak in His name no more.  But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it" (Jer 20:9).

Our souls hunger for God because we were made for Him; ultimately only God can satisfy our longings.  St. Augustine, whose feast day we celebrated last week, famously wrote in his Confessions, "Our hearts are restless, until they find their rest in Thee."  Our psalm today speaks of our souls thirsting for God in these terms: "O God, you are my God whom I seek; for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water" (Ps 63:2).

Yet even the soul that recognizes its deep hunger for God may still say, "How can I make a return to God, when I have strayed so far from Him?"  I am reminded of the advice of a sixteenth century Carmelite monk named Brother Lawrence, who when he failed in his duties to God simply confessed to God, "I shall never do otherwise if You leave me to myself; it is You who must hinder my failing and mend what is amiss."  And then he turned back to God and troubled himself no more about it.  

Ultimately it is this trust in God, this faith in His help and in His mercy, that will allow us to rise above our failings and become the holy -- and happy -- men and women God created us to be. Yes, we will fail.  Even Peter, the leader of the Apostles, the one upon whom Christ built the Church, failed in his faith on more than one occasion.  Yet he became a great saint, and now enjoys the Beatific Vision of God for all eternity.  You will fail in your faith, because you will continue to trust in yourself more than in God.  When you do, do not despair.  Do not give up.  Confess your sins, acknowledge your hunger for God, ask Him to help you grow in holiness.  Above all, keep trying.  Keep up the fight.  God knows it is hard, and He honors the struggle.  After all, one definition of a saint is a sinner who never gave up.

WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
(828)293-9374  |   POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sanctifying your Day with the Liturgy of the Hours

A medieval breviary.
Those of you were were here last night for our after-dinner program heard Dr. Dorondo speak about his daily life as a secular Oblate of St. Benedict.  One of the things that he spoke of was how he sanctified his day by praying the Liturgy of the Hours.

A few of you came early for dinner and joined us in the chapel at 6:00pm for Evening Prayer (Vespers), which is also taken from the Liturgy of the Hours.  I hope to be able to offer Vespers every Wednesday in our chapel at 6:00 for those who wish to join us.

So just what is the Liturgy of the Hours, and how easy is it for someone to get started adding this to their prayer life?  Let's answer the first part of this question by first recalling just what is meant by "liturgy."

The word "liturgy" itself comes from the Greek word for public work, or work of the people.  In ancient Greece it was used to describe the public works that a citizen owed his community (things like ditch digging, road building, that sort of thing).  The Greek-speaking Jewish people adopted the word to mean the ritual offering that a Jewish man was obligated to offer each year on behalf of his family.  Christians inherited the religious meaning of the word and still use it today to refer to the communal, corporate prayer of the Church.

So liturgy is a public, corporate prayer, even when it is done alone.  It differs from personal prayer in that when one prays liturgically one is joined in prayer by the entire Church.  Personal prayer is a wonderful thing and absolutely necessary in order to foster a relationship with God.  But liturgical prayer is also vitally important, inasmuch as in the liturgy we offer prayers not as individuals, but as a part of the larger Body of Christ, on behalf of the Body of Christ.  The liturgy that most Catholics are familiar with is the Mass.  But the Liturgy of the Hours is (as the name states) also liturgical prayer.

Other names for the Liturgy of the Hours are Divine Office, Breviary, Psalter, and Christian Prayer.  Many times people may use these words interchangeably, but for our purposes we'll use Liturgy of the Hours.

The idea of marking set times (or "hours") of the day with formal prayer is an ancient one, representing the Church's desire to follow Christ's command to "pray without ceasing."  The Liturgy of the Hours grew from the monastic tradition of coming together at certain times during the day to pray and to praise God, largely by use of the psalms.  Historically, the day was divided into 8 three hour periods.  Monks and nuns would start their day by praying at midnight; they would pray again every three hours at 3:00am, 6:00am, 9:00am, noon, 3:00pm, 6:00pm, and finally prayer at 9:00pm before they would get a few hours sleep before rising again at midnight to start the cycle over.  Thus the entire day was sanctified by prayer.

