Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Weekly update from CCM

Dear Students,

As you are all engaged in your exams this week, let me simply take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to all of you who have contributed so much to Catholic campus ministry here, and who make it such an every-day joy to be your campus minister.  We have made some wonderful new friends this semester, and we also have the bittersweet occasion to say "good bye and God speed" to friends who are leaving us for the next great chapter in their lives (you know who you are!).  We pray that you continue to flourish, to grow in God's grace, and that you share His great love with all whom you meet in your journey.

As for the rest of us, there are some exciting things happening in our campus ministry next semester!  Here are some important dates to keep in mind:
JAN 13-15: Ski weekend in Boone.  (You need to sign up by the end of this semester if you want to go on this -- email me for more information).
JAN 21-24:  March for Life in Washington, DC.  Contact Alex Cassell for more info.  alcassell1@catamount.wcu.edu
FEB 10-12: Give Your Heart Away service weekend in Hickory.  (More info here.  I have registration forms in my office).
APRIL 20-22:  TENTATIVE date for a college retreat hosted by the Fransiscan Friars of the Renewal.  Location TBA.

We have other great things happening next semester, as well, including a new pro-life initiative on campus involving Live Action and volunteering to support the local Pregnancy Care Center.  To be involved with that effort, please contact Sarah Taylor at setaylor3@catamount.wcu.edu.

We also would like to encourage anyone out there who feels called to "sing a new song to the Lord" or even just "make a joyful noise" to consider being part of our student choir.  Music is a big part of how we worship, as Catholics, but it can only happen with your help.  Please pray over the break if this is a ministry which God is calling you to.  If you can help with music at Mass, I ask that you please contact Joseph Coca at acksno@live.com and get involved!  

Also, if anyone is interested in serving in any other capacity at Mass (as altar server, reader, or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion), please let me know, as I will be drawing up the new schedules for the Spring Semester over break.  If you are not trained in any of these areas, but would like to be, we can do that for you!

And finally, parking stickers for the spring semester for the student center lot are now available.  Parking on our lot is only $50 per semester.  If you'd like to get your's taken care of before you head home, come by the center this week.  

My prayers are with all of you during the exam week.  Please drive safe heading home, and have a wonderful Advent and Christmas season!

Prayer Before a Test

My God, enable me to trust in the good outcome
      of the test I am about to take;
      help me to contribute my own share
      of optimism and confidence.
With your grace, my God,
      I hope to crown my efforts with success.
Keep far from me at this moment
      any presumption that it all depends
      exclusively on me.
You are next to me, my God,
      the necessary and welcome presence
      in all the moments of my life.
I will take this test, my God,
      because it is important
      for my personal development.
My God, be the source of my inspiration
      in my doubts and uncertainties,
      supporting me with your blessing.


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

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gospel For Today


Today is called Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent.  Gaudete is the Latin word for "rejoice" and the name is taken from the Entrance Chant for today's Mass:  Gaudete in Domino semper; iterum dico, gaudete.  Dominus enim prope est.  "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.  Indeed, the Lord is near."

The theme of rejoicing is apparent in today's readings from Scripture.  The first reading from Isaiah (Is 61:1-2a, 10-11) includes the proclamation, 'I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul..."

Our response today is also taken from this passage in Isaiah: "My soul rejoices in my God."

The second reading is from 1 Thes 5:16-24 where St. Paul tells us, "Rejoice always."

Our gospel reading is from Jn 1:6-8, 19-23.  Does it, too, speak of rejoicing?  In a round about way, yes.  In today's gospel, people are asking about this John the Baptist fellow.  Who is this man?  Is he Elijah?  Is he a prophet?  Is he the Christ?  John's answer to all of this is a flat out "No!"  So why, then, the Pharisees asked him, are you going around baptizing people if you are not any of these thing?  John told them, "I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie."

And this is why we, today, can rejoice.  Because we have recognized the one of whom John spoke.  He is here, among us.  

We have seen the fulfillment of what Isaiah foretold.  We recognize the Christ whom St. Paul proclaims in the second reading. 
Rejoice always.  Pray without ceasing.  In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.  Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not despise prophetic utterances.  Test everything, retain what is good.  Refrain from every kind of evil.  May the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, sould and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it.

Christ has come!  He has come for our salvation.  He is faithful.  He will accomplish it.  And so let us rejoice! 

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

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Weekly Update from CCM

Happy Advent, everyone!  As we celebrate the Second Week of Advent, let us pray that we not only remember with joy and thanksgiving the coming of Christ in history in Bethlehem, and look forward to His coming in glory and majesty at the end of time, but also remember to keep our minds and hearts open to receive His coming each day into our lives.  Come, Lord Jesus!

Things are winding down for the end of the semester -- but I know a lot of you are feeling wound up, trying to complete last minute assignments and prepare for exams next week.  I'd like to invite you to take some time to relax and enjoy the fellowship of friends before exams begin.  Tomorrow night is a great opportunity to do just that.  

Please plan on joining us for our end of year holiday party Wednesday at 6:30pm at the student center.  Jess and Kate are preparing a home-cooked meal for us -- on the menu this week is BREAKFAST (featuring fresh laid eggs from the Newsome farm).  After dinner we will have our annual gift exchange.  Please bring a wrapped gift of up to $5 value to participate.  (I have some wrapping paper at the center if anyone wants to come early to wrap their gift).  This will be our last dinner of the semester so please make it if you can!

This Thursday, Dec. 8, is a holy day of obligation.  It is the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.  Many people are confused by that term.  Non-Catholics especially look at the Immaculate Conception on Dec. 8 and Christmas on Dec. 25 and think that must have been the shortest gestation in human history!  The Immaculate Conception does not refer to the conception of Jesus, but rather of His mother, Mary, conceived without sin by her parents Joachim and Anne.  This doctrine of the church was defined by Pope Pius IX in 1854 as the belief that the Blessed Virgin Mary was "in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin."

You can read more about this teaching here:

It is a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics, meaning that - like on Sundays - we are obligated to attend Mass.  We will not have Mass on campus, but there are two opportunities for Mass at St. Mary's, at 9am and 6pm.  If you need a ride to Mass, or if you are able to offer a ride, please post to our Facebook group to coordinate car pools.  Thanks!

The Immaculate Conception will also be the topic of discussion at our regular St. Thomas Aquinas student discussion group Thursday at 7pm.

Did you know that we have an ongoing RCIA group meeting Fridays from 4:45 to 5:45 in the afternoon?  RCIA is the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, and its purpose is to instruct adult converts in the Catholic faith and prepare them spiritually to be received into the Church.  It's also a great opportunity for those already Catholic to refresh their own faith.  Our meetings are open to all.  Is God calling you to learn more about your faith this Advent?

This Sunday is the third Sunday of Advent (called Gaudete Sunday after the first word of the Entrance Chant for that Mass, which is gaudete, or "rejoice").  It marks a shift in our Advent observance from looking forward to Christ's coming in glory, to looking past to His coming in history.  It is also the final Mass on campus of the semester.  Fr. Alex will be unavailable, so we will have a guest priest, Fr. Shawn O'Neal, pastor of St. Joseph's in Bryson City.  Please come celebrate the Holy Eucharist with us.  We will have a special blessing for those graduating this December, as well.  If you would like to be recognized at Mass as a December graduate and you have not already contacted me, please do so this week!

There are so many opportunities to enrich your faith this week!  But I know (and God knows) you have so many other obligations and deadlines at this time of the year.  If it seems like it is all too much to handle, just remember that God does not present you with any challenges that He does not also give you the grace to overcome.  Trust in Him!  And always remember to set aside a few minutes each day to tell Him thank you, that you love Him, and ask for His guidance.

Pray for one another!
Pax Christi,

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

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Gospel for Today


There are two prophetic voices most especially associated with the Advent season.  One is from the Old Testament, the other from the New.  Today we hear from both of them in our liturgy.  The first reading this Sunday is from the prophet Isaiah (Is 40:1-5, 9-11).  Our Gospel reading is from Mark 1:1-8 and it begins by quoting part of Isaiah that we hear in the first reading. 

Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way.  A voice of one crying out in the desert: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths."

After quoting the prophet Isaiah, Mark then introduces us to another prophet, John the Baptist, who says, "One mightier than I is coming after me.  I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.  I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

John's message is a simple one, and repeated often.  Do not look at me.  Look at Him.  I am not the One.  He is the One.  He is coming.  The one foretold by Isaiah is coming.  Prepare the way of the Lord.

Are you prepared for the coming of the Lord? The second reading today from St. Peter also speaks of preparing for the Lord's coming, not in the past, but at the end of time.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out.  Since everything is to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be, conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God... Therefore, beloved, since you await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.  (2 Pt 3:8-14)

So the theme of Advent continues.  We remember the Lord's coming in history, in Bethlehem.  At the same time we prepare for the Lord's coming at the end of all history, at the end of time.  And how do we prepare?  St. Peter tells us to conduct ourselves in holiness and devotion, so that we may "be found without spot or blemish."  How do we do that?

We "make straight his path" by keeping our lives focused on Him.  We keep ourselves "without spot or blemish" by asking for His mercy and forgiveness when we fail.  Advent is a season of penance.  It is a season for reconciliation.  

