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 and  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. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Gospel for Today: 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time

A reminder, especially for the new students, that our campus Mass resumes today at 4:00pm in our chapel.  If you have not already located the Catholic Student Center, you can find directions on our web site.  We also encourage new students to join our Facebook group to stay current on the latest announcements, events, prayer requests and helpful faith-enriching information throughout the week.


Imagine your best friend is sick; deathly ill, in fact.  You don't know what to do and you are afraid she won't make it.  So you rush her to the hospital.  You spot a doctor in a white coat walking down the hall and call for him to help.   You know he can hear you, but he doesn't say a word.  He doesn't even acknowledge your presence.  You keep calling, until some orderlies ask the doctor if he wants them to tell you to leave.  But you rush up to the doctor and ask him for help one last time.  And he looks at you and says, "We don't treat dogs here."

Ouch.  How incredibly rude and offensive!  You'd expect that doctor lose his job and maybe even face criminal neglect charges.  Now imagine that doctor is Jesus.

We can't imagine being treated this way, especially when we are in a desperate and vulnerable situation.  Yet this scene is more or less what we read in today's gospel (Mt 15:21-28) of the Canaanite woman who asked Jesus to heal her daughter.  This sort of encounter doesn't really fit our image that we have of Jesus.  Jesus is nice.  Jesus is friendly.  Jesus helps people.  We don't imaging Jesus telling someone who is desperately asking Him for help that they are a dog not worth the effort.  Yet here it is, in the scriptures we read today.  What are we to make of this?

Well, by the end of the gospel reading, we learn that Jesus does indeed help this woman.  He heals her daughter.  And he even commends the woman, "O woman, great is your faith!"  This is the lesson Christ teaches us today -- the faith expressed by the Canaanite woman.

You see, the Canaanites were considered unclean by the Jewish people, who commonly referred to them as "dogs."  If we imagine ourselves as Canaanites being told that it is not right to take the food meant for the children (the Isrealites) and throw it to the dogs,  we would take great offense.  We would walk away in a huff, declaring we were "too good" to be treated that way.  But not the woman in today's gospel.  She didn't let her ego get in the way of her faith.  She said, "Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters."

It is only then that Christ tells her, "O woman, great is your faith!'  The Canaanite woman is humble, and that is the key to unlocking the door of God's grace.  Humility is so hard for us today, with our over-inflated egos.  We think we deserve so much, and this is why we simply cannot tolerate people being rude to us, or depriving us of what we believe is our due.  This attitude may do you well when you are shopping for a new car or negotiating a salary increase.  But when dealing with God, it is the exact wrong attitude to have.  When it comes to God, the truth is you don't deserve anything.  Not a thing.  You can never merit any favor from God.  You can never be in a position where God owes you anything.  

We don't like that sort of imbalance of power.  We prefer dealing with equals.  Being in a relationship with someone who will never owe you anything, but to whom you will always owe everything is intolerable -- unless you possess humility.  And the Canaanite woman gets that.  This is why she is content to beg for scraps.  And this is why she receives an abundance of grace.

God never gives because He owes us.  He gives because He loves us.  And how He loves us!  That same Jesus who tells the humble woman today, "It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs," would go on to endure the worst kind of humiliation and death for people just like her (and you, and me).  He would pour out His grace upon all mankind in such a way that would be utterly unbelievable if it were not true.  Not because He owes us.  Because He loves us.

He continues to pour those graces upon His Church even to this day.  The Canaanite woman only begged for scraps from the masters' table.  We have available to us the very bread of heaven, the Body & Blood of Christ.  Think about this: you have the opportunity every Sunday -- every day if you so desired -- to be kissed on the lips by your Maker.  This is the intimate way God desires to come to us in the Eucharist at Mass.  

The Canaanite woman was happy to beg for only the scraps of God's grace.  Is the Eucharist something you would be willing to beg for?  Most of us have never been in a situation where we were deprived of the sacraments.  But far too many of us have turned away from them by choice or by neglect.  We have taken God for granted.  Today, as we start a new semester at WCU, and as many begin their college career away from home for the first time, I pray that you never take God's gift of the sacraments for granted.  Today is the first Sunday that many of you will go to Mass not because your parents make you go, but because you want to give God worship and commune with Him.  

Worshiping with the Church every Sunday and making a habit of prayer every day, help to keep us humble.  These things help remind us each day that we are dependent upon God and should be thankful for all He gives us.  But make no mistake.  We should not strive for humility thinking that humility will merit God's favor.  This is false humility.  Humility does not merit God's favor: humility is recognizing that nothing merit's God's favor.  Therefore humility allows us to approach God not with the cry of modern man -- "I deserve...!" -- but with the plea of the Canaanite woman, "Please, Lord..."  Only the humble heart can receive God's grace, because only the humble heart knows it must ask for it.  May we all have such humility.

During your time at WCU, know that you are in my prayers, and in the prayers of the larger CCM community.  Know that we are here for you whenever you need us, but more importantly, know that Christ is here for you.  You will form many new relationships during your college years and those relationships will form who you are.  The most important relationship you can develop is you relationship with Christ.  CCM is here to help facilitate that relationship in any way we can.  It starts today with Sunday Mass, with the Eucharist, the "source and summit of our faith" (Lumen Gentium 11).  You don't have to beg for scraps.  You are invited to the feast.  