From a very early date, lay people desired to imitate the monastics in their habit of prayer, but obviously not every person's schedule allows for the above sort of routine!  Traditional prayers such as the Angelus arose around the prayer schedule of the local monastery.  When farmers in the field would hear the monastery bells   sounding at 6:00am, noon, and 6:00pm to call the monks to prayer, they would bow their heads and recite the Angelus briefly, which is why the Angelus is traditionally prayed at those times.

So who prays the Liturgy of the Hours these days?  Is it only for monks and nuns?  No.  While professed religious are obligated to pray the Liturgy of the Hours each day, secular or diocesan priests are also obligated to pray them (though I believe they are only obligated to pray five of the hours; our priests need their sleep!), and deacons are obligated to pray two Hours.  These would be Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer (Lauds and Vespers in Latin), which are considered the "hinge" prayers of the liturgy.

Lay people, too, are invited to pray the Hours, as much as they are able, though they are under no obligation to do so.  More and more, the faithful laity are picking up the Liturgy of the Hours as a means of increasing their prayer life and consecrating the hours of their day to Christ.  Even if you are only able to pray the Hours at morning and evening, it is a wonderful way to begin and end your day by offering it to God.

The Liturgy of the Hours in their current form still consist mainly of the psalms, arranged with other scriptures, and intercessory prayer.  Being as it is liturgy, it is important than when one prays the Hours that they do so in the proper way.  Unlike personal prayer, you wouldn't just open up your Breviary or Christian Prayer book to a random page and start praying.  You could do that, and it might in fact be a wonderful prayer, but it would not be the actual Liturgy of the Hours.  Just like you wouldn't make up the prayers at Mass, it is important to pray the actual Hours for that time and that day, in the way that the Church intends.  In this way, your prayer is joined in unison with the prayer of the world-wide Church.

So how does one get started?  You could purchase the entire four-volume set of the Liturgy of the Hours and start praying all of the hours like the monks and nuns.  They only cost $125, which I'm sure is money every college student has laying around at their disposal, right?

Or you could do what I did, which is to purchase the single volume Christian Prayer book, which only costs $30 and has everything you need to pray Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Night Prayer.  And let's face it... you aren't going to start your adventure into the Liturgy of the Hours by praying all day long.  Starting with just Night Prayer might be a more prudent way to go (it's the shortest).  Starting with Morning and Evening prayer is a very common practice, as these are the two most important hours of the day.  This single volume has everything you need for that.

But then comes the step of learning how to use the book.  There are different different sections for different prayers, and different colored ribbons to mark the different sections.  You have to know if it is a saint's feast day or not.  And if it is a solemnity, a feast, a memorial, or an optional memorial.  Some of the prayers for the hours might be found in the common of martyrs, or the common of holy women, or they might be prayers proper for that day.  Is it Advent?  Or Easter?  Special prayers for the different seasons, too. I can vouch from experience that it takes some time to get used to navigating around the book and learning where you need to be when.  Having someone who already knows to show you how is a real help.  But once you do learn, it becomes second nature and (somewhat) less of a hassle.

Today, though, there are many resources that were not available to me when I first started praying the Hours.  There are many online resources and apps for tablets and smart phones that take all the guess work out of the process.

Two in particular I have found helpful are DivineOffice.org and iBreviary.org.  Both are available as apps for your tablet or smart phone.  I tend to like the format of DivineOffice better.  This is a paid app.  I think when I first looked at it, it was $15 to $20, but I happened to purchase it when it was on sale for $4.95.  I'm not sure what it is going for now.  One really nice thing about the DivineOffice app is that it has the index for the page numbers in the Christian Prayer book. So even if you prefer to pray using the book (I do), you can at least use the app to make sure you are on the right page.

The iBreviary app has the benefit of being free.  It also contains the Liturgy of the Hours in many different languages, including English, Spanish, French, and Latin.