This is a time of preparation in many different ways for WCU students.  We are wrapping up our final assignments and projects in all of our classes.  Most are also preparing for exams.  Some are preparing for graduation, and a new chapter in their lives post-college.  In the midst of all these very important preparations, take a few moments today to make sure you are not neglecting to prepare yourself in the most important way.  All of these things, St. Peter reminds us, will one day dissolve away.  Are we prepared to welcome Christ into our lives today?

Maybe you have not been to Mass in a while.  Come back.  Maybe it has been some time since you made your last confession.  Do it.  Don't wait.  The Eucharist is our daily bread, and Confession is our daily bath.  This is the rhythm of the Christian life; it is how we keep ourselves prepared for Christ Jesus.  

Advent is a reminder, and an invitation.  May we always strive to keep our lives focused on the eternal, on what is truly important.  May we always be prepared for Christ.
WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
(828)293-9374  |   POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Weekly update from CCM

Happy Advent, everyone!  With the snow flurries in Cullowhee today, it really does feel like the end of the year is fast approaching.  I know you all are busy working on your end of semester projects and assignments, as well as preparing for your exams looming so near in the future.  Remember to pray for one another, and try not to be so busy that you miss the message of this Advent season. Are we preparing ourselves to meet God as fervently as we prepare for our exams?  In the end there is only one grade that matters, and it's strictly pass or fail!  

A reminder of our schedule this week...
WEDNESDAY:  Join us at 6:30pm for a yummy meal prepared this week by our two Vermonters, Julianna and Heather.  Stay afterwards for a short faith-filled program and some relaxing fellowship time together.
THURSDAY:  Our student discussion group takes a little break from serious topics and instead devotes itself this week to a "Dance Party 2" marathon on the Wii.  All are invited, at 7pm here at the Center.
SUNDAY:  We will resume our ministry to the high school youth at St. Mary's as they come to join us for fellowship Sunday evening at 5:00.  Then at 6:30, we will have half an hour of apologetics before praying the Rosary at 7:00 and finally celebrating Mass at 7:30.  It's a great night of faith, fellowship and worship, and we hope to see you there.  

Looking ahead...
SKI WEEKEND!  Jan 13-15, 2012, we are planning a fun Ski weekend in Boone.  We will crash the App State campus ministry house, take advantage of their wonderful hospitality, and spend the day on Saturday skiing and snowboarding to our heart's content.  If you plan on going, you must register by the end of the semester.  The registration fee is $20 and this covers the cost of your meals while we are there.  There will be additional costs for whatever activities you plan on participating in at Sugar Mountain.  We are also inviting students from other schools to join us, and hopefully will have enough to qualify for the group rates, which you can see on Sugar Mountain's web site:

To register for the weekend, please see Matt.

That was the theme of our Beach retreat this year, and no doubt it was what many people were feeling this past Sunday when they went to Mass and heard, for the first time, the words of the new English translation of our liturgy.  Hopefully you did not find yourself confused, but instead well prepared for the changes.  In my own experience, attending Mass both at St. Mary's and here on campus, things went rather smoothly.  People were well aware of the changes that were coming, and made good use of the pew cards and other resources to follow along.  No one seemed to have any problem with the longer responses, such as the Nicene Creed or the Penitential Rite, as they were ready to follow along on the pew cards.  What tended to throw people were the shorter responses that come many times during the Mass and which we don't tend to think about.  

"And also with you," is a response that just rolls off of our tongue without much consideration.  And that's not a good thing.  One advantage of having a new translation is that we will no longer be able to "go through the motions" at Mass.  We will be forced to pay attention and think about the words we say.  Every time we remind ourselves to say "and with your spirit" we bring ourselves back into the moment and make sure we are really present at the Mass, paying attention to what is going on.

Sure, there will be a lot of "And also with... your spirit!" in the next few weeks.  But that's ok, we will get there soon enough.  In the meantime, I thought it might be telling to look at what we are leaving behind, and what we have gained with the new revised translation.

This is the Preface from the First Sunday of Advent, which we just celebrated this past Sunday.  Back in 2010, this is what you would have heard:
When he humbled himself to come among us as a man, he fulfilled the plan you formed long ago and opened for us the way to salvation. Now we watch for the day, hoping that the salvation promised us will be ours when Christ our Lord will come again in his glory.

Now, in 2011, this is how we heard that same prayer:
For he assumed at his first coming the lowliness of human flesh, and so fulfilled the design you formed long ago, and opened for us the way to eternal salvation, that, when he comes again in glory and majesty and all is at last made manifest, we who watch for that day may inherit the great promise in which now we dare to hope. 

Try saying both of those prayers out loud, and hear the impact of the second one.  When you compare the two, the first seems lacking.  Look at what is missing there, which we find in the new translation.  Before, we mentioned Christ becoming man.  Now, he takes on "the lowliness of human flesh."  Before, we spoke of salvation.  Now, we speak of "eternal salvation."  The first translation has Christ coming in glory.  The new translation has Him coming "in glory and majesty."  Before, we simply hoped.  Now, we "dare to hope."  

In short, there is much more "meat on the bones" of the payers in our liturgy now.  A lot more for us to chew on!  Let's not let it go to waste but take advantage of each morsel.

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

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Gospel for Today

(A brief reminder that we WILL have Mass tonight at 7:30pm.  We WILL NOT host the high school youth tonight, nor will have have our normal Apologetics session at 6:30pm.  Those activities will resume next week.  We will pray the rosary at 7pm for those who would like to come to Mass early).


Watch!  This is the message for today, the first Sunday of Advent.  The word advent comes to us from the Latin for "to come to," and it is a season of preparation for the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  As we come closer to the end of the Advent season, our preparations will focus on remembering His first coming, as a newborn babe in Bethlehem.  But for now, at the beginning of Advent, our focus is more on His second coming at the end of time.  It is then that Christ will come, not as a helpless infant, born into this frail human condition to suffer and to die for the sake of our redemption, but rather as our King and our Judge, perfectly just but also perfectly merciful, to whom we must give an account of our lives.

It is this second coming that today's Gospel reading is preparing us for (Mk 13:33-37).  These are the words of Jesus which we hear today: 
Be watchful!  Be alert!  You do not know when the time will come.  It is like a man traveling abroad.  He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gate keeper to be on the watch.  Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening , or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning.  May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.  What I say to you, I say to all: 'Watch!'

Jesus is telling us three things:
1) He will be returning to us.
2) No one knows when.
3) Be ready!

So much for all those modern-day prophets of doom who claim to know when the end will come.  Today's fad is the Mayan calendar, which supposedly predicts the end of time in December next year.  Tomorrow it will be something different.  Jesus tells us quite plainly that no one knows when that day will be, but in reality it matters not.  For we face two judgments; one is the general judgment at the end of time, but the other is our particular judgment which we will face the moment after we die.  With that in mind, it does not really matter if the end of all time comes in 2012 or a million years from now.  We each will face our personal end sooner or later; it may be many decades from now in a hospital bed surrounded by our grandchildren and great-grandchildren, or it may be tomorrow as we cross the street.  Who knows?  

No one knows, but sooner or later we will all meet Christ face-to-face and we will know our eternal destiny.  There are only two options, heaven for those who have accepted the mercy of Christ, or hell for those who reject it.   And that is precisely why Jesus's message is so important.  Watch!  Be ready!  

This means living each day as one committed to Christ, because any day could be your last.  Decide to be Christ-like today.  Decide to live as Christ would have you live.  Decide to love as He loves.  And renew that decision each and every day.  If you do so, then you will be like the Corinthians in today's second reading (1 Cor. 1:3-9), who were waiting "for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ."  St. Paul told them that "He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ."  

This is how we want Christ to find us upon His return -- resolute and faithful to the end.  We do not want to be found sleeping.  So stay awake.  Stay true to the faith.  Stay vigilant.  And watch!

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Weekly update from CCM

Good afternoon, students!  I pray for safe travels for everyone returning home to visit family and friends this week for the Thanksgiving holiday.  May you have a relaxing and enjoyable break from school and come back refreshed and ready to tackle the last couple of weeks of the semester.  

Just a reminder that our normal activities this week are cancelled because of the holiday.  No "Supper @ the Center" Wednesday night, and no student discussion group on Thursday night.

We WILL HAVE MASS this Sunday, Nov. 27, at 7:30pm (regular time).  We are, however, taking a break this week from our high school youth ministry program for those of you volunteering for that.

When we next meet, it will be a new liturgical year, and the beginning of Advent.  Advent is one of the major liturgical seasons in the year, and its name comes from the Latin word for "to come to."  The Advent season is a time of preparation that directs our hearts and minds to Christ's second coming at the end of time and also to the anniversary of the Lord's birth on Christmas.  So while we remember that Christ came to us 2000 years ago in a manger in Bethlehem, we also look ahead for when He will come again in all His glory.  

Special Advent devotions include the lighting of the Advent wreath and the keeping of an Advent calendar which helps remind us of the season with daily thoughts and activities.  Like Lent, the season of preparation before Easter, Advent is also a penitential season, which is why both Advent and Lent use the same liturgical color - purple.  One thing that is challenging for today's Catholics is to remember that Advent is a season of penance and preparation, a season of reflection where we are asked to look within ourselves and ask the tough question - "Am I prepared for the coming of the Lord?"  It is far too easy to get caught up in the commercial madness of today when the stores have Christmas decorations up the day after Halloween, and you start seeing Christmas trees and hearing Christmas carols as early as Thanksgiving.  By the time December 25 rolls around many people are tired of "the holidays," when in fact the Christmas season has just begun.  