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

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Choosing the Fourth Option

Let me admit up front that I realize this topic may only be of interest to certain liturgy-geeks such as myself.  But it deals with something that truly impacts all of us, and that is the music we hear at Mass.  As any of us can attest, the music we hear at Mass has a profound influence on the atmosphere of prayer and can enhance our worship when done well; it can also have the opposite effect if done poorly.  Therefore, it only follows that the Church actually has instructions as to what should and should not be sung.  Those instructions can be found in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal.

For the singing at the Entance of Mass, during the Offertory, and at Communion, the Church gives four options for selecting what is sung.  I'll paraphrase the first three.

  1. The antiphon (proper chant) for that particular day given in the Roman Missal (the book the priest uses to say Mass) or the Graduale Romanum (Roman Gradual, the official music book of the Roman Rite of the Church, which contains Gregorian chant).
  2. The antiphon (proper chant) for the liturgical time given in the Graduale Simplex (Simple Gradual, another official music book of the Roman Rite of the Church, giving simpler Latin chants arranged for the liturgical seasons).
  3. The antiphon (proper chant) for the day or season from another collection of chants and antiphons with ecclesial approval.  (This may include vernacular translations of the above).
And now I will quote the fourth option verbatim.
"another liturgical chant that is suited to the sacred action, the day, or the time of year, similarly approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop" (GIRM 48).
This quote is from the most recent third edition of the GIRM that was promulgated at the same time as the current third edition of the Roman Missal.  The prior edition, for the number four option as listed above, simply read, "another appropriate liturgical song," which is a rather open-ended guideline.  And it was this fourth option that the great majority of American parishes used for the Entrance, Offertory, and Communion at Sunday Mass.  A hymn would be selected from the parish hymnal as "an appropriate liturgical song."  This practice was so wide spread that most Catholics in the pews were unaware (and remain unaware) that three other options are available.

But with the new edition of the Roman Missal, it would seem that the Church wants to lead us in a direction towards more truly liturgical singing.  And so if your cantor or choir is not singing the proper chants for that day or season from one of the official liturgical texts (the Roman Missal, Roman Gradual, or Simple Gradual), or from another similarly approved collection of antiphons, then they should at least be singing "another liturgical chant that is suited to the sacred action, the day, or the time of year."  This is rather specific.

One thing that has slightly confused me about option four, however, is figuring out just what would qualify.  I mean, it seems very specific.  It must be a liturgical chant (not just any religious song).  It must be suited to either the sacred action (what is taking place in the liturgy at the time), or the specific day, or the time of year (such as Lent, Advent, Easter, etc).  My question about this fourth option has been this: what qualifies that does not already fall under the first three options?  It seems like if you are looking for a liturgical chant suitable to the sacred action or the time of year, you'd be looking in either one of the official collections of liturgical music (options one and two) or in another approved collection of liturgical chants (option three).  What else is there?

Well, yesterday, for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, I used option four for the Communion chant.  Here is my reasoning why.

Yesterday was also freshman move-in day on campus, and as such we offered an afternoon Mass in our campus chapel so that the incoming freshmen could attend Mass.  However, the choir are all returning upperclassmen and were not back yet from summer break.  So I handled the music.  My general habit when having to cantor a Mass with no other choir is to chant the antiphons from the Simple English Propers by Adam Bartlett (which would fall under option three).   This collection features English translations of the antiphons from the Roman Gradual.

Last week was also very busy for me preparing for the students to arrive back on campus, so I did not have a lot of time to prepare.  Most of the chants were familiar to me from previous years, and offered no problem.  However, the melody of the Communion Antiphon was unfamiliar.  The text is from Lk 1:48-49, "All generations shall call me blessed; for he who is mighty has accomplished great things on my behalf."  This is from what is called the Magnificat or the Canticle of Mary.

The gospel reading for the Mass was Lk 1:39-56, which includes the entire Magnificat.  It so happens that there is a very simple Gregorian chant setting for the Magnificat which is familiar to me.  And that is what I chose to sing instead of the proper antiphon.  I chose option four.

It is a liturgical chant.  It is suitable not only to the day (the Assumption), but also to the liturgical action.  What does the Magnificat have to do with Communion, you might ask?  The proper Communion chants from the Roman Missal and Roman Gradual most often are taken from the gospel text for that Mass, as a means of drawing together the gospel and the Eucharist.  So chanting the Magnificat during Communion is well in keeping with that tradition.

So there you have it.  I finally found something that would qualify as an "option four" selection that made liturgical sense and seems in keeping with the spirit of the other three options.  And I believe this is key -- understanding that the fourth option is the fourth of four options to be considered and not the first "go-to" option as so many parish musicians have been conditioned to using it.

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. 
From this day all generations will call me blessed: 
the Almighty has done great things for me 
and holy is his Name. 
He has mercy on those who fear him 
in every generation. 
He has shown the strength of his arm, 
and has scattered the proud in their conceit. 
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, 
and has lifted up the lowly. 
He has filled the hungry with good things, 
and the rich he has sent away empty. 
He has come to the help of his servant Israel 
for he has remembered his promise of mercy, 
the promise he made to our fathers, 
to Abraham and his children forever.”