The great thing about using either app to pray the Liturgy of the Hours is that they lay it all out for you in sequence, so you don't have to worry about flipping to this section of the book for the psalms, another section for the propers of saints, etc.  You just have to scroll and pray from top to bottom.  Both also have the option of praying the Hours for free online using their web site, so you don't even need to download the app (a great option for those who don't have a smart phone or tablet device).

Most people I know prefer to pray with a print volume versus a website.  And I agree, there is just something about holding a book in your hand (especially a well-worn prayer book) that is satisfying and that feels more pious.  But the apps and web pages can be great resources for those travelling on the road, and also for those just starting out.  Without investing any money, without having to learn to navigate the unfamiliar divisions of a complex prayer book, you, too, can begin praying the Liturgy of the Hours.  It's the official prayer of the Church, employed by nuns, monks, bishops, priests, deacons and lay people for centuries.  And you can start joining them in prayer today.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Weekly Update from CCM

Dear Students,

What a great first week at Catholic Campus Ministry.  It's been amazing reconnecting with returning students (including some visiting graduates), and getting to know so many new and enthusiastic freshmen.  Thanks to all who came out for Mass, for our Wednesday dinner, and for our hike.  We have many more opportunities for you to get together, enrich your faith, and enrich our community. Here's what's on the schedule this week.

St. Benedict of Nursia.  This week our Wednesday
Night program will feature guest speaker Dr. David
Dorondo, Oblate of St. Benedict.
This week we will begin our small group meeting schedule.  The small groups are an important part of our student ministry at WCU.  These are groups of 3 to 12 students who meet regularly for fellowship, encouragement, discussion and spiritual growth.  Small groups are for people just starting to respond to the Gospel in the initial stages of conversion as well as for the committed Christian seeking to deepen their faith.  Small group discussions are always based around a scripture passage, and the meeting time is centered in prayer.  To get a sense of what a small group meeting is like, you can watch this two minute video:

We currently have three ongoing small groups.  We invite you to participate in whichever one best fits with your schedule (if none of these work, please talk with us about starting a small group at better time for you).
MONDAYS from 6:30-7:30pm in the Village Commons.
TUESDAYS from 6:30-7:30pm in Balsam Lobby (note, there is no Tuesday Small Group this week due to the Confirmation Mass).
THURSDAYS from 5:30-6:30pm on the UC Balcony.

By attending a small group, you are not making a commitment to participate every week. You are welcome to just come and try it out -- and bring a friend whom you think may benefit from the experience!

Adoration: 12:00-12:30. Join us at noon in our chapel for thirty minutes of silent Eucharistic Adoration.  Great quality time with Jesus!

Confirmation Mass:  Bishop Peter Jugis will celebrate Mass this evening at St. Mary's at 7:00pm and will confirm 16 of our parish youth.  Several members of our WCU student choir will be helping to provide music for this Mass.  Anyone from our campus community is most welcome to come and celebrate with the parish, supporting our new confirmandi with your prayers.

NOTE:  No Tuesday small group this week!

Evening Prayer. 6:00pm in the CCM chapel.  We are going to begin offering evening prayer Vesper services each Wednesday prior to our dinners, for those who would like to take advantage of a mid-week prayer service.  Evening prayer (vespers) is one of the hours from the Liturgy of the Hours, a traditional liturgical prayer of the Catholic Church typically prayed by clergy and those in religious professions, but which the lay faithful are also invited to participate in as much as possible.  If you've never prayed the Liturgy of the Hours before, don't worry, we'll guide you through it.  Please come!

Supper @ the Center: 6:30p.  Join us for dinner this week.  Jessica Keene and Nancy Wiebelhaus are teaming up to prepare a delicious meal for us, with dessert!  After dinner, we have a special guest presenter.  Dr. David Dorondo is a professor of history here at WCU.  He is also an oblate of the Benedictine order.  An oblate is a lay person who has formally associated themselves with a religious order without taking the same level of vows as monks or nuns.  These lay associations are sometimes called "third orders."  Many religious orders have third order associations, and these will be the topic of Dr. Dorondo's presentation.  He's a great speaker, and it's always an edifying evening when he can join us, so you don't want to miss it!