So let's not lose Advent this year.  Let's keep it as a time of preparation for the coming of our Lord and look forward to Christmas with all the excitement and joy and reverence that this Holy Day deserves.  

And of course this year Advent is doubly special, as the first Sunday of Advent is when we will officially begin using the third edition of the Roman Missal, with its revised English translation.  We have discussed many of the coming changes this semester, and even more information is available on line.  You can begin by visiting our own web site:

There you will find links to our blog where you can review the many topics we discussed this semester in my "Matt's Missal Moments."  You will also find a link to the USCCB web site (US Conference of Catholic Bishops) where they have a host of good articles and other information about the new Roman Missal.  There are a couple I'd like to point out to you in particular.  One is an article that gives the definitions of many of the more unfamiliar words we will be hearing in this new translation; words such as chalice, consubstantial, godhead, and oblation which we don't use in our everyday speech.  This handy glossary will help you navigate your way through these terms.

The second article I'd like to point out is entitled "Praying with Mind, Body and Voice" and deals with why we do things such as bow, genuflect, kneel and sing during Mass - and why there are times when we are silent, as well.  

When you enter our chapel this coming Sunday, you will notice a few more articles and information guides posted on our bulletin board.  You will also find a basket by the door containing copies of a little green booklet called "The Order of the Mass."  Please pick one up as you enter the chapel; there you will find the entire Order of the Mass which you can use to follow along as we worship.  In many ways it will be like coming to Mass for the first time.  Old familiar prayers and responses we will have to relearn.  It will take a while to get used to, but it's a good thing to be shaken up from time to time so that we can look at the liturgy with new eyes and take nothing for granted.  These booklets are intended as an aid to your worship.  Please return them to the basket after Mass so others can use them.

You will also find in your pews handy reference cards that contain just the people's responses, with the changed parts in bold, for quick reference.  These are to remain in the pews and we'll use them for some time, until everyone is comfortable with the new translation.

Lastly, if anyone has any questions about the new Mass translation, I will remind you that I am here as a resource, as well.  Just ask!  You can either come to me in private or bring up your questions as a topic for discussion at any of our gatherings.  

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, a safe journey, and a relaxing break.   God bless all of you!

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

Bringing out the scripture...

As we prepare for the Third Edition of the Roman Missal beginning this Advent, we will continue examining some of the changes to the people’s parts of the Mass in the new English translation. We will look now at the Preface Dialog.

This is the part of the Mass where the priest says “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God,” and the people reply, “It is right to give him thanks and praise.” From now on, in the new translation, we will be replying, “It is right and just.” Period.

Why the change? Let’s go back to the Latin. In the official Latin text, the people reply, “Dignum et iustum est.” Even if you don’t know what dignum and iustum mean, you see the et “and” and the est “is.” It is “this” and “that.” Period. Very simple and very to the point. Once more, the new translation is simply remaining faithful to the text of the original liturgical document.

The same is true of the last part of the Mass I want to look at specifically, the Ecce Agnus Dei. The way the new translation is rendered not only more closely follows the Latin, it also alludes much more to Sacred Scripture (which the original Latin also does). Here is the Latin with the old and new translation.
ORIGINAL LATINPriest: Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccáta mundi. Beáti qui ad cenam Agni vocáti sunt.All: Dómine, non sum dignus, ut inter sub tectum meum, sed tantum dic verbo et sanábitur anima mea. 
FORMER TRANSLATIONPriest: This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper.
All: Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed. 
NEW TRANSLATIONPriest: Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.
All: Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.
This part of the Mass is full of allusions to Sacred Scripture. The first is from John 1:29. John the Baptist sees Jesus coming toward him and says, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Next, the priest says, “Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” Note that we now hear the word “blessed” where before it was “happy.” In Latin, blessed is beati, which is what we see in the original. Happy would be felix or leatus (joyful), neither of which are present in the text. In any case, this is a reference to Rev. 5:19 and John’s vision of the heavenly banquet.

The third Scriptural reference here is in our response. This comes from the story found in Mat. 8:5-13.
When he entered Capernaum, a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.” He said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion said in reply, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed. For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” And Jesus said to the centurion, “You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you.” And at that very hour [his] servant was healed.
This Scripture reference was hidden somewhat in our previous English translation, or at least it was not made apparent. The words we will be saying in the new translation, come Advent, may at first sound strange coming out of our mouths, but this is probably just because we are so used to the other. Change is never easy for anyone. But it will help us to remember that this new translation has our words more closely following the words of the centurion, confessing his unworthiness before the Lord, and at the same time acknowledging his authority and his power, and asking him humbly for healing. What an awesome time for us to remind ourselves of that, as we prepare to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord in the Holy Eucharist.

I know that some people have received the news of these changes in the Mass with trepidation. I know that others have looked forward to them with great joy and anticipation. Regardless, my prayer for us all is that we take this opportunity to truly think about the words we say in the liturgy, to catechize ourselves, or perhaps re-catechize ourselves as to the mystery and the meaning of the Mass, so that we can approach this sacrifice with prayer, humility, thanksgiving and reverence for this wonderful gift which God has given us and which the Church has so carefully handed down to us.
God bless!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Gospel for Today


Today is the feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (usually referred to simply as "Christ the King").  This feast was instituted by Pope Pius XI to be celebrated on the last Sunday of Ordinary Time, at the very end of the Church year.  As we prepare to begin the liturgical cycle once more with the season of Advent, where we joyfully await the coming of Our Lord, it is fitting to mark the end of the year by looking forward to the end of time, when our King shall come in glory.  We recognize, however, that Christ reigns today even now in His Church.

What type of king we have in Christ is made evident in today's readings.  Christ is described not as a tyrant ruling from on high, but as a shepherd, lovingly tending his flock.  The Psalm today is the well known Psalm 23, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want..."  The first reading from the book of Ezekiel has God telling us, "I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest... The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal..."

This is the kind of King we have; one who looks not on his subjects with disdain, but who looks upon them as sheep to be tended and cared for.  This is why from time immemorial the leaders of the Church have been referred to as shepherds.  One of the signs of a bishop's rank is a shepherd's crook.  We still today call our priests "pastors."  They model for us the loving care of Christ, the Good Shepherd.

But Ezekiel does leave us with a warning in this passage.  "As for you, my sheep, says the Lord God, I will judge between one sheep and another, between rams and goats."  And so even while recalling the loving relationship between the Shepherd and His sheep, we are reminded of the end times, and that our Shepherd is also our Judge.  

The Gospel today is from Matthew 25:31-46.  This is a passage all Christians should make themselves familiar with.  Jesus is speaking of the end of time, when His kingdom will come to fulfillment.  "He will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.  And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats."  

The sheep are those who gave Christ food when He was hungry, who fed Him when He was naked, who cared for Him when He was ill, and who visited Him in prison.  The goats did none of those things.  The sheep are to inherit the kingdom "prepared for you from the foundation of the world."  The goats are cast into "the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels."  

Both the sheep and the goats in Christ's parable are confused because they did not recall feeding Our Lord, or clothing Him, or visiting Him in prison (or not doing those things, as the case may be).  But Jesus explains: "Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for the least brothers of mine, you did for me."

This should be a humbling thought for all of us.  Have we done those things?  Have we had the opportunity to feed, clothe, care for, or visit our Lord, in the person of one of the "least brothers" of His?  And did we let that opportunity pass by? 

We have a King.  He is a just and merciful King, a loving Shepherd who would do anything - even give His own life - to return even one of his stray sheep to the fold.  We can rejoice in that!  But that is no excuse to be lazy and presumptuous.  We cannot simply sit back and say, "I don't have to do anything, God loves me no matter what."  God does love you no matter what.  He loves you too much to force you to be with Him if you choose not to.  He has prepared a place for his sheep, in His kingdom.  But He has also prepared a place for the goats, those who choose to reject Him, as Lucifer did.  Which place will you inherit?

As baptized Christians, we are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.  We should act like it.  Christ today tells us what that means.  We are to clothe the naked.  We are to feed the hungry.  We are to tend to the injured and sick.  We are to visit the prisoners.  In short, we are to love one another.  Christ's Kingdom is for those who love.  He has prepared it for us.  Have we prepared ourselves for Him?

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Weekly update from CCM

Dear Students,

Did you know that we have only one more Sunday remaining in ordinary time?  The following Sunday will be the first Sunday of Advent, and also the first time we will be celebrating Mass with the new third edition of the Roman Missal, including the revised English translation.  Are you prepared for the changes?

