Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Weekly Update from CCM

Dear Students,

It's another week in the 'Whee and I hope that you are all getting settled in to the rhythm of the new semester nicely.  It's been a pleasure getting to know some of the new freshmen so far, and seeing so many of you at Mass.  I was touched this past Sunday while praying the Rosary before Mass here in our chapel.  We like to pray the Rosary at 7:00pm each Sunday as a great way to prepare ourselves for Mass at 7:30.  This week there were perhaps six of us who started to pray together.  As each decade of the Rosary went on, I could hear more and more voices added to our prayers.  When we finally finished, about ten minutes before Mass started, I turned around and there were nearly 40 students in the chapel, praying together.  It's a wonderful sight, and makes what we do here at CCM feel so worthwhile.  

So let's get right to what we have going on this week...

Please join us for dinner at 6:30.  Sarah Taylor is cooking for us, which is always a treat.  After our meal together, we will have a short presentation by Joseph Coca.  Joseph spent the summer working for the Totus Tuus ministry.  Totus Tuus is a summer Catholic youth program dedicated to sharing the Gospel and promoting Catholic faith through evangelization, catechesis, Christian witness, and Eucharistic worship.  Joseph has prepared a slide show of his experiences and some reflections about his growth and enrichment during the summer, so please come learn more about this wonderful ministry.

Did you know that we have a few Catholic students playing on our football team?  One of them is David Giron, and he'd like to encourage everyone to come and show their support for our first home game of the semester, Thursday night at 8:00pm, vs. Mars Hill.  Come show our men some support!  The Catholic Student Center is right down the street from the football stadium, so why not meet up here before the game and go as a group?

We hope you will join us for an hour of Eucharistic Adoration from 4-5pm.  Even if you cannot stay for the full hour, just a few minutes before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is worthwhile.  We have such a great gift to be able to have the Eucharist reserved in our chapel on campus.  Weekly Adoration is a marvelous way to tell God "thank you" for the gift of His Son.

Bonus: I found this great "letter to Jesus" on LifeTeen's web site from a young woman talking about her experience in Adoration.  If you are thinking, why bother with Adoration, it's worth a read!

Yes, even though this is Labor Day weekend, we will still have Mass on campus this Sunday at 7:30pm.  To all of you travelling home to be with your families, we pray for safe journeys and look forward to seeing you back on campus.  For those of you sticking around, we'll see you here at Mass!

Mark your calendar for Sept. 8.  We plan a "day out with CCM."  We'll meet here at the Student Center at 10:00am, and carpool into Asheville where we will spend the some time touring around the NC Arboretum.  If you've never heard of the Arboretum, visit  http://www.ncarboretum.org/  and see what it is all about.  There are some wonderful exhibits including outdoor art, beautiful gardens, and the most unique collection of bonsai trees in the United States.  Afterwards, we'll venture to the historic Basilica of St. Lawrence for the Vigil Mass, and finally wrap up the evening together with dinner at the Olive Garden before returning to campus.  How much will it cost?  The Arboretum only charges for parking, which is $8 per car, so the more people who ride together, the less that will be.  Dinner will be whatever you want to spend, but most people spend less than $20.  If you plan on going, please shoot us an email to let us know to expect you.  We hope you'll join us!

The Diocese of Charlotte's annual Eucharistic Congress is Sept. 21-22 once again in downtown Charlotte.  We plan on taking a group from WCU, so please let us know if you'd like to attend with us.  St. Peter's church is letting us crash in their basement; we will provide a light breakfast, and you get a campus ministry t-shirt -- all for $15.  It's a great chance for some late-night adoration, to hear some wonderful speakers, and spend time getting to know Catholic students from other campuses.  For a schedule of events and more info visit http://www.goeucharist.com/ and check it out!

That's all I have for this week.  God bless, everyone, and study hard!
Pax Christi,

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

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Gospel For Today


Today's scripture lessons contain two of my favorite readings.  One is from St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians (5:21-32) where he compares marriage to the relationship between Christ and His Church.  Critics love to quote just one line, as an example of the Church's supposedly misogynistic view of women:  "Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of his wife, just as Christ is the head of the church."  

However, they neglect to consider the rest of the passage, which tells husbands to "love your wives, even as Christ loved the church."  And how did Christ love the church?  He died for her, giving up his very life to sanctify her.  That's a tall order, and so I remind all husbands (and future husbands) that they certainly don't have the easy end of this bargain.  