Adoration: 12:00-12:30.  Thirty minutes of silent Eucharistic Adoration in our chapel.

Small Group: 5:30-6:30p on the UC Balcony.

Rosary & Confession: 3:30p.  Come half an hour early for Mass to pray the rosary with us.  Father is also available during this time to hear confessions.

Mass: 4:00p in our chapel.  Come early to get a seat by the AC!  

Credo: 5:15ish to 6:30p.  The Latin word credo means "I believe," and that is the topic for our discussion this week:  "I Believe" -- what does it mean to have faith, and why is it important?  Come with your questions!

Small Group: 6:30-7:30p in the Village Commons.

Simply Stitched is a group of students who knit or crochet (or wish to learn) and get together once a week to make items for donation either to the Smoky Mountain Pregnancy Care Center or for local parish families in need.  Anyone is welcome, and it's not just for the ladies!  They meet at Alex Cassell's house.  Those needing a ride carpool from CCM at 7:45pm.

Eucharistic Congress is Sept 19-20 at the Charlotte Convention Center.  This is the largest gathering of Catholics in our Diocese, who come together to hear great speakers, take advantage of some amazing Catholic vendors, fellowship with one another, and most importantly, adore our Eucharistic Lord!  We have special events for college students, including an overnight lock-in at St. Peter's in downtown Charlotte.  We'd like to get a large from from WCU going.  For more information, and to register, see:

In honor of our Wednesday night guest this week, you can get a jump start on the discussion by learning a little more about Benedictine Oblates.  You can read an introductory article about them here:

Many orders, not just Benedictines, have oblates or third orders.  Please come Wednesday night to find out more!

Until next week!
Pax Christi,

WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
(828)293-9374  |   POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Gospel For Today: 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time

REMINDER:  Mass is offered every Sunday in our chapel at 4:00pm.  Come 30 minutes early to pray the Rosary with us, or to have Father hear your confession.  Stick around after Mass for Credo tonight: the discussion topic will be "The Catholic Church."


Tu est Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificábo Ecclésiam meam...  This is the first part of the antiphon we hear at Mass today before the gospel reading.  It quotes from the gospel itself (Mt 16:13-20), which in English says, "You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it."  This iconic passage takes place at Caesarea Philippi, a place the gospel writer mentions specifically.  If you do a Google image search on line you can see this place.  There is a huge stone outcropping with a temple built upon it to the pagan god Pan.  It is by this backdrop that Jesus changes Simon's name to Peter (which means "rock") and says, "upon this rock I will build my Church."

This is obviously a very key moment in the gospels, and so it is important to consider just what is happening here.  This passage is foundational to our understanding of the Church, for Christ tells us not only that He intends to found His Church upon a person (Peter), but also what sort of authority that person will have.  "I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.  Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

The Church also gives us today an Old Testament reading from Isaiah 22:19-23 which speaks of keys being given to convey authority.  "I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim's shoulder; when he opens no one shall shut, when he shuts no one shall open.  I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot..."  There is obvious similarity between this and our gospel reading.  What is the significance?

In the history of Israel, there developed the office of prime minister.  This person had the authority to rule over the kingdom in the absence of the king.  It was an office that could be passed on from one generation to the next, symbolized by keys.  What we read in our passage from Isaiah today is God passing on the authority of the prime minister of the Davidic kingdom from Shebna to Eliakim.  It is no coincidence that Jesus uses the same symbol of keys, and nearly the same phraseology, to establish the prime ministerial office of His Kingdom upon Peter, an office which can be passed on from one generation to the next.  The enduring nature of this office is implied when Christ promises that the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church.