If you've been paying attention this semester you'll note this has been a reoccurring theme of mine.  We've been trying to prepare students as much as possible in Catholic Campus Ministry for this coming change in the way we worship.  If you've been a regular at our Wednesday night dinners you'll have enjoyed my little "Matt's Missal Moments" before our post-supper program each week.  (Ok, so maybe "enjoy" is too strong a word....)  :-)

I've also been updating our campus ministry blog with articles about the coming changes.  If you've missed those, now is a great time to catch up.  You can see a link to each article at the bottom of this page:

You'll now find pew sheets in our chapel for your use as a quick reference to the different people's responses at Mass.  In addition I will be making available Order of the Mass booklets for people to use who want to follow along more closely.  St. Mary's also now has in their bookstore little St. Joseph missalettes for the coming year for only $3, as well as the full hard cover Daily Roman Missals for $48 if you want all the scripture readings, as well as the order of the Mass in all its glory!

Wednesday:  Please join us for dinner at our regular time at 6:30pm.  Sarah and James are sharing kitchen duty, with hamburgers on the menu (we'll have some veggie burgers, too).  My "Missal Moment" after dinner will focus on our response to "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world..."  Finally, we will enjoy a student program led by Ali to round off the evening.

Thursday: Our St. Thomas Aquinas student discussion group will meet at 7:00pm, with the topic being "S'mores & S'aints."  We'll be eating treats and talking about our favorite saints, so please join us.

Saturday:  Our final football game is this Saturday at 2pm.  We need two volunteers to help with parking money between noon and 2 that day.  If you can help us raise money for our campus ministry with this event parking fundraiser, please let me know!

Sunday: At 6:30pm we will continue our apologetics series.  This week the topic is "The Bible Alone?" and we will look at the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura.  At 7:00pm please join us for the Rosary in our chapel, followed at 7:30pm with Holy Mass.  

Because of the Thanksgiving break, we will not have dinner on Wednesday.  We will, however, still have Mass on Sunday at the usual 7:30pm time.

It's not too soon to look ahead to next semester!  On Jan 14-16 (MLK weekend) we are planning a trip to Boone to crash at App State's campus ministry house and take in some skiing adventure.  Costs are still being worked out, but part of the cost will depend on how many are signed up (we may qualify for a group discount).  We are inviting students from other campuses in our diocese, so this will be a great chance to connect with Catholics from other campuses.  I'll be posting more information as I have it, but I am asking people to register for the trip by the end of this semester; the registration fee is $20 and will cover your food for the entire weekend.  Please see me if you would like to register.

God bless, and have a great week!

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

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Gospel for Today


Today's Gospel is from Matthew 25:14-30.  As in the past several weeks, this week's reading has Jesus relating another parable.  This parable has a man who, while he travels on a journey, entrusts three of his servants with a certain amount of talents.  (A "talent" is a unit of currency).  To one servant he gives five talents, to another two, and to the last servant one.  When he returns he finds that the servants to whom he gave five and two talents have invested their money and returned to their master double what they were entrusted with, ten and four talents respectively.  The third servant whom was given a single talent buried it in the ground, and returned the same to his master.  

The master was furious.  "Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?" he asks.  He then takes the talent and gives it to the servants who had wisely invested his money.  "For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away."

At first glance, today's gospel reading might seem like a sermon on financial investment.  Or it might seem like a condemnation of the whole "I am the 99%" movement.  We complain because the rich grow richer while the poor grow more poor; yet isn't that exactly what Jesus says will happen in today's gospel?

Not quite.  For only on the surface is today's parable about money.  I'm convinced that Jesus had more in mind.  We get clues as to what from the other readings today.  This first reading is from Proverbs 31.  It is about a worthy wife, one who "fears the Lord."  It speaks of such a wife as an "unfailing prize" and her value as "far beyond pearls."  "Give her a reward for her labors, and let her works praise her at the city gates."  

The Psalm has a similar message.  Psalm 128 tells us "Blessed are you who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways!  For you shall eat the fruits of your handiwork..."  It concludes, "Behold, thus is the man blessed who fears the Lord.  The Lord bless you from Zion: may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life."

The rewards and prosperity spoken of in these two readings have nothing to do with investing money in a bank.  Rather they have to do with living lives in fear of the Lord.  Now, this does not mean being afraid of God!  When the Bible speaks of "fear of the Lord," it means having respect and awe for the Almighty.  It means proper reverence and admiration -- and yes, this may mean a little trembling on our part.  

What it all boils down to is investing what God has given us, so that we may yield an increase, as the two wise servants in today's gospel parable.  What has God given us?  A sum of money?  Or something else?

In truth God has given us everything.  Our lives, our bodies, our souls, every breath we take is a gift from the Lord.  What are we doing with these treasures he has entrusted us with?  Are we investing our lives in such a way as to see an increase in that investment?  What would such an increase look like?

The answer, I believe, is found in the closing prayer from today's Mass:
We have partaken of the gifts of this sacred mystery, humbly imploring, O Lord, that what your Son commanded us to do in memory of him may bring us growth in charity.  Through Christ our Lord.

We pray for growth in charity, which is to say an increase in love.  This is how you should be investing your talents.  God has invested in your life.  He wants to be paid back, with increase, in love.

God bless!

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

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Weekly update from CCM

Dear Students,

What a wonderful time we had this past weekend at Folly Beach!  The theme of our beach retreat was "Mass Confusion!" and despite the title I feel I can say with confidence that we all left LESS confused about the Mass, and more in awe and wonder at the miracles we are allowed to participate in each Sunday at the liturgy.  I am so proud of all the students who researched the various talks and presentations on the different parts of the Mass, and very glad to have had the opportunity to share this experience with those who went on the retreat.  We could not have had a better ending to the retreat than the beautifully celebrated Mass on Sunday morning at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in downtown Charleston.

I've gathered some photos of the retreat and put them online for any who would like to see them:

Coming up this week...
WEDNESDAY:  Please join us for dinner at 6:30pm.  After we will have another of my 'Missal Moments.'  We are only a few weeks away from when the new translation goes into effect.  Are you ready?  We have received our new copy of the Roman Missal for our chapel, so I'll have that on hand for show and tell.  Our program afterward will be led by Alex Cassell.

THURSDAY:  The St. Thomas Aquinas student discussion group meets at 7pm.  The topic this week is "The Human Experience."  If you have never seen this film, it is the story of a band of brothers who travel the world in search of the answers to the burning questions: Who am I? Who is Man? Why do we search for meaning? Their journey brings them into the middle of the lives of the homeless on the streets of New York City, the orphans and disabled children of Peru, and the abandoned lepers in the forests of Ghana, Africa. What the young men discover changes them forever. Through one on one interviews and real life encounters, the brothers are awakened to the beauty of the human person and the resilience of the human spirit.

SATURDAY:  "Preaching to the Choir" is a workshop led by Fr. Ken Whittington, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo church in Morganton, NC.  He's coming to St. Mary's in Sylva to teach us about the meaning and role of liturgical music in our worship.  Why do we sing what we sing at Mass?  Does it matter what we sing?  Why do we sing, anyway?  If you sing in the choir I strongly encourage you to attend this workshop.  Anyone with any interest at all in liturgical music is most welcome.  It will run from 9:30am till 3:00pm, with lunch provided.  Prior registration is required, so if you'd like to attend, please let me know.

Looking ahead...
For those of you interested in taking part of the March for Life trip to DC this coming January 21-24, I have the registration forms in my office.  The cost to take part in the trip with St. Mary's ranges from $420 for a single room, down to $200 if you share a room.  A $100 deposit is due no later than Dec. 2.  Special Note:  There is a possibility that the group will get to go on a special tour of the White House led by Heath Shuler.  If you want to be a part of that tour, a background check is required and the information needed for that is due in no later than Nov. 16, so act now.  For more information, please see me, or contact Celeste Franzen at ccsfpdp@aol.com or 828-226-1512.

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

Glory to God in the Highest!

Moving along in our study of the new English translation of the Mass, we will look next at the Gloria. Again, we will compare the current English translation with the Latin original, followed by the new English translation.

Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth. Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father, we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory.
Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world: have mercy on us; you are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer. For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen. 
Glória in excélsis Deo et in terra pax homínibus bonae voluntátis. Laudáumus te, benedícimus te, adorámus te, glorificámus te, grátias ágimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam,Dómine Deus, Rex caeléstis, Deus Pater omnípotens. Dómine Fili unigénite, Iesu Christe, Dómine Deus, Agnus Dei, Filius Patris, Qui tollis peccáta mundi, miserere nobis; Qui tollis peccáta mundi, súscipe deprecatiónem nostrum. Qui sedes ad déxteram Patris, miserere nobis. Quóniam tu solus Sanctus, Tu solus Dóminus, Tu solus Altíssimus, Iesu Christe, cum Sancto Spíritu: In glória Dei Patris. Amen. 
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will. We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory, Lord God, heavenly King, O God, almighty Father.
Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son, Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us; you take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer; you are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us. For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

We notice right at the beginning the addition of the phrase “of good will.” This is a direct translation of the Latin bonae voluntátis, which is entirely missing from our current translation. It hearkens back to Luke’s Gospel, when the Angel of the Lord announces the birth of Christ with those words, and so this new, more accurate translation brings back the Scriptural reference more accurately.

My favorite part of the new Gloria translation is “We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you…” This rhythmic structure more closely follows the cadence of the Latin. Laudáumus te, benedícimus te, adorámus te, glorificámus te… It is poetry; it has a special cadence to it which ought to be respected as much as possible in the translation. That’s not always possible, so I am glad that they have recaptured it here.