The most important line in this passage, I think, is the first one which simply reminds us to "be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ."  This is especially true of husbands and wives, but I think if we approach all of our relationships with the same attitude, those relationships would be healthier, and we would be holier people.

That's today's second reading.  But my absolute favorite passage is today's Gospel account from John 6:60-69.  This passage concludes the "Bread of Life" discourse, wherein Jesus tells the gathered crowd over and over again, "I am the bread of life," and "my flesh is true food, my blood is true drink."  Remember that this crowd had come to him after the miracle Jesus preformed of feeding 5000 with a few fish and loaves of bread.  They had come to be fed.  And Jesus kept repeating to them that he was to be their food, and unless they ate his flesh and drank his blood, they would have no life in them.  For emphasis, he kept repeating the words, "Amen, amen," which means "truly, truly," or "I really mean this."  

What did the crowds think of this strange man and his strange teaching?  Put simply, they thought he was crazy.  The gospel tells us, "As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life, and no longer accompanied him."  They simply left.  Notice that the gospel says "his disciples" here, not just random people in the crowd.  These were not only those who had shown up lately because they heard of the miracle of the loaves and fishes (although they were there, too).  But even his disciples, who had traveled with Jesus, heard his teachings, and gotten to know, respect and love him -- even they left at this point.  This teaching was just too much.

And now comes my favorite scene in all the gospels.  Jesus turns to his chosen twelve and asks them, "Do you also want to leave?"  Now, consider this.  The Apostles had no more clue what Jesus was talking about than any of the others who left Jesus at this point.  They just heard their master and teacher insist that if they even wanted a chance at eternal life, they would have to eat his flesh and drink his blood.  This was before the Last Supper, where they would see Jesus bless bread and wine and tell them, "This is my body...  this is my blood."  This was before Pentecost, when the descent of the Holy Spirit would fill them with understanding.  Have no doubt about it.  The Apostles had no clue what Jesus was talking about at this point.

But then Peter, speaking on behalf of all the others, looks at Christ and says these magnificent words.  "Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."

They had faith.  Not necessarily faith in what they had just heard, not faith based on their own understanding.  They had faith in a person -- Jesus Christ.  And that is the heart of Christianity.  We don't believe in "a teaching."  We believe in a Person.  And because we believe that Christ is the Son of God incarnate, we accept and have faith in whatever he tells us, even hard to understand things such as "my flesh is true food," and "my blood is true drink."  We don't have to understand these things in order to believe them, because we believe in the one who said them.

I cannot tell you how often in my life I have found recourse and comfort in those words of St. Peter.  "Master, to whom would we go?"  That, in a nutshell, is why I became a Catholic and why I remain one to this day.  To whom else would I go?  What else is there that makes any kind of sense of the world, or offers any real hope, other than Christ?  So when I encounter a teaching of the Church that is difficult or hard to understand, I am not tempted to leave.  I have faith in Christ, faith in the Church he founded and continues to lead.  That faith will, God willing, eventually lead to understanding.  But one does not have to first understand in order to have faith.

Remember these words whenever you encounter a hard teaching, or are faced with a difficult experience that might fill you with doubt or uncertainty.  And ask, "To whom would I go?"  Indeed, who else is there?  The Christian is the one who realizes the answer is, "only Christ."  No one but Christ.

God bless, and have a great week!

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

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pro-Life and Pro-Woman

As an adult white male, it often happens when I express pro-life views that I get accused of being anti-woman.  It is assumed by many people, especially those in the media, that things such as abortion and contraception are "women's health issues" and that anyone who opposes these things is necessarily anti-woman and wants to bring us back to the days before women's suffrage and keep our wives barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen where they belong.

If you, too, find yourself subject to this sort of accusation simply by being pro-life, I have this message of reassurance for you: Don't Buy It.  It just ain't true.