Instead of "opening" and "shutting" as we hear in Isaiah, Jesus speaks of the power to "bind" and "loose."  This phraseology would also have been familiar to the Jewish people.  It signified to them the authority to teach and render binding decisions on the law, and the authority to include or exclude people from the community.  It also signifies the forgiveness of sins.  This is why even to this day we speak of the authority of the Church to teach, govern and sanctify (Catechism of the Catholic Church 888-896).

There is something about this passage, however, which can easily be overlooked in English translation.  Many languages have different words for the second person pronoun depending on whether it is singular or plural.  English uses "you" for both.  If we were reading this passage in Spanish, or more to the point, the original Greek, we would see that Jesus uses the singular "you" when He tells Peter, "I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven."  But Jesus uses the plural "you" when He says, "Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."  In other words, Peter alone possesses the keys of the kingdom (symbolizing the prime ministerial authority), but the Apostles together with Peter possess the power to bind and loose (CCC 881).  

What does all this mean for us in the Church today?  How does this authority granted to the Church by Christ play out in history?  We can give one very prominent example dealing with the scriptures themselves.  From the very beginning, the liturgies of the early Church included readings from sacred scripture.  These included readings from the Hebrew Bible, what we call the Old Testament, but very quickly also included readings about Jesus and the teachings of the new Christian Church.  These would include gospel accounts of Jesus' life and mission.  These would also include letters written by the Apostles to various people and Christian communities.  However, there was no set "New Testament."  There was no authoritative list of which books were inspired by God and which were not.

This led to some variation in what texts were read from during the liturgies.  To ensure unity in worship, local bishops, utilizing their authority as chief shepherds of their particular churches, began to keep lists of books which were approved for liturgical use in their church (what we would call a diocese today). The earliest such lists that we know of date to the end of the second century.  But still, this meant that different texts were considered canonical in one region but not in another.  This became problematic for the universal Church as different heresies arose, especially Gnosticism.  The Gnostics would write their own gospels, containing teachings rather contrary to the Apostolic faith, which would circulate and lead to confusion among the faithful.  (If you watch the Discovery Channel or the History Channel around Christmas and Easter you often see documentaries on "The Lost Gospel of Judas," or "The Lost Gospel of Thomas."  These are Gnostic gospels, not lost Christian gospels  The Church has known about them for about 1700 years, so no one should have their faith shaken by their existence.)

And so regional councils of bishops together met and discussed which books should officially be included in the canon of the Bible.  Two councils, at Hippo in 393 AD and Carthage in 397 AD, would approve the list of 73 books which are still contained in the Catholic Bible today.  These were local councils (not full ecumenical councils of the Church), and so their decrees are not binding on the universal Church.  So in the year 405, Pope Innocent I, successor of St. Peter, affirmed the same list of 73 books.  The case was closed, so to speak, from that point forward until the Protestant Reformation when Martin Luther and his followers questioned the legitimacy of certain Old Testament books (what Catholics call the deuterocanon and Protestants call the apocrypha) and removed them.  The Council of Trent (1545-63), a full Ecumenical Council of the Church, exercising the teaching authority of all the bishops united with the pope, reaffirmed the canon of 73 books in the face of this controversy.  

And so the very reason we have the scriptures that we do today, and the faith that they contain the inspired Word of God, is due to the exercise of the teaching authority to bind and loose that Christ gave to Peter, His "prime minister," and to the Apostles.  This is why St. Augustine could say, "I would not believe in the gospel if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so" (397 AD).  

In the end we all submit ourselves to some authority, even if only the authority of popular opinion.  To be true to ourselves and who we were made to be, we should submit ourselves only to the authority of God, the author of all Creation.  That authority exists in Christ, His Son, who not only became man but saw fit to allow man to share in that divine authority.  That authority has been transmitted from Peter and the Apostles down through the ages right to today with Pope Francis and all the bishops of the Church, including our Bishop of Charlotte, Peter Jugis.  It is the same Church that Christ founded upon Peter, teaching the same Apostolic faith, and possessing the same authority from God to lead her people to salvation.  

WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
(828)293-9374  |   POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Weekly Update from CCM

Dear Students,

It was wonderful to see so many of you filling our chapel this past Sunday at Mass.  What a wonderful choice to begin the new academic year by giving worship to God and receiving His Son in the Eucharist.  I pray that you continue to seek nourishment through prayer and in the sacraments during your time at WCU and throughout your lives.  We have a full week of activities at CCM, and so plenty of opportunities for you to meet one another and get involved in our ministry.

Thirty minutes of silent Eucharistic Adoration from noon to 12:30 in our chapel.  (We try to offer this every Tues & Thurs.  Also note: if people are interested in Adoration at other times during the week, that can be arranged.  Please contact me.)

New Student Open House. 5:30-6:30.  Any new freshmen and transfer students are invited to join us to get introduced to one another, to your campus minister, and our campus ministry.  New students only, please!

Supper @ the Center. 6:30-8:30.  All students are invited to join us for our first weekly "Supper @ the Center," a home cooked meal followed by a short program.  This is a great time for weekly fellowship and we hope you will join us.

Adoration 12:00-12:30 in our chapel.

Sunset Picnic & Hike.  Be at the Catholic Student Center by 6:00pm.  We will carpool to the Blue Ridge Parkway to Waterrock Knob.  We'll enjoy a simple picnic dinner and then hike to the top of the Knob.  It's just a little over one mile and is rated "novice to intermediate," meaning the trail is pretty easy for the most part, but there are some steep, rocky sections.  Wear appropriate footwear.  Also, we'll be at about 6000 feet elevation, and it can get chilly in the evenings, so a sweatshirt or light jacket might be good to have.  You'll want to bring a camera, as well!

To get more information about the hike itself, visit this page on the Hiking the Carolinas web site.

It would also be good for you to RSVP to our Facebook event so we can get an idea of numbers in advance.  Thanks!

Byzantine Rite Divine Liturgy at St. Mary's.  Those needing a ride from campus please meet at the Catholic Student Center by 5:00.  There will be a short talk at the parish about the Byzantine liturgy at 5:30.  The Divine Liturgy (Mass) itself will begin at 6:00, and be followed by a cook-out at the parish.

This liturgy will be celebrated by three visiting Ukrainian Rite clergy (one priest and two deacons).  To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time the Divine Liturgy in an Eastern Rite will have been celebrated in western NC.  Many of you will not have had the opportunity to experience a liturgy of one of the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church before, and so I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity.  

Again, we have a Facebook event for this, and it would be good to RSVP so we have a sense of numbers.

Mass at 4:00pm in our chapel.  Come 30 minutes early to pray the Rosary with us.  Father Voitus is available for Confessions during this time, as well.  After Mass, stay for our Credo discussion.  The topic this week is "The Catholic Church."  Why is the Catholic Church so special?  What makes her different from other religions and Christian denominations?  Come with your questions!

Our Small Groups begin meeting next week.  These are student led groups that meet weekly to pray together, read the scriptures, and discuss their faith.  Participating in a small group is a fantastic way to boost your prayer life and get intentional about your relationship with God.  We are starting with three small groups this semester, meeting at the following times:
MONDAYS 6:30-7:30 in the Village Commons
TUESDAYS 6:30-7:30 in the Balsam Lobby
THURSDAYS 7:30-8:30 on the UC Balcony (or inside on the 2nd floor if the weather is bad).

In honor of our visiting Ukrainian Rite clergy this week, here is an article about the Eastern Rite Churches written by Fr. William Saunders.  He answers the questions: "As are many Latin Rite Catholics, I am a bit ignorant about the Eastern Rite Churches.  What are the differences between the Rites?  Can Latin Rite Catholics fulfill their Sunday obligation by attending an Eastern Rite Mass?  Can Latin Rite Catholics receive Holy Communion in an Eastern Rite Catholic Mass?  Is the Eastern Rite Catholic Church the same as the Orthodox Church?"  Click here to read the answers!