Notice, too the repetition of the phrase “you take away the sins of the world.” It is repeated twice in the Latin – qui tollis peccáta mundi. And now it is repeated in the English, as well. As I mentioned in the last installment, when words or phrases are repeated it is for emphasis. If we are going to emphasize our own culpability and sinfulness, as we did in the Penitential Rite, we cannot neglect to also emphasize the saving power of our Lord.

One cause for concern that many have expressed has to do with the music we sing at Mass. In most parishes, the Gloria is sung rather than recited. As it should be! If you attend a Mass where the Gloria is sung in Latin, then you have nothing to be concerned with, as the Latin text will not be changing with the new edition of the Missal.

However, if you sing the Gloria in English, as most US parishes do, then you will indeed be learning a new musical setting for the Gloria. And having to learn new music as well as new words may seem to some to be twice the challenge! (Although one can make the argument that setting the words to music actually makes them easier to remember.)

Nevertheless having to learn a new sung part of the Mass will definitely be a major transition for many, and so to help smooth the process along many bishops in the US, our own included, have granted permission for the sung parts of the new Missal to be used as early as September of this year.

The US Bishop’s Conference and the International Commission of English in the Liturgy (ICEL), as well as other groups dedicated to liturgical music, such as the Church Music Association of America, have made available for free download musical settings for the sung parts of the new Mass translation. And many other liturgical musicians are working on composing new scores.

It is not only the Gloria that is changing. In the Sanctus, instead of singing “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of power and might,” we will now instead sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.” And the Mystery of Faith will also change somewhat. Now instead of four options there are three, which are slightly different from what we sing now.

So if you attend a Mass where some or all of the above is sung in English, get ready for something a bit different. And don’t be afraid to sing along!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Gospel For Today

If you only have one saying of Jesus memorized, it is probably the one found in today's Gospel account (Mt 22:34-40).  In response to the question of which commandment is the greatest, Jesus says:

You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and first commandment.  The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.

It is worth pointing out that at the root of these two commandments is the fact that you should love yourself.  It is easy enough to focus on loving your neighbor (which we need to focus on), but forget that step one is to love yourself.  It is impossible to give love to others unless you believe that you are also worthy of love.

You are a person created by God!  He created you in His image, and gifted you with an immortal soul.  He desires to share in your company for all eternity and to be in close, intimate relationship with you.  God loves you!  And He knows what He is doing.  So if you want to love the things that God loves, you can begin by loving yourself.  

God created mankind as fundamentally good.  Human nature is ordered toward God, and the things of God -- love, goodness, purity, perfection.  We are wounded by Original Sin, it is true.  We are fallen.  Our human nature has been perverted and corrupted.  We are not what we could be.  But we are still fundamentally good and worthy of love.

This is something that we believe differently as Catholics than many of our Protestant neighbors.  Many Protestants will follow the traditions of Martin Luther, who spoke of the redeemed person as a "snow covered dung hill."  The one saved by Christ is made white and pure on the outside, but the inside is still... well, a pile of dung.

That is now how Catholics view mankind.  We are wounded, we are weak, and we need saving.  All that is true.  But we are saved by cooperating with God's grace to grow ever more holy.  Our sins are not covered, they are forgiven!  We are not made to appear holy before God, we are made holy.  Because God loves us, and wants to restore us to that state of perfection and joy for which He made us.

So love yourself.  God does.

And then, knowing how special and precious we are in the eyes of God, we begin to realize just how special and precious our neighbors are to Him.  And because we love Him, and we love those things He loves, our neighbors become special and precious in our sight, as well.  We can truly begin to love our neighbors as ourselves.  

We keep the second commandment best when we do so in the spirit of the first; when we love God with all our heart, mind and soul.  In other words, when we love God with our whole selves.  When we love someone truly, we begin to love the things they love.  My wife's favorite color is blue.  It is not my favorite color.  But over the years I have acquired many blue things because when I see them I am reminded of my wife, and it makes me happy.  Peas are far from my favorite vegetable, but they are one of my wife's favorites.  I would probably never prepare them for myself, but when I see them on my plate it makes me smile because I know she loves them.  And yes, I clean my plate.  I have come to like peas not for their own sake, but because my wife likes them so much.

These are silly examples, but they illustrate a very important principle.  If we are in love with God, we will also love the things He loves -- which includes our neighbors and our selves.

St. Augustine once spoke of the moral code this way:  "Love God, then do as you will."  This is not to say that so long as you love God you can behave any way you want and all is good.  No.  It means that if you truly love God you will only desire to do those things which are pleasing to Him, and you would have no desire to do anything to offend Him.

St. Thomas Aquinas once said that we offend God when we act against our own good.  Loving someone means desiring their good.  So it all goes back to love.  Loving God.  Loving our neighbors as God loves them.  Loving ourselves as God loves us.  

Please join us for our celebration of Holy Mass this evening at 7:30 at the Catholic Student Center.  And remember if you can to come early and take advantage of our first "Apologetics 101" class tonight at 6:30 at the Center.  We will start tonight with some basic principles and guidelines to help you talk about and explain the Catholic faith with your non-Catholic friends and classmates.

God bless, and enjoy your Sunday!

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

Friday, October 21, 2011

Mea culpa!

Next let’s look at the Penitential Act. We looked at Form B before. Now I want to look at Form A. Here we have the English translation currently in use, followed by the original Latin text, and finally the new translation going into effect this Advent. I have highlighted the differences.
I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do; and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord, our God. 
Confíteor Deo omnipoténti et vobis, fratres, quia peccávi nimis congitatióne, verbo, ópere et omission: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Ideo precor beátam Maríam semper Vírginem, omnes Angelos et Sanctos, et vos, fratres, oráre pro me ad Dóminum Deum nostrum. 
I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault; therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.
The first change we notice is the addition of the word “greatly.” We will now be saying, “I have greatly sinned.” But the most notable change is the restoration of the three-fold self-accusation. In the Latin we say mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. This is a very familiar phrase in our culture. I know even non-Catholics who, when admitting a mistake, use the phrase mea culpa. That three-fold repetition of our admission of guilt is something that was part of the rhythm of our Catholic liturgy for centuries, which is one reason why that phrase has now become part of our cultural heritage. In our current English translation, we were robbed of that rhythm.

Also, in literature – and this is true of poetic and narrative literature, as well as for Sacred Scripture and prayer – when something is repeated it is meant to give it emphasis. As a literature student in college I was taught that repetitions such as this were not accidental. The author, by repeating a word or a phrase, is trying to underscore something of great importance to the theme of his or her work.

The liturgy is very much akin to literature, borrowing heavily as it does on the Scriptures, that divine literary genre. As any translator of great literature should know, it is important to preserve any literary devices used by the author in the original. That emphasis on our personal culpability was there in the three-fold repetition of the original liturgical text. It has been missing from our current translation. The English major in me is happy to see it restored. And the faithful Catholic in me will surely benefit from being reminded as I pray the liturgy just who is at fault for my sins.

"And with your spirit..."

As we progress in our examination of the third edition of the Roman Missal, with its new English translation of the Mass we will begin using this Advent, we now move on to what we’ve all been waiting for – what of our people’s parts of the Mass is going to change?

We start with the familiar greeting from the priest, “The Lord be with you,” to which we reply, “and also with you.” That’s going to change, and I’m afraid it means the death knell for that old joke where the priest is fumbling around trying to get his microphone to work, and says, “There is something wrong with this microphone,” and the whole congregation replies, “And also with you.”

So what’s going to change? Here is the Latin side by side with the new translation.
Priest: Dominus vobíscum.           Priest: The Lord be with you.
People: Et cum spíritu tuo.           People: And with your spirit.

So why the change to “and with your spirit?” Well, let’s look at the Latin original. It says et cum spíritu tuo. You don’t have to be a Latin scholar to figure out what’s going on. Even if you just know a few Latin phrases you probably know that et means “and” and cum means “with.” You’ve got tuo there which if you know a bit of Spanish you can figure means “you” or “your.” And then spíritu looks almost just like our English word “spirit.” So it’s all right there in the original. It’s not a particularly complex phrase to translate. “And with your spirit.”

More importantly, it gives us a sense of just who it is we are addressing as Mass begins. The priest is greeting us with “The Lord be with you.” And when we respond, we are not responding directly to the priest, as a man. Rather we make a point of responding to his spirit – the spirit of Christ which is operating through the priest as he celebrates the Mass. Remember, with any Sacrament, it is not the priest himself who confers it, but rather God working through His minister. Here we are reminded of that truth of our faith, right at the beginning of the liturgy.

I want to point out here again that the Latin texts I am quoting from are from the second edition of the Missal, currently in use. This does not represent a change in the official Latin text of the Mass itself. This is simply a more faithful translation of the Latin text we’ve always had.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Eucharistic Prayer I

Next in our examination of the forthcoming third edition of the Roman Missal, to be introduced this Advent, we will look at the Institution Narrative from Eucharistic Prayer I, also called the Roman Canon. First is the current translation we are all familiar with. Beneath that is the Latin – I want to point out this is the Latin from the second edition of the Roman Missal, currently in effect. And finally is the new translation from the third edition we will be receiving this Advent.