For one, consider that at least half, if not more, of the 50 million children who have died in our country of abortion since Roe v. Wade have been female.  How can any policy that results in the death of over 25 million little girls be considered pro-woman?  The true nature of this argument was underscored this summer when Congress was asked to vote on a bill that would ban abortions for reasons of sex-selection.  This is a practice common mainly in Asian countries, but there is concern that it is being more and more practiced in this country especially among immigrant populations.  And it is a practice that overwhelmingly favors the survival of male babies over female.  The bill was overwhelmingly supported by Republicans and overwhelmingly opposed by Democrats.  With just a few exceptions, the vote fell along party lines, and so failed to meet the two-thirds majority needed to pass.  And so it remains legal in this country for parents to go into an abortion clinic and state, "I want to have an abortion because my baby is a girl and I want a boy to carry on the family name."  How on earth is this pro-woman?

For another, most of the people I know who are involved in the pro-life movement are themselves women!  Now, I grant you this is anecdotal and limited to my own experience, but these women (young and old) I know would never consider themselves anti-woman, and yet women like them are treated as traitors to their gender in the media when it comes to this issue.

In my opinion, abortion is not a "women's issue," it is a human issue.  Male and famale babies are aborted.  Every child conceived has a mother and a father.  And while, yes, the mother bears the lion's share of the physical burden of pregnancy and child care in the early years, fathers should not be let off the hook.  They have a responsibility, and they also have a voice.  I maintain that one does not have to possess a uterus to recognize that every human life is sacred and worth protecting.  This is an issue that affects us all.

I know in the coming weeks before this presidential election, abortion is sure to be more and more a part of our national debate.  This is a good thing, as far as I am concerned, because it is an issue we need to talk about.  1.5 million children die by abortion in our country each year and it's something that for the most part, people in our country don't even think about.

So no doubt we will hear this "anti-women" accusation cast about again and again in the weeks to come.  Don't believe it.  To underscore this point I thought I'd highlight some amazing pro-life women heroes for you.

First, I was inspired to do this when I read today of the passing of Joan Appleton, once an abortion nurse who opened her eyes to the reality of what she was doing and became one of the strongest voices in the pro-life movement.  We mourn her passing.  You can read about her at this link:


Live Action is a wonderful youth-led pro-life group that is producing some wonderful films and doing amazing work in defense of the unborn.  It was started by a young a woman named Lila Rose in 2003 when she was only 15 years old.  She continues to be a strong voice of support for mothers and their unborn children.  Read more about Live Action at the below link:


Abby Johnson had a successful career in Planned Parenthood, the nations largest abortion provider, for eight years.  She was convinced that the work she was doing was helping women.  She rose through the ranks and eventually became a clinic director.  The more she worked for PP, however, the more she realized how harmful their message actually is to women, and how wrong abortion is.  She is the author of the book Unplanned, and has a blog at the below link:


This is an amazing organization of women who are very much pro-woman who recognize that there is nothing good about the choice of a mother to kill her unborn.  Their motto is "Women Deserve Better Than Abortion."  We agree -- women do deserve better!  Read more at:


This is a new group that was formed in response to the Health & Human Services mandate earlier in the year that all employers -- including Catholic institutions -- must provide for contraception and abortifacient drugs in their insurance plans.  Opposition to this mandate was being labelled as "anti-woman" and this strong group of women who opposed the mandate decided they could speak for themselves -- and they do.  Over 30,000 women have signed their letter saying that President Obama and HHS Director Kathleen Sebelius do NOT speak for them.  Many of these women are professionals, lawyers, doctors, nurses, business executives, as well as teachers and homeschooling moms.  Lots of great articles in their blog on their web site.


I could go on all day highlighting more and more pro-life women and pro-life women's groups.  I think the above are representative of a huge number of women involved in pro-life advocacy.  Please feel free to share others that you know about.

My only point is this -- don't allow people to accuse you of being anti-woman simply because you believe in the sanctity of life.  Being pro-life means being pro-woman and pro-man, pro-mother and pro-child as well as pro-father and pro-family.  It means recognizing the sanctity of life in all stages from conception to a natural death, regardless of gender, race, handicap or ability.  Being pro-life is something to be proud of, so stand tall in the coming weeks!

God bless,

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Weekly Update from CCM

Dear Students,

Welcome back to the 'Whee!  (Or for your new students, welcome period).  We at Catholic Campus Ministry (CCM) are so glad you are here.  It was a true pleasure to meet so many of you who stopped by our table at Valley Ballyhoo, or who came to Mass at St. Mary's or here on campus this past Sunday.  Several of you have also come by the student center just to say hi and that has been great.  I enjoy meeting and speaking with each of you.