BONUS: Here is a short video showing the Ukrainian Rite Divine Liturgy being celebrated in a small village in Ukraine.

Until next week!
God bless,

WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
(828)293-9374  |   POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723

Monday, August 18, 2014

Bishop, Priest & Deacon

Those of you who stayed after Mass last night know that we had a visiting Ukrainian Rite deacon with us, Father Deacon Kevin Bezner.  At the end of the evening I asked the deacon to give a blessing for us, forgetting momentarily that Eastern Rite deacons don't do that sort of thing.  (Western, or Roman Rite deacons may offer blessings not reserved for a priest or a bishop).  The good deacon casually replied that he "can't" bless.  I corrected him, saying that he "can, but may not," and then Father Voitus said something that sounded very technical and canonical and probably went right over everyone's heads. (That's ok if it did!)

So the deacon offered a prayer for us, Father gave a blessing, and all was well with the world.  The whole exchange described above played out in a few seconds and you may have missed it.  But it provides an opportunity to make a point about the relationship between the deacon and/or priest and his bishop.

The Catholic Church has a three-fold hierarchy of Holy Orders: bishop, priest and deacon.  There is only one sacrament of ordained, apostolic ministry, but three "degrees" or orders of that sacrament.  Once a man is ordained into an order, he can never be "unordained."  So a deacon does not cease to be a deacon if he is ordained a priest.  A priest does not cease to be a priest if he is ordained a bishop.  Only the bishop, then, has the fullness of Holy Orders, as he is deacon, priest and bishop together.  Only the bishop is the successor of the Apostles, and ministers of his own right with Apostolic authority.  The ministry of the priest and the deacon is an extension of the ministry of the bishop, and can only be undertaken with the authorization of the bishop.  We refer to this as "faculties."  If a priest or a deacon does not have faculties from his bishop, he cannot perform ministerial duties.  (This does not mean he is no longer a priest or deacon, it simply means he cannot exercise ministry as such).

Holy Orders are the same whether one is speaking of the Western or Eastern branches of the Church.  A Byzantine (Eastern) Rite priest is just as much a priest as a Roman Rite priest.  They participate in the same priesthood of Christ.  A Roman deacon and an Eastern deacon are ordained into the same diaconate.

As I mentioned before, deacons in the Roman Rite can and do offer blessings.  They can offer any blessing that is not specifically reserved to a priest or a bishop.  As there is no ontological difference between Eastern deacons and Roman deacons, an Eastern deacon can offer the same blessings that a Roman deacon can.  But deacons in the Eastern Rites operate under a different discipline than western deacons do.  Eastern Rite deacons do not have faculties to offer blessings, and so they may not, even though they are ordained to the same diaconate as their Roman counterparts.  No cleric may exercise any ministry he has not been granted faculties for by his bishop.

Normally lay people only hear about "faculties" if a cleric has been behaving badly and has his faculties revoked by his bishop as a punitive measure.  But, as was illustrated last night, it also comes into play when we are considering the different Rites in the Catholic Church, and the different faculties certain orders of clerics are or are not granted according to the traditions of those Rites.

This three-fold ministry of Holy Orders is certainly nothing new.  In fact, it has been around since the very beginning of the Church.
"You must all follow the bishop as Jesus Christ follows the Father, and the presbytery [priests] as you would the apostles.  Reverence the deacons as you would the command of God.  Let no one do anything of concern to the Church without the bishop.  Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop, or by one whom he appoints.  Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church."  
The above quote comes from St. Ignatius of Antioch, writing to the Church in Smyrna c. 110 AD.  St. Ignatius, bishop and martyr, learned the Christian faith from the Apostle John, and was chosen to be bishop of Antioch when St. Peter, who founded the Church there, went to found with St. Paul the Church in Rome. While we certainly must acknowledge certain external differences between the Church of the first few generations of Christians and the Church of today, it is noteworthy to see how much remains the same.

Read more about what the early Church fathers have to say about bishops, priests and deacons here.