Current Translation
The day before he suffered he took bread in his sacred hands and looking up to heaven, to you, his almighty Father, he gave you thanks and praise. He broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said:
When supper was ended, he took the cup. Again he gave you thanks and praise, gave the cup to his disciples, and said: TAKE THIS, ALL OF YOU, AND DRINK FROM IT; THIS IS THE CUP OF MY BLOOD, THE BLOOD OF TH ENEW AND EVERLASTING COVENANT. IT WILL BE SHED FOR YOU AND FOR ALL SO THAT SINS MAY BE FORGIVEN. DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME. 
Latin Original
Qui, pridie quam paterétur, accépit panem in sanctas ac venerábiles manus suas, et elevates óculis in caelum ad te Deum Patrem suum omnipoténtem, tibi grátias agens benedíxit, fregit, dedítgue discípulis suis, dicens: ACCÍPITE ET MANDUCÁTE EX HOC OMNES: HOC EST ENIM CORPUS MEUM, QUOD PRO VOBIS TRADÉTUR.
Símili modo, postquam cenátum est, accípiens et hunc praeclárum cálicem in sanctas ac venerábiles manus suas, item tibi grátias agens benedíxit, dedítque discípulis suis, dicens: ACCÍPITE ET BÍBITE EX EO OMNES: HIC EST ENIM CALIX SÁNGUINIS MEI, NOVI ET AETÉRNI TESTAMÉNTI, QUI PRO VOBIS ET PRO MULTIS EFFUNDÉTUR IN REMISSIÓNEM PECCATÓRUM. HOC FÁCITE IN MEAN COMMEMORATIÓNEM. 
New Translation
On the day before he was to suffer he took bread in his holy and venerable hands, and with eyes raised to heaven to you, O God, his almighty Father, giving you thanks he said the blessing, broke the bread and gave it to his disciples, saying: TAKE THIS, ALL OF YOU, AND EAT OF IT: FOR THIS IS MY BODY WHICH WILL BE GIVEN UP FOR YOU.
In a similar way, when supper was ended, he took this precious chalice in his holy and venerable hands, and once more giving you thanks, he said the blessing and gave the chalice to his disciples, saying: TAKE THIS, ALL OF YOU, AND DRINK FROM IT: FOR THIS IS THE CHALICE OF MY BLOOD, THE BLOOD OF THE NEW AND ETERNAL COVENANT, WHICH WILL BE POURED OUT FOR YOU AND FOR MANY FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS. DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME.

The first thing you may notice at a glance is that the new translation is a bit longer. There are certain elements of the original which have been missing from our current translation, and just to point them out to you, I’ve highlighted some phrases in the new translation, and the corresponding Latin text, which are completely absent from what we have now.

And again, I want to underscore that the Latin we are looking at is the normative text in effect now. This is the definitive and official text of the ordinary form of the Roman Rite. The part that jumps right out at me is the phrase “holy and venerable hands” which occurs twice to describe the hands of Christ as He instituted the Eucharist. It’s there in the Latin: sanctas ac venerabiles manus. What a wonderful phrase describing the saving hands of our Saviour, about to offer Himself up for us! Why has it been missing from our English Mass all these years? I’m thankful it is being restored.

In a similar way, we will now be referring to the vessel that Christ used to institute the Sacrament of His Blood at the Last Supper as a “precious chalice” rather than simply a “cup.” How befitting it is to be able to hear this more exalted language used to describe some of the most vital elements of our faith, things which indeed should be “precious” and “venerable” to us!

I have read that when the early translations of the Mass into English were being made in the 1970s, the emphasis was on making the language as simple and easy to understand as possible. I sympathize with the desire to make the liturgy accessible to the greatest number of people. However, it is a fine line between making the language “simple” and “talking down to” someone. I think the great majority of English speakers will readily understand the significance of phrases such as “holy and venerable,” and if they do not immediately, they will soon rise to the occasion. We should at least give them that opportunity!

Finally we must deal with the issue of “for all” v. “for many,” which is the change in the Roman Canon which has generated the most controversy. First of all we must make clear that the Church unequivocally teaches that Christ died for all men, without exception. “There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer” (Council of Quiercy, 853, qtd. in CCC 605). So why the change from “all” to “many,” then?

First, it is a better translation of the Latin pro multis, which has always been the official text. So in that respect it is not truly a change but a more accurate rendition of what the prayer has always said. So the question then is why does it say “for many” in the original Latin? And the answer is because it is Scriptural. Christ Himself said plainly that He would “give His life as a ransom for many” (Mt. 20:28, cf. Rom. 5:18-19). The Catechism teaches that this phrase is not meant to be limiting, but rather to highlight the contrast between the large multitude of humanity with the unique and singular person of Jesus Christ, who dies to save us (CCC 605).

Whose line is it anyway?

What I’d like to do now is begin looking at some of the parts of the Ordinary of the Mass, the parts of the Mass that do not usually change from week to week (except for those in which we are given the choice between multiple options, or special considerations for liturgical seasons such as Lent or Advent). And I want to look at the old and the new translation together with the Latin original. Let me emphasize one thing here. The Latin I will be giving you is not from the Third Edition of the Roman Missal. It is taken from the edition of the Roman Missal currently in use. This, I think, will underscore the fact that most of the changes we will notice with the new Missal won’t necessarily be due to the fact that it is a newer and more updated edition, but will due to the fact that we are now receiving a better and more accurate translation of the Latin, which is after all the definitive and official text. So let’s look first at the Penitential Act, Form B.

Current translation
Priest: Lord, we have sinned against you: Lord, have mercy.
People: Lord, have mercy.
Priest: Show us your mercy and love.
People: And grant us your salvation. 
Latin Original
Priest: Miserére nostri, Dómine.
People: Quia peccávimus tibi.
Priest: Osténde nobis, Dómine, misrericórdiam tuam.
People: Et salutáre tuum nobis. 
New translation
Priest: Have mercy on us, O Lord.
People: For we have sinned against you.
Priest: Show us, O Lord, your mercy.
People: And grant us your salvation

Let’s focus on the original Latin and see what we can make of it. I don’t think you have to be a Latin scholar to recognize at least some of the words. I’m certainly no expert, but I’m familiar with some of the Latin we use in the Church, largely through singing chant. Since Latin is the official language of the Church, I think it behooves us, as Catholics, to be familiar with at least some common Latin words and phrases that we use in our prayers.

For example, I recognize the word Miserére as meaning “have mercy” because we sing that in the Lamb of God. We sing miserere nobis, which means “have mercy on us.” And Dómine I recognize as the word for “Lord” from any number of prayers. So I can tell in the first line that the priest says “Have Mercy on us, Lord.” And that’s confirmed by what we see in the new translation below it.

But if we look at our current translation, the priest is saying more than that. In addition, he is saying, “Lord, we have sinned against you.” Where is that in the original text?

Let’s keep looking at the Latin. In the original, the people respond by saying Quia peccavimus tibi. So maybe our Latin is not so hot and we don’t know what that means. But we know in the current translation, in we say “Lord, have mercy.” Well, we just looked at the words for “Lord” and “mercy.” Neither words are in the part we are supposed to be saying in Latin. So what does that Latin mean?

Again, I’m no Latin scholar, but the word peccávimus here looks familiar. I’ve sung the Hail Mary in Latin enough times to be familiar with the word pecatoribus. In the Hail Mary in Latin, we pray ora pro nobis peccatoribus, which means “pray for us sinners.” So I can guess that peccávimus might have something to do with sin. And tibi I recognize as some form of “you.”

Let’s see how this is translated in the new third edition. We respond with “For we have sinned against you.” Based on our rudimentary guesses above we came pretty close. And now we see where that phrase from the priest’s part in the current translation came from. The past translators took that phrase from the people and gave it to the priest.

But isn’t that rather a fundamental change, beyond what simple translation calls for? Doesn’t that seem like editorial decisions were being made about the text that went beyond the scope of translation? It would be like translating Shakespeare’s plays into Spanish but along the way giving some of Hamlet’s lines to Ophelia!
This underscores why it was so important that the new translation, which goes into effect this Advent, was made according to strict guidelines. How many of the faithful would have guessed that words which the Church originally intended them to say during this Penitential Rite had been taken from their mouths by a committee of translators and placed into the mouth of the priest?

The new Third Edition of the Roman Missal corrects this, and addresses many other aspects of the former translation that have been seen by many as less than ideal. We’ll continue to look at the new translation in detail as we continue.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Where We Got the Bible

As Christians, we believe that God has revealed Himself to man. We also believe that the Bible is the inerrant written record of that Revelation. What is the Bible, where does it come from, and why do we, as Catholics, hold it to be inerrant?

The word “Bible” comes from the Greek word for “book.” The Bible is our sacred book. The Jewish people had a variety of sacred books they believed to be divinely inspired. Christ and the Apostles confirmed this by basing their teachings on these sacred books. These books make up the Old Testament. The teachings of the Catholic Church are handed on from the Apostles, who learned them from Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. This is what is referred to as the Deposit of Faith, and this has not been added to or taken away since the beginning of the Church. Some of this teaching has been committed to writing, and this constitutes the New Testament.


