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!