I hope that you are all having a blessed start of the Lenten season. Lent is characterized by three traditional practices; prayer, fasting and almsgiving. I'll be focusing on these themes over the next few weeks on our Facebook Group, which is also a wonderful way to stay connected to all that is going on in Catholic Campus Ministry.
Many of you know I was away all weekend in Hickory to participate in the annual Give Your Heart Away service weekend hosted by our diocesan campus ministry office. There were over 50 students there from colleges and universities all across the Diocese of Charlotte, including two WCU students. We were able to provide volunteer service to six different worthy agencies in the Hickory region, and learned quite a bit about Christian charity in the process. By serving those in need, we not only can see Christ in the ones we serve, but we also allow them to see Christ in us. It is a beautiful way of spreading the Gospel. To close the weekend, we all sang the hymn, "They'll know we are Christians by our love." During this Lent, take some time to reflect on those words. Does your love let others know you are a Christian? (Or, to put it another way, if being a Christian were illegal, would there be enough evidence to convict you?)
WEDNESDAY: Join us for Supper @ the Center at 6:30pm. Kat will be in the kitchen and Kaitlyn is offering our after dinner reflection, so it will be an evening of "K"s! Wednesday nights are great nights to bring a friend. We offer good home cooked food, and good company, and all we ask in return is a smile. :-)
THURSDAY: As usual, Eucharistic Adoration will be offered in the chapel from 6-7pm, with our choir meeting to practice immediately after. Don't know what you are giving up for Lent yet? Why not give up some time? Offer one hour a week in adoration of our Lord.
FRIDAY: Pray the Stations of the Cross at St. Mary's at 5:30pm and then join in a soup and bread supper.
SUNDAY: Mass at 7:30pm in our chapel. Rosary 30 min before Mass.
NEXT MONDAY: Rosary at the Fountain at 5pm.
NEXT TUESDAY: Lenten Penance Service at St. Mary's at 6:00pm
DO YOUR HOMEWORK:
Catholics are always advised to do their homework, especially when it comes to things you hear about the Catholic Church. There is a lot of misinformation floating around about what we believe and practice, and people are more than willing to repeat things without bothering to find out if they are true.
I'll give you one example. Last week, when Pope Benedict XVI announced his intention to abdicate the papacy come Feb. 28, a non-Catholic person left a comment on my Facebook page that essentially said, "good riddance." He accused the Holy Father of being all sorts of things, including being "stubbornly unapologetic" about the clergy child sexual abuse scandals (which preceded his time in the papacy by decades).
I am sure he was just repeating what he heard from other sources. However, I knew that was not true. I did a Google search for "pope apologizes," and immediately received over 1.5 million hits. Of the ten news articles on the first page alone, eight of them were about Pope Benedict XVI apologizing for the church's role in the sexual abuse scandal, each in a different country, over the span of seven years. (As for the other two, one was Benedict XVI apologizing for remarks he had made about Islam which were taken out of context, and the other was about John Paul II). Is the pope unapologetic? Quite the contrary, he has apologized on behalf of the church for this abuse often and repeatedly.
The same person accused the pope of being "too conservative," by which he no doubt meant conservative on moral values, specifically having to do with sex, specifically contraception and abortion. Again, had this person done his homework, he would have discovered that the pope is, in fact, Catholic, and it is his duty to teach the Catholic faith, including those teachings having to do with sexual morality. Rather than being an "arch-conservative," Pope Benedict XVI's record shows he is actually quite liberal. Not liberal in the sense that we use the word in American politics, of course. But liberal in the true sense of the word, in that he has done much in his pontificate to increase liberty and freedom.
I'm thinking of his issuing of Summorum Pontificum that allowed for the celebration of Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite by any priest who wanted to do so. Prior to this, a priest who wanted to celebrate Mass according to the 1962 Rite was required to have special permission from his bishop, but Benedict XVI made it available to any priest, anywhere, no permission required. It was a very liberal thing to do.
Likewise he has done much to reconcile into the Church those separated from her, be they Anglicans on the one hand, or members of the schismatic Society of St. Pius X on the other. He has reached out to these groups and beckoned them to come home. Rather than being exclusive, as the media often portrays him, Benedict XVI's deeds and desires show him to be a very inclusive and welcoming shepherd. He has engaged in dialog members of the Eastern Orthodox hierarchy as well as representatives of Islam.
But the secular media do not focus on this. Instead they wonder if the next pope will be "more open" or "more modern," and wonder if he will "change the Church's teachings" on things such as abortion and contraception or same-sex marriage. They remain so focused on our modern obsession with sex they fail to see any other issues. And they have obviously not done their homework.
Whomever is chosen to become the next Shepherd of our Universal Church, he will not be Benedict XVI. Nor will he be John Paul II. He will be himself, and he will -- with the grace of God -- handle the challenges of the papacy in his own way. But we know one thing for certain. He will be Catholic. And Jesus Christ will continue to keep His promise to the Church, that the gates of hell will not prevail against her (Mt 16:18), that she will be led into all truth (Jn 16:13), and will be the pillar and bulwark of truth (1 Tim 3:15). He will do this through Peter, whose strength will not fail, and who will strengthen his brethren (Lk 22:32). The solemn duty of the successor of St. Peter is not to invent Catholic doctrine or to change it. It is to safeguard it, preserve it, and do what he can to pass it on to the present generation.
In the coming weeks there will be much said in the media about the Holy Father (both new and old). Some of it will be good information, no doubt. But much of it won't be. Some falsehoods will be stated out of malice, but more out of ignorance. In the days to come, I encourage you to think for yourselves, do your homework, and don't accept everything you hear from the talking heads.
Most of all, pray for our Holy Father Benedict. And pray for the man who will be chosen by the Cardinals to fill his shoes!
WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
(828)293-9374 | POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723