The Jewish people had many books that they considered holy and inspired. Sometime during the third century BC these began to be compiled. There are several early compilations, but the one adopted by the first Christians, and the Catholic Church, was called the Septuagint, or Alexandrine, version, and was a translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek. During the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285-246 BC), Jewish scholars met in Alexandria to translate the entire Jewish bible into Greek, which was the common language of many Jews throughout the Mediterranean and Palestine. There were 70 or 72 translators, six from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. This is why we call their work the “Septuagint,” which comes from the Latin word for 70.

Though other translations of the Jewish scriptures existed, this was the one used by Jesus and the writers of the New Testament. Over 300 of the Old Testament quotes found in the New Testament come from the Septuagint. This is not surprising, as the New Testament was written in Greek, and it is only logical that the writers would use the Greek Jewish scriptures.

The Septuagint contains 46 books. The current Hebrew cannon only has 39, however. This is because the Hebrew canon was not formally established until around 100 AD by Jewish rabbis in the Palestinian city of Jamnia. This may have been in reaction to the growing Christian church, which these rabbis rejected. They left out seven books that are found in the Septuagint. These are Wisdom, Sirach, Judith, Baruch, Tobit, and 1 and 2 Maccabees (as well as parts of David and Esther). They did this chiefly because they could find no extant versions of these books in Hebrew, from which the Greek was translated. They had four criteria that they used to determine which books were included in the cannon: 1) they were written in Hebrew, 2) they were in conformity with the Torah, 3) they were older than the time of Ezra (400 BC), and 4) they were written in Palestine. Christians, however, continued to use the Septuagint version that Christ and the Apostles had used.

Along with the Jewish scriptures, there were many other books being circulated and used as sacred texts among the early Christians. These were mainly gospel accounts and letters of St. Paul and other Apostles. Some of these books would come to be our New Testament. The New Testament books were written between 50 AD and 100 AD, and there are 27 in all. Why did these books get included in the canon of Sacred Scripture and others, like the Gospel of Thomas and the letters of Barnabas, not? The Church herself would use her infallible teaching authority to determine which books did and did not belong in the Bible.

The first bishop to compile a list of inspired books was Mileto of Sardis in 175 AD. Other bishops also kept lists of inspired books (texts which were allowed to be read from during the liturgy), but nothing formal was done until the fourth century. In 382 Pope Damasus, prompted by the Council of Rome, issued decree listing the 73 books that have made up our Old and New Testament ever since. The Catholic Church declared these 73 books to be the Christian Biblical canon at the Council of Hippo in 393 AD, and then again confirmed this in the Council of Carthage in 397 AD. Pope St. Innocent I officially approved this same list of 73 books in 405 AD and forever closed the canon of the Christian Bible. These books were considered divinely inspired on the authority of the Catholic Church. This was to be held uncontested as the Christian canon until the 16th century.

Sometime before the end of the second century, at least one Latin translation of the whole Bible existed based on the Septuagint and Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. This is called the Vetus Itala, or Old Latin text. By the late fourth century, it was discovered that the Old Latin Bible had variations in the text from one church to another, and a unified version was desired. Pope Damasus authorized St. Jerome to revise the Old Latin text to this end. Jerome used the Greek manuscripts of the Old and New Testament to correct errors in the Latin text and re-translated sections to provide a better sense of the original meaning.

While doing this translation, he became convinced that the Western Church needed a new translation directly from the Hebrew of the Old Testament. He began this work in 390 and ended in 405 AD. It took some time for this translation to take hold, but it gradually gained acceptance over the Old Latin version. By the sixth century it was in general use by much of the west and by the ninth century it was more or less universal among the Latin Church (the Eastern, or Greek Church, of course using the original Greek Septuagint and New Testament, since that was the liturgical language of the Church there). By the thirteenth century this new Latin translation was being referred to commonly as the Vulgate (a title that used to belong to the Old Latin text).

The advent of the printing press greatly affected the history of the Bible. The first printing of the Vulgate Bible was done by Gutenberg in 1456, but other editions came out rapidly. The circulation of other Latin versions of the Bible caused uncertainty as to which was the standard text. This caused the bishops at the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century to declare the Vulgate alone to be “authentic in public readings, discourses, and disputes, and that nobody might dare or presume to reject it on any pretence.”


The canon of Sacred Scripture, as set down by the Catholic Church, was unquestioned until the Protestant Reformation. In 1529, Martin Luther proposed an Old Testament of 39 books, made up of the Palestinian canon chosen by the Jewish rabbis in 100 AD. He justified this by citing some concerns that St. Jerome had when he was translating the Old Testament from the Hebrew—that some books in the Septuagint had no extant Hebrew versions. But Jerome did not think that these texts were not inspired, and never proposed to remove them from the canon. The Church always upheld an Old Testament canon of 46 books. In more modern times, the Dead Sea scrolls discovered at Qumran have revealed Hebrew versions of many of these disputed texts from the Septuagint, so they can no longer be contested on those grounds.

Luther really wanted to remove these books from the canon because they conflicted with his theological theories. For instance, 2 Maccabees 12:46 says, “it is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins.” This is a direct reference to purgatory, which Luther rejected. Luther even wanted to remove books from the New Testament that did not agree with his theology, such as the epistle of James, and Revelation. But there was no popular support for this, and he was eventually convinced to leave these books in his canon of the Bible.

He did succeed in removing the 7 books not found in the Palestinian Hebrew scriptures, those being Wisdom, Sirach, Judith, Baruch, Tobit, and 1 and 2 Maccabees (and parts of David and Esther). The first English Bible to leave these books out was translated by Miles Coverdale in 1535. He added these books at the end, calling them the “Apocrypha.” This Greek word means “hidden away,” and should not be applied to these texts, which have never been hidden at all. Some Protestant Bibles today leave them out completely, but most include them under this title at the end, or together between the Old and New Testaments. Most Protestants still do not hold them to be inspired as the rest of the Scriptures are.

As Catholics, we can rely on the infallibility of the living, teaching, Catholic Church, to determine which books are indeed inspired by God, and therefore considered part of the Christian canon. As St. Augustine said, “I would not believe in the Gospel, if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so.”


Protestant churches follow the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, which means “Scripture Alone.” This doctrine asserts that we are to follow the Bible alone as our sole rule of faith. What this means is that we have to reject Sacred Tradition, and the teaching authority of the Church. As Catholics, we accept the Bible as an authoritative text, but not the only authority on the faith.

First of all, the doctrine of Sola Scriptura not only is not found in the Bible, it is actually contradicted by the Bible! According to the Bible, not everything Jesus said or did is recorded in the New Testament (John 21:25). The Bible also tells us that we as Christians must hold fast to oral tradition and the preached word of God (1 Cor 11:2, 1 Pet 1:25). The Bible also warns us that Scripture can be very difficult to interpret, which implies the need for an authority to interpret these difficult texts for us (2 Pet 3:15-16). Where is that authority found? In 1 Timothy 3:15, we are told that the Church is the “pillar and foundation of truth.”

Indeed, Christ did not come to earth to write a book. He came to earth to found a Church. In the Scriptures, we read that Christ founded a Church with divine authority to govern in His name (Mt 16:13-20, 18:18; Lk 10:16). Christ also promised that this Church would last until the end of time (Mt 16:18, 28:19-20; Jn 14:16).

As you have read in the history above, it was the Apostolic Church, acting with divine authority, that determined what was and was not inspired Scripture. It was not the Scripture that established the Church. We would have no way of knowing what should and should not be trusted as an inspired text if it was not for the teaching of an authoritative Church. Even Luther himself had to admit, “We are obliged to yield many things to the Papists [Catholics]—that they possess the Word of God which we received from them, otherwise we should have known nothing at all about it.”

And we also continue to rely on that Church to help us interpret the Scriptures. A book such as the Bible, that plays such an important role in our faith, cannot be left for free interpretation, open to all. This would result in chaos, with everyone insisting that his or her own reading of the text is the correct one. Indeed, this is largely the reason why there are approximately 30,000 different Protestant denominations in existence today, all believing slightly different things, based on different interpretations of Scripture. Surely this is not what Christ had in mind when he prayed “that they may be one” (Jn 17:20-21).

The Catholic Church rejects the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, relying on Sacred Scripture as well as Sacred Tradition as our rules of faith, and the Church herself as the interpreter of that faith. This is the way it was in all Christendom for 1500 years before the Reformation came about, and the way it still is in the Catholic Church today.


The Catholic Church has always held the Bible to be the inspired word of God, and an invaluable teaching tool for our religion. According to the first Vatican Council, “These books are held by the Church as sacred and canonical, not as having been compiled merely by human labour and afterwards approved by her authority, nor merely because they contain revelation without error, but because, written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they have God for their author, and have been transmitted to the Church as such.”

And from the 1952 Papal Encyclical, Provid. Deus, “The Holy Ghost Himself, by His supernatural power, stirred up and impelled the Biblical writers to write, and assisted them while writing in such a manner that they conceived in their minds exactly, and determined to commit to writing faithfully, and render in exact language, with infallible truth, all that God commanded and nothing else; without that, God would not be the author of Scripture in its entirety.”

A full treatment of what the Catholic Church teaches about the Bible can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 101 through 141. The Catechism confirms that “’The Church has always venerated the divine Scripture as she venerated the Body of the Lord’: both nourish and govern the whole Christian life.”