For any student, new or old, who does want to come by the Catholic Student Center and is wondering about our hours, know that we are open from 10am-10pm during the week and I have an open door policy.  While I don't have set "office hours" I am generally around the student center until 5pm, though I do occasionally have to attend a meeting or some other function, so if you want to make sure I am around please call or text me.  

We have some wonderful opportunities coming up this week that I don't want you to miss.  Here's what we have going on.

Tomorrow, we will host an Open House for new students starting at 5:30 in the afternoon.  Come by, have some snacks, meet other new students, as well as some of our Peer Ministry leaders, and get to know what CCM is all about.  

Then stay for our regular weekly fellowship meal at 6:30.  Each Wednesday we offer a free, home-cooked meal, followed by a short program that may consist of prayer, faith, or fun, and often all three!  This week, if the weather is as nice as it is today, we will likely be eating outside and enjoying the mountain air, so we hope you will join us.

(By the way, most weeks our meals are prepared by students; there is a sign-up sheet in the kitchen for each week and we'd love for you to volunteer!)

Last semester we started the tradition of offering Eucharistic Adoration from 4-5pm on Friday afternoons.  We started it as a way of prayerfully celebrating Lent, but we never stopped.  We'd like to keep the tradition alive during this semester, as well, so starting this week, please consider stopping by from 4-5 and joining us in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.  You don't have to stay the whole hour, feel free to come and go as you are able.

This Friday we are also offering a SUNSET HIKE & PICNIC on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  We are car pooling, leaving from the Catholic Student Center at 6pm and heading up to Waterrock Knob.  We'll enjoy a picnic dinner (we'll provide the food), and then a nice hike up to the top of Waterrock knob to watch the sunset.  It's our annual start of the year tradition that you don't want to miss.

Each student will receive a PB&J sandwich, bag of chips, little debbie dessert and a bottle of water.  (If you are allergic to Peanut Butter or have any other dietary concern, just email me before the hike and we'll take care of you).  All are invited!

A reminder that we offer Mass right here on campus each Sunday evening during the semester.  Father Alex from St. Mary's drives up to celebrate Mass for us and hear Confessions.  Mass is at 7:30pm.  We also pray the Rosary at 7:00, if you would like to come early to join us.  And we invite you to stay for fellowship after Mass.

More information will follow about each of these events, but just to be aware for your calendar...

Sept 8: We are planning a day-trip to Asheville to explore the NC Arboretum, attend the Vigil Mass at the historic Basilica of St. Lawrence, and have dinner together afterward.

Sept 21-22: Eucharistic Congress in Charlotte.  There is a special program Friday night for College students, and many wonderful speakers throughout the day on Saturday.  There will be a group from WCU driving down for this and we'd love for you to come.  For more info go to www.GoEucharist.com

Oct 5-7 (tentative):  Our annual Beach Retreat!  Don't want to miss this one!  But space is limited, so plan early to attend.  More info to come....

Nov 2-4: "Seek Him" is a Diocesan sponsored spiritual retreat for college students.  It will be held in Black Mountain (near Asheville) and college students from across our Diocese will participate.  It's a great way to meet Catholics from other schools, and grow in your faith.  Again, space is limited, so mark your calendars.  Registration information will be posted as soon as it is available.

Nope, this isn't Monopoly!  We do charge $50 per semester to park at our student center parking lot.  This is actually where a lot of our funding for putting on campus ministry events comes from, so a big thanks to those of you who have purchased parking stickers for the Fall Semester.  We still have just a few left (we don't oversell) so if you would like one, please come by the Center soon.  

Also, we do event parking fundraisers during all of our home football games.  We rely on student volunteers to collect the parking money for about two hours before each game.  We just posted a sign up sheet for all of our home games on the fridge in our kitchen (that's where families keep all their important papers, right?).  So think about helping out and sign up when you come by.

I pray for the needs of college students here at WCU daily, but if you are in need of particular prayer, please let us know.  When we gather for fellowship on Wednesday nights we always begin with intercessory prayer for one another.  

In the entryway to our chapel you will find a cardboard box full of little "student edition" prayer books.  These are free to you to have.  They are filled with a wealth of information about the Catholic faith and many helpful prayers, including this one I will end with.  When I read it I thought of all the students meeting new roommates for the first time, dealing with new professors, and all the other stresses of campus life.  It is titled an Act of Charity.

O my God, I love you above all things, with my whole heart and soul, because you are all-good and worthy of all my love.  I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you.  I forgive all who have injured me and ask pardon of all whom I have injured.

May God's blessings be upon you as we begin this new semester!

Pax Christi,

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

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Gospel For Today


Students are back on campus this weekend, including many freshmen moving into the dorms for the first time, away from home, excited and nervous to start this new chapter of their lives.  While I am certain that our father bishops did not consult the WCU academic calendar when laying out our church's three-year cycle of readings, the second reading today seems hand picked for the start of the school year.

Brothers and sisters: Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord.  And do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.
-Eph 5:15-20

We could sum up this reading in a few short words: "Don't act like an idiot."  Or perhaps a better way to put it would be: "Act like your life matters."  Some come to college with the attitude that it doesn't matter what they do while at school, because these short years of college are meant for experimenting, to be risky and care-free, and enjoy all those stupid, silly things that you can't get away with in adult life, while you still can.  It is as if the college experience is like a four-year Las Vegas -- what happens in college, stays in college.  

But I have news for you.  College is not your "last chance to have fun" before real life starts.  College is real life.  And the decisions you make in college and the things you choose to do here really do matter.  So lets act like it.  Some of you reading this will be away from home, out from under your parents' wings, for the first time in your life.  You may see it as an opportunity to do all the crazy things mom and dad would never approve of, but it is also an opportunity to be responsible.  Put simply, you are being tested.

Does this mean you need to buckle down, bury yourselves in your books, and never have any fun?  Of course not!  The reading says not to live "as foolish persons," and not to "get drunk on wine."  And if your only idea of fun involves being a drunk fool, I feel sorry for you.  But the reading also speaks of us "singing and playing for the Lord."  This is what Christians ought to do -- sing and play!  We should be having fun, and lots of it.  The most happy, joy-filled people I have met have been Christians.  

College can be a lot of fun, but there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it, which is what St. Paul is saying to us today.  The goal of education is simple: to increase our understanding and decrease our ignorance.  Whether you are studying chemistry, or nursing, or psychology, or math, that goal is the same.  You are trying to increase your understanding of that subject.  But returning to the "college is part of real life" theme, the most important subject in your life is your relationship with God.  How well do you know your Creator?  St. Paul is encouraging us to "try to understand what is the will of the Lord."  You can't just put your relationship with God on hold for four years.

So how do we do this?  How do we increase our understanding of God's will for us, and do those other things St. Paul is writing about; living carefully, making the most of our opportunities, singing and playing and giving thanks to God through Christ?  Ok Lord, we say, I want to know you better, so how do I start?

Today's first reading from Proverbs speaks of Wisdom's invitation to us.  "Wisdom has built her house... she has dressed her meat, mixed her wine, yes, she has spread her table... to the one who lacks understanding she says, Come, eat of my food and drink of the wine I have mixed!  Forsake foolishness that you may live, advance in the way of understanding" (Prv 9:1-6).

If we eat of the meal Wisdom has prepared for us, we will understand.  So what is this meal?  Our gospel reading today ties it all up (Jn 6:51-54).  

Jesus said to the crowds: "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."

Jesus is the bread of life.  He is the meal prepared for us by Wisdom (another name for the Holy Spirit).  If we want to understand God's will, we need to draw close to Christ.  If we want to love God more, we need to draw close to Christ.  If we want to be the holy people God made us to be, we need to draw close to Christ.  As Jesus says in today's gospel, "unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you."  He is speaking of the Eucharist, His very Body and Blood made present for us in the sacrament He established at the Last Supper.

We at WCU are very blessed to have the Eucharist celebrated for us on campus each Sunday during the Fall and Spring semesters.  Do not miss this opportunity to commune with Our Lord.  Draw close to him.  Make the Eucharist your weekly refuge, the pivot around which the rest of your schedule is anchored.  Let Him nourish you and strengthen you.  Know, too, that the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in our chapel throughout the week, available for you to come and spend a few moments in prayer any time during the day when you need a boost.  

College is hard.  The opportunities to fail, to fall into sin, and make bad decisions will be many.  But so are the opportunities for growth, for friendship, and for blessings.  The Lord is ready and waiting for you to make him your partner in all you do, to make sure you avoid the pitfalls and don't miss the wonderful opportunities this period in your life holds for you.  

We can start today, at Mass, by celebrating the Eucharist in a spirit of joy, singing and playing to the Lord in our hearts, giving Him thanks always.

God bless!

Don't miss it: Our FIRST MASS of the new semester will be celebrated tonight in the Catholic Student Center chapel at 7:30pm.  Come half an hour early and join our Rosary prayer group at 7:00. 

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

Monday, August 13, 2012

Welcome Back to the 'Whee from CCM!

Dear students,

It's that time of the year when we get to say, "Welcome Back!"  By the end of the week, most of you will be moved back into the dorms, and getting ready for classes to start on Monday.  We have some exciting activities planned for Welcome Week, but first there is a special day on the calendar this week I don't want you to miss.

Wednesday, Aug. 15
This is the Feast of the Assumption -- official name, "the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary."  It is the day in which we celebrate the assumption of Mary, body and soul, into heaven and is a Holy Day of Obligation.  If you are not familiar with that term, a "day of obligation" is when Catholics are obligated to attend Mass if at all possible (valid reasons for not attending would be illness, taking care of a sick person, or travelling in an area with no Catholic churches).  Every Sunday is a day of obligation, but there are some very special days on the calendar -- like Christmas, for example -- that one is obliged to attend Mass even if it is not a Sunday.  The Feast of the Assumption is one of those days.

For those who will be back in town this week, Masses at St. Mary's will be offered at 9:00am and 6:00pm this Wednesday.  For those attending the 6:00pm Mass, we'd like for you to stay and enjoy a free pizza dinner with us in the Fellowship Hall afterwards.  Please RSVP to this email (ccm@wcucatholic.org) if you plan on joining us, so we'll know how much pizza to get.  This is just an informal welcome back meal together, and I look forward to seeing many of you there!

Saturday, Aug. 18
Valley Ballyhoo is set for 4:30-7:00pm on the UC Lawn.  Catholic Campus Ministry will have a table set up with information about our programs, free giveaways, and more!  Please come by and say hi, and help us to welcome new students to campus.

Sunday, Aug. 19
We will celebrate our first Mass on campus of the new semester!  Please join us in our chapel for Mass at 7:30pm.  Come a half an hour early and pray the Rosary with us before Mass at 7.  It's a great way to prepare for Mass, and to get to know other prayerful students.  Stay after Mass for some fellowship and to reconnect with old friends.  

Wednesday, Aug. 22
We welcome new students to the Catholic Student Center with an Open House from 5:30-6:30.  Come meet our campus minister, our peer student leaders, and get to know what campus ministry has to offer.  Then from 6:30-8:30 join us for our regular weekly home-cooked meal, followed by our weekly program featuring faith, prayer, and fellowship!  

Friday, Aug. 24
Join us in Adoration of the Our Lord in the Eucharist in our chapel from 4:00-5:00pm.  Then meet up in our parking lot at 6:00pm when we will take a road trip up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and enjoy a sunset picnic and hike to Waterrock Knob.  What a great way to enjoy God's beauty in our mountains, and kick off the new semester in style!

All Week Long come by the Catholic Student Center any time during the Day to say hi and introduce yourself.  We will also have available Parking Passes for our lot.  At only $50 per semester, it's a great fundraiser for our ministry and a way to always ensure you have a place to park you car on campus (close to the campus center).

Help Spread the Word!
We want new students to know that there is a Catholic presence on campus, a place where Catholics can connect with other Catholics, and where students from all backgrounds can come and grow closer to God in Christ.  This is why we set up at Valley Ballyhoo, and why we put fliers out in all the dorms.  But our biggest tool for getting the word out is YOU!  Most students who become involved in campus ministry do so because they were invited by a friend.  So help us spread the word.  Wear your campus ministry t-shirts around campus.  Be ready to talk about your Catholic faith.  If you find out a new student is Catholic, make sure to tell them about Mass on campus.  Invite the person down the hall to join you for our fellowship meal on Wednesday nights.  Be welcoming, and let God do the rest!

So enjoy this last week of summer break.  I hope to see you all refreshed and ready to start the semester off right in the coming days!
God bless,

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

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Gospel For Today


(Schedule Note:  This Wednesday, August 15, is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and is a Holy Day of Obligation.  Mass times at St. Mary's in Sylva are 9:00am and 6:00pm that day.  This coming Sunday, August 19, starts our Fall Semester schedule at the Catholic Student Center on campus; we will have Mass on campus at 7:30pm.  See you there!)

We continue this week with our journey through the sixth chapter of John's Gospel, where Jesus is introducing us to the teachings of the Eucharist.  Last week we examined the parallel between the manna, the bread from heaven which God gave to the Israelites in the desert, and the Eucharistic bread.  In today's Gospel, Jesus continues to draw out this parallel even more clearly.

"Your ancestors ate manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."

There is so much richness packed into these few sentences, it is worth the time to unpack them.  The manna given to the ancient Israelites sustained their lives in the desert, but eventually they all did die -- everyone does.  But Jesus is telling us that there is to be a new "bread from heaven" which we can eat from so that we never die.  And then -- radically -- he says that He Himself is that bread; and lest we are tempted to take him metaphorically, he says quite explicitly that the bread he's talking about is his very flesh.

We Christians today have the benefit of 2000 years of Church teaching about the Eucharist.  We can read these words and know the rest of the story -- we know about Jesus' Passion and Resurrection, we know about Holy Thursday and the Last Supper, where Christ took the bread, blessed it, and said, "This is my body."  We see this made real for us every Sunday in the Mass, when our priests, in persona Christi, in the person of Christ, speak those same words and make Christ's sacrifice truly present for us in the Eucharist.  So that when we consume what looks and tastes like a simple wafer of unleavened bread, we know through faith that we are actually consuming the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, the same flesh offered for us on the cross for the remission of our sins.  We cannot know these things scientifically, but we believe through our faith in the Lord who spoke these words.  "I am the bread that came down from heaven."

Our tendency is to allow this belief to become domesticated.  We have tamed the Eucharist, made it something we do by habit and routine, without really thinking about it.  When we line up to receive Communion in our parishes, we look more like people waiting to board a bus than people preparing to receive the Maker of the Universe into our bodies.  This is a tragedy, because if there is any aspect of our Christian faith which is not tame, this is it!  It would be good for us to recapture some of the awe and mystery, and even incredulity, of those who first heard this teaching of our Lord.  In today's account, they cannot believe that Jesus "came down from heaven."  Who does this guy think he is? they say, We know his mom and dad, he's from our neighborhood!  

Jesus simply tells them to stop their murmuring.  Then he explains; no one can come to him unless the Father sends them.  All those sent by the Father will come to Jesus, where they "shall all be taught by God."  Jesus' teaching that his own flesh is to be heavenly food for us is simply too much to believe.  Too much, that is, unless we have the gift of faith.  We accept and believe because we have been drawn to the teachings of Christ by the Father.  We accept and believe not because of what is taught, but because of who is teaching.  

Because we believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, is God incarnate, we believe that he meant what he said and has the power to make it happen.  And so when we consume the Eucharist into our bodies, we know that consume Christ himself.  And what does this mean for us, that we have Christ within us?  St. Paul tells us in today's second reading (Eph 4:30-5:2), that, "All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice."  For these things, "grieve the Holy Spirit."  When we are united bodily with our Lord, we involve the Lord with everything we do in our bodies.  And so if we act in the way that St. Paul describes, we truly do "grieve the Spirit."  

Instead we are to "be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving."  We are to "live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God."  Christ is our model.  Christ is our example.  Christ is our food.  He is both what we aim to reach and what sustains us on the journey.  This is why the Second Vatican Council calls the Eucharist both the "source and summit of our faith."  It is where our faith begins, and if we remain faithful, also where it ultimately ends, when we can be united with our Eucharistic Lord even more fully in heaven.

God bless!

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

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Gospel for Today


It's amazing how often it all boils down to food, isn't it?

It's tempting to say we like to eat.  And true enough, we do.  Just look around us today, with the popularity of the Food Network, "foodie" blogs, and new restaurants springing up all the time.  We love our food, in all its forms.  We love good food, as evidenced by the popularity of farmers markets, gourmet restaurants, and the organic food movement.  And we love cheap food, as evidenced by the ever-popular fast food chains, available on every corner.  

But while it is true that we like to eat, we also need to eat.  Simply put, if we don't eat, we die.  Our bodies go into decline and eventually we simply cannot carry out the basic functions necessary to sustain our lives, without the continued nourishment of food.  Very few people reading this email, I suspect, will have ever been truly hungry.  We hear about starving people on TV and in the newspapers, of course.  But the truth is that in today's world, food is more abundant than ever before.  It is more affordable, and more widely available, to a larger number of people than ever before in human history.  And so it is easy for us to forget how pressing a need food can be for people.

In today's Gospel reading, the crowd of 5000 that Jesus had fed with the miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fishes had followed Christ and the disciples on to Capernaum.  They likely gathered some friends with them, who heard the news -- not necessarily the news of this wonderful man and his amazing preaching, but of the free fish and bread.    Jesus, who could easily read their motives, said to the crowd, "You are looking for me not because you saw signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled."  It was all about the food.  

But I don't think it is fair to say that all those in the crowd were lazy gluttons, just following after Jesus looking for a free meal.  How many of those in the crowd were legitimately hungry?  How many came after Christ hoping for a share in a loaf of bread, because otherwise they would not eat that day?

Today's first reading is another good example.  Here we see the Israelites, after their liberation from their Egyptian masters, grumbling to Moses and Aaron that they would rather have died at the hands of the Egyptians than starve to death out wandering in the desert.  They were hungry.  It is easy to portray the Israelites here as whining and ungrateful.  After all, God did perform miracle after miracle in order to free his chosen people from slavery.  Now they were complaining about the food?  How about showing a little gratitude?  But we must remember they were not complaining about the food the way we might complain to our waiter in a restaurant if our steak is not prepared the way we like it.  They were starving.  

You want to shed a few pounds?  Forget Weight Watchers.  Try wandering in the desert for a few years and living off what you find there.

God heard the plea of his people and answered their prayer.  He said, "I will now rain down bread from heaven for you.  Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion; thus will I test them, to see whether they follow my instructions or not."  And so manna fell from the sky each morning, described as "fine flakes like hoarfrost on the ground."  Have no illusions, this was not a gourmet meal.  But it was nourishing, and life sustaining, and that is precisely what the people needed.

God instructed them to gather the food that they needed for that day.  There is an important lesson here.  Though our psalm today (Ps 78) says that God gave them food "in abundance," our reading from Exodus says it was just enough for the day.  Is there a contradiction here?  No; God did only give them enough for that day, but he continued to give every day.  Thus the people of Israel learned to trust in God for what they needed each day.  He gave them only what they needed; but he gave that abundantly.

This episode from the past life of Israel was in the minds of the crowd that gathered around Jesus in today's Gospel reading from John.  "Our ancestors ate manna in the desert," they acclaimed.  What can you do for us?  Jesus told them, "My Father gives you true bread from heaven," and, "I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never hunger."  

The crowd, of course, could not possibly understand what Jesus meant by those words.  He is about to reveal the most radical of his teachings in what we call the "Bread of Life discourse" in the sixth chapter of John.  It is in this preaching where Jesus says emphatically that those who would follow him must eat his flesh and drink his blood.  This teaching was scandalous to those who heard it, as we will discover in the coming weeks.  Jesus is referring to His presence in the Eucharist.  

As so I could not help but think of the Eucharistic bread when reading today's scripture lessons.  Just as the multiplication of the loaves and fishes last week was a sign of the Eucharist, so too is the miracle of God's gift of manna in the desert.  And though the Eucharist feeds us abundantly, if we follow the parallel of the manna in the desert, it also feeds us just enough for the day.  How are we to take this?  I'm not sure, but here are my thoughts.

There is truly no end to the grace that God makes available to us in the Eucharist.  But just as the Israelites received just enough manna for their daily portion, when we receive the Eucharist, I believe we get exactly what graces we need for what faces us in our lives this moment.  We truly receive "our daily bread."  This is what we pray for.  This is what God makes available to us.  And he never stops.  The Eucharist is offered to us every single day, on every single altar of the Catholic Church all over the globe.  We know, through faith, that whenever we receive we will be gifted with whatever graces we need.  

Who dares ask for anything more than this wonderful and generous gift?  So when we pray today, "give us this day our daily bread," let us remember just what a miracle it is that we have available to us, and offer back to God our thanks, both in our words of praise and adoration, and in the way we choose to use his gifts in our lives.

God bless!

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