There are several myths and misconceptions about the Bible, and what Catholics believe about it. One of the largest of these is that there were no vernacular translations of the Bible until the Protestant Reformers undertook this task. Though this is far from being true, even those who should know better often repeat it as “fact.”

As an example, let us look at The Illustrated Guide to the Bible, by J. R. Porter, published by Barnes & Noble. Porter, an Anglican, is Professor Emeritus of Theology at the University of Exeter, and served for twenty years as a member of the General Synod of the Church of England. His book can be considered a mainstream text, from a mainstream publisher. In it, he makes the statement, “Protestant versions of the Scriptures led the way, but Catholics soon responded to a demand for Bibles in the vernacular.” This statement implies that Catholics only provided vernacular Bibles after Protestants had already begun this work.

However, this statement of Porter’s does not even agree with his own words written a few paragraphs earlier! He wrote, “from an early period, there were numerous renderings of Scripture into vernacular languages,” and, “In Eastern Europe, the first translations of the Bible into the Slavonic languages were made by the Greek missionaries Cyril and Methodius in the 860s.” One can find many more examples of pre-Protestant vernacular translations of the Scripture. Yet Protestants continue to get credit in the history texts for this innovation.

Let us look at only German translations of the Bible for argument’s sake, as Luther is often credited as being the first one to provide a German version of the Scriptures. History shows us that there were numerous partial translations of the Scriptures into Germanic languages as early as the seventh and eighth centuries. Even more German translations were undertaken in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and a complete German translation was done by the fifteenth—all before the invention of the printing press. In fact, fourteen complete folio editions of the Scriptures in Germanic languages still exist that date from prior to 1522, when Luther translated his New Testament. Similar early examples can be found of vernacular versions of the Bible in nearly all major European languages prior to the Reformation.

Another myth has to do with the “Apocryphal” books mentioned above. In much anti-Catholic literature, it will be stated that the Council of Trent, in 1546, added these books to the Bible. As can be shown historically, this is simply untrue. The Reformers dropped these books, and the Council of Trent, called to uphold Catholic doctrine, simply restated the fact that these books have always been in the Christian canon, since the canon was officially decided upon in the fourth century, and these books would continue to be in the canon.

One more myth, that is all-too often repeated to make the Catholic Church look unbiblical, is that in 1229, the Bible itself was forbidden to laymen and placed on the Index of Forbidden Books by the Council of Valencia. This lie originated in the anti-Catholic book, Roman Catholicism, by Loraine Boettner. Unfortunately, it has been repeated and repeated by other anti-Catholic writers, and even spread into mainstream literature. It is one of the simplest arguments to refute, as it simply cannot stand up to historic scrutiny.

First of all, the Index of Forbidden Books was established in 1543, so a council in 1229 could not have placed a book on it. Second of all, there has never been a church council held in Valencia, Spain. Plus, the Moors were in control of that area in 1229, so the Church could not have had a council there even if they wanted to.

There was a council in 1229, but it was in Toulouse, France. It was a local council, not an ecumenical council (which means it did not represent the entire Church). This council did deal with the Bible, in a way. It was called to address the Albigensian heresy, which maintained that the flesh is evil and therefore marriage is evil, fornication is not a sin, and suicide is not immoral. They also opposed taking oaths, which completely undermined medieval feudal society, which was based on oaths. These Albigensians were using corrupt vernacular versions of the Bible to support their theories, twisting the Bible to “prove” their point. To combat this, the bishops at Toulouse restricted the use of the Bible until this heresy was ended. This was a local restriction, not a universal one, and when the heresy was over, the restriction was lifted.

This restriction never affected more than one area of southern France, and is a far cry from the Catholic Church banning the Bible from all laymen.

While doing some research into the early English translations of the Bible by Wycliff and Tyndale, I came across many references claiming that translating the Bible into English was considered heretical, and that in 1408 a law was enacted that forbade the translation of the Bible into English, and made reading it in English a crime. Like the other "myths" we have examined, there is more to this story as well.

After John Wycliff's corrupt translation of the Bible (full of Lollard heresy) caused so much confusion and scandal in the church in England, the Church did enact a law, in 1408, that prohibited the unauthorized translation of the Bible into English, and the reading of any unauthorized translation. The goal was to avoid another incident like the Wycliff translation. Under this law, any of the authorized English translations of Scripture before Wycliff were perfectly legal, as would be any future translation into English, done with the permission of Church authority. And of course reading these versions of Scripture was not only perfectly legal, but was in fact encouraged.


To protect this important book and to keep it inerrant, we rely on the infallible Church. In this capacity, the Catholic Church has approved certain versions of the Bible and specifically condemned others. Why is there a need for this?

Since early times, various translations and editions of the Bible have been better than others and some have been specifically in error. This is why the Church commissioned St. Jerome to produce the Vulgate edition in the first place. But with the advent of the printing press, and then the Protestant Reformation, more editions of the Bible were produced, in greater volume than ever before, and many of these were edited specifically to make the Catholic Church and her doctrines appear “unbiblical.” Others have just suffered from poor scholarship.

We have already discussed Martin Luther, and his removal of part of the Old Testament, called the “Apocrypha,” and the fact that he also wanted to remove certain New Testament books that he disagreed with, such as James and Revelation. But Martin Luther, in his German translation, also added things, such as the word “alone” to Romans 3:28, to support his doctrine of salvation by faith alone (which goes against Catholic teaching). Surely a Catholic would be in error to use a translation to which this word (or any word!) has been added. This is but one example of the type of abuse committed against the Bible.

Let us consider for a moment the most beloved of English translations, the King James Version (KJV). King James I of England and VI of Scotland sponsored this version of the Bible. King James was a Protestant king, and a devout anti-Catholic. His authorized translation was geared in many ways to condemn Catholic practices. One obvious example can be found in Matthew 6:7. The KJV reads, “But when you pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathens do. . .” Many a Catholic has heard this verse quoted as an argument against the praying of the Rosary, which involves repeating the same prayers over and over again.

However, the Greek word that is translated as “vain repetitions” really should be better translated as “to stammer” or “to babble.” What Jesus really is saying in this text is to not ramble on when you pray, but get to the point, say what you mean. He is warning us not to confuse quantity of prayer with quality of prayer. But He certainly did not intend to tell us not to repeat prayers. In fact, Jesus Himself often repeats the same prayer, as in the Our Father.

Consider the circumstances the KJV was commissioned in. During the reign of King James in England, Catholics were forbidden to carry arms, deprived of all rights in court, forced to stay within five miles of their homes, prevented from entering the professions of law or medicine, subject to searches of their homes and persons, had their religious books burned, their devotional items confiscated, were fined for not attending Anglican services, and penalized for not having their babies baptized or their marriages blessed by Protestant ministers. Would you trust a Bible authorized by a man who treated Catholics this way?

During the Protestant Reformation, the Church did authorize an English translation. The New Testament part of this was printed in Reims in 1582 and the Old Testament was printed at Douai in 1609-10. This is called the Douai-Reims translation, and was approved for use by the Catholic Church.

Part of the reason why the Catholic Church insisted on the use of Latin in the liturgies for so long is because Latin, as a dead language, is also a preserved language. The meaning of a Latin word or phrase is the same today as it was 1000 years ago. English, and other vernacular languages, are living, and therefore changing. A phrase in English written today might mean something slightly different 100 years from now, and might be completely misunderstood in 1000 years. Just compare our English to Middle English or Old English! Plus, as you can tell from all of this, the process of translating the text from one language to another opens the door for all sorts of errors, whether purposeful or accidental.

So the Catholic Church takes care authorize modern language Bibles in the vernacular which accurately reflect the meaning of the text. So which English language versions can we rely on? Of course the Douai-Reims is still appropriate. In fact, since it was translated at the same time as the KJV, it has the same poetic language, and those attracted to that in the King James might look to the Douai-Reims for a more reliable version.

A good guide is to use the versions the Holy See has authorized for liturgical use. There are currently three English versions authorized for use in the United States. These are The New American Bible, the Jerusalem Bible, and the Revised Standard Version (Catholic Edition). The New American Bible is the one used in the American Lectionary (where the readings are taken for Mass). The RSV Catholic Edition is the one quoted in the Catechism. Any of these are very appropriate for Catholic use.

There are some versions that have been specifically rejected by the Catholic Church for use at Mass, largely for their use of inclusive language. These are the New American Bible with Revised Psalms and Revised New Testament and the New Revised Standard Version. If you want to determine if any specific version of the Bible can be relied upon, a good litmus test is to look at the first Psalm. It should read, “Happy is the man who follows not the council the wicked,” or some version of that. If it reads, “Happy is the one . . .” or some other gender inclusive term, it should be avoided. This is because the Holy See has rejected this as contradicting the messianic references to Christ in these texts, in which “man” refers not only to David, who wrote the Psalms, but backwards to Adam (the man) and forward to Christ (the Son of Man and the Son of David).

I hope this brief treatment of the Scriptures has shed some light on a complicated issue and enabled people to better understand the place the Bible has in our faith and the Catholic teaching on the Sacred Scriptures. For more reading on the Bible, please see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Article III, or the following Catholic Encyclopedia articles on line:

From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

The Bible:

The Authenticity of the Bible:

Editions of the Bible:

Inspiration of the Bible:

Manuscripts of the Bible: