Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Weekly Update from CCM

Greetings, Students!

What a wonderful Week of Welcome at Western!  (A little alliteration thrown in for you English majors, no extra charge).  It was great seeing so many of you at our first Wednesday night dinner and our annual sunset hike to Waterrock Knob.  Check out the photos on Facebook!  I sincerely look forward to getting to know each of you more fully over the course of the semester.  

Here's what's going on this week and beyond at Catholic Campus Ministry:

Our small group sessions have begun this week.  We encourage you to find one that fits with your schedule and join in.  Each meeting starts at 6:30pm, lasts about one hour, and includes scripture reading, prayer and reflection.  These small groups are open to anyone and a great way to add an extra measure of prayer to your week.  They meet in different locations on campus.
MONDAYS: Central common room
TUESDAYS: Balsam lobby
THURSDAYS: lobby between Benton & Albright
We also have a small group just for graduate students and young adult faculty members which will begin meeting this coming Monday at the Catholic Student Center at 6:30pm.  For more information about a particular small group, please email me and I will put you in touch with the group leader(s).

Please join us for our weekly fellowship meal Wednesday at 6:30pm here at the Catholic Student Center.  This week's meal will be prepared by Alex Cassell - she's making baked spaghetti for us!  After dinner, we will have a program led by Tim Segert on Lectio Divina, a traditional form of prayer involving sacred reading.  Don't miss it!

We will have Mass on campus at 7:30pm as usual.  Rosary and Confessions 30 minutes before Mass.  After Mass this week we will have a meeting for anyone interested in serving either as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion or as an Altar Server this semester.  If you would like to serve in either of those capacities but are unable to come to this meeting please let me know.

Campus Ministry is organizing a rummage sale at St. Mary's as a fundraiser for our CCM activities.  I am in need of students to help set up for the sale on Monday and Tuesday of next week (Sept 2-3).  I will be at the church from 10am until approximately 5pm both days working.  Please come by if you can and join us.  I would love to have enough help not to have to be there all day on Tuesday!  I also will need students willing to help during the sale itself.  Those dates and times are: Thursday, Sept. 5 from 6-8pm (parish preview night), and Friday & Saturday Sept 6-7) from 8am until approximately 2pm both days.  On Saturday we will need additional help after 2pm with clean-up.  Please contact me if you can help out.

We will be making a road trip from Cullowhee to Charlotte on Sept. 13-14 to attend the annual Eucharistic Congress at the Charlotte Convention Center.  We will have a special program on Friday night for college students including pizza, fellowship, and a guest speaker; Dr. Chris Kaczor, author of How to Stay Catholic in College.  We'll spend the night with a lock-in at St. Peter's church participating in all-night Eucharistic Adoration, and start the day Saturday by marching in the Eucharistic Procession through the streets of downtown Charlotte.  Saturday will feature loads of wonderful speakers, a chance to do some Catholic shopping, opportunities for Adoration, Confession and more. Registration is $15 and gets you lunch and a t-shirt.  To register, please fill out this form online (you'll need to bring your $15 to me).

That's it for this week.  Have a great one and God Bless!

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

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Gospel For Today - 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time

REMINDER:  Our small group scripture studies begin this week - have you signed up for one?


This week, two-for-one.

First, the gospel reading.  Today's reading from Lk 13:22-30 continues the "hard saying" tone of week's reading where Jesus talks about setting the world on fire and causing division. This week it's "wailing and grinding of teeth."  Jesus speaks of those locked outside of the Lord's house knocking and begging to be allowed in, and the Lord saying, "I do not know where you are from.  Depart from me all you evildoers!"  

All this harsh talk was prompted by one question put to our Lord.  How many will be saved?  Whenever Jesus is asked this sort of question, He never gives a direct answer.  Instead, He turns the attention back on the questioner and makes it personal.  In this case Jesus instructs him to "strive to enter the narrow gate."  It is as if our Lord is saying, "Look, don't worry about eternal population demographics. Worry about your soul."  

We can become obsessed with the numbers.  Despite the fact that even people who asked the Lord face to face did not get a direct answer, some theologians today still debate the issue of how many will be saved.  Some believe that number will be very, very small.  You can certainly understand how this conclusion could be drawn from the words of Christ such as we read today.  "[M]any, I tell you, will attempt to enter and will not be strong enough."  Others believe in universal salvation; that the mercy of God is such that even the worst unrepentant sinner will be accepted into heaven in the end somehow.  They teach that hell does not exist; or if it does exist, it is empty.

Certainly this latter view is attractive.  Who wants to think of the possibility that not all of their friends and relatives will be saved?  Who does not want to find comfort in knowing that however imperfect one's life has been, in the end God will still accept you through the pearly gates?  Everyone wants to get to heaven, so who wouldn't want it to be easy?  The problem with this view, however, is that it ignores all the passages of Scripture like the ones we read today.  And there are many of them.  Indeed, Jesus talks about hell more often than He speaks of heaven.  If there is one thing we know for certain about hell it is this:  Jesus wants us to believe in it, and He wants us to have a healthy fear of ending up there.  The thought should make us shudder.  It should help keep us on the narrow path.

So why can't God just save us all?  Why can't there be universal salvation?  Why would a merciful and loving God create a world in which some of the people He created would be damned for all eternity?  It all goes back to the basic question, why is there evil in the world?  Once we accept the truth that God does not create evil, but we do through sin, the next question is usually, so why does God allow us to choose evil?  Why didn't God make us so that we would always choose the good?  Wouldn't that have been better for everyone?

The surprising answer to that question is because that's not what love does.  

God created us with a rational mind and a free will.  This gives us both the capacity to know and understand, and the capacity to choose.  We can choose good or evil.  We can choose to accept God or reject Him.  And we can rightly be held responsible for our choices.  Why is this a loving act?  Because love asks, it does not demand.  Love invites, it does not coerce.  Love beckons, it does not bind.  God is a lover, not a rapist.  He would never force Himself on someone that did not want Him.  Hell, as horrible as it is, is part of God's love.  He gives His loved ones the freedom to reject Him - that is hell - and as bad as hell is, the option of choosing hell makes the prospect of heaven that much more sweet.  Every soul in heaven is there because it said "yes" to God, freely  and willingly.  Every soul in heaven is there because it wants to be there, because it chose to respond to God's love with love.  The souls in hell are there not because God does not love them, but because they chose to respond to God's love with hatred.  

God never ceases to love us.  We are sustained by His love constantly.  If He ever stopped loving us, we would simply blink out of existence.  The question of heaven or hell is not determined by whether God loves us enough, but rather our decision to love Him enough.  He allows us to make that decision freely, because He loves us.

Now for part two.  A couple of our CCM students this semester are taking a class on human sexuality.  Apparently on the very first day of class one of the topics discusses was... you guessed it, the Catholic Church!  According to one student's notes, the professor said the Catholic Church teaches that sex is for reproduction, not just for pleasure.  

Well, no arguments there.  That is true as far as it goes.  But it is certainly not the totality of the Church's teaching about human sexuality.  I learned that much about sex in middle school biology, long before I was a Catholic.  

The Church, following the natural law, teaches that the sexual act in fact has two purposes, described in the Catechism of the Catholic Church as, "the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life" (CCC 2363).  These two ends are generally referred to as the unitive and procreative aspects of sex. Anything that attempts to thwart either of those two ends undermines the natural purpose of the act itself and is therefore immoral.  (This is why the Church teaches that things like contraception, adultery, fornication, homosexual acts, etc. are sinful).

Note that the two purposes of the human sexual act are reproduction and union, not reproduction and pleasure as our professor puts it.  I would argue (and I believe I have the teaching of the Church supporting me in this) that both the unitive and reproductive aspects of the sexual act have the capacity to produce great pleasure if they are sought with love.

All too often people dismiss the Church's position on sex as being purely biological; she is accused of reducing women to breeding chattel.  They can only make this accusation if they willfully ignore the Church's own teaching.  What the Church actually teaches is this:  "Sexuality, by means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses, is not something simply biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person, as such" (Familiaris consortio 11).  

She teaches that the human sexual act is "noble and honorable" (Gaudium et Spes 49) and that "sexuality is a source of joy and pleasure" (CCC 2362).  This is not some new teaching of the Church, only introduced since Vatican II.  On Oct. 29, 1951, Pope Pius XII said that God Himself made the sexual act so that "spouses should experience pleasure and enjoyment of body and spirit.  Therefore spouses do nothing evil in seeking this pleasure and enjoyment" (qtd. in CCC 2362).

Simply put, Catholics are not Puritans.  We do not, as some believe, look upon sex as a necessary evil which husband and wife must sometimes engage in to bring new Catholics into the world.  This is not our teaching at all.  

But nor do we believe as the world believes today; that the primary purpose of sex is for personal physical pleasure, that children are a secondary purpose at best (usually looked upon as a byproduct to be avoided if possible), and that the only rule is mutual consent.  

The difference between the Church and the world is that the world views children as an optional aspect of sex which can be chosen or not chosen, whereas the Church views children as an integrated and inseparable part of the whole of human sexuality.  "A child does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving, as its fruit and fulfillment" (CCC 2366).  

Sex.  Children.  Marriage.  These three are seen by the Church as one integrated good.  Remove any one from the equation and you do damage to the whole.  

In closing, all of the above quotes I provided can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  This is an indispensable resource that every Catholic college student should have on their desk.  If you do not have one, order one; it is worth the investment.  Learn to use it.  Become familiar with the index, the glossary, and the texts cited.  It is your go-to resource whenever you have a question on what the Church really teaches.  (You can also access the text free online).

May the Lord bless you and keep you!

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

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Weekly Update from CCM

Greetings, students!

I hope that you all are having a good first week of classes and that new students are starting to navigate campus a little easier each day.  It was good to see so many new people at our first Mass this past Sunday and at Valley Ballyhoo on Saturday.  I hope to meet more of you in the days to come.

A reminder that our chapel and student center is open until roughly 10pm each evening during the week for your use.  The Blessed Sacrament is reserved in our chapel.  Please pop in any time during the day for a few quiet moments of prayer.  Upstairs we have couches that are great for napping, a TV, a Wii, a kitchen to heat your lunch up in; my office is there, too, and I have an open door policy, so please do feel free to drop by.  (If my car is in the drive but you don't see me in my office, I'm probably out and about campus somewhere - feel free to send me a text).  

We have some fun activities scheduled for this week that you don't want to miss.

Calling all freshmen!  We are having an Open House for freshmen at 5:30pm tomorrow.  (Transfer students are welcome to come, as well). This is a great opportunity for new students to get to know one another and learn about our campus ministry.
Supper @ the Center:  Each Wednesday at 6:30pm we offer a free home cooked meal, followed by a faith-based program which generally runs to 8:30.  This week our meal will be provided by the Catholic Daughters of the Americas, who are cooking up some yummy sloppy joes and a variety of veggie dishes for us.  Afterwards we will enjoy our unusually cool August weather by roasting marshmallows on the fire and offering praise to God with music led by our choir master, Joseph.

Sunset Picnic and Hike:  Meet at the Catholic Student Center at 6:00pm and catch a ride with us up to the Blue Ridge Parkway.  We will have a picnic (we will provide PB&J sandwich, chips, little debbie and bottled water).  Then we'll hike to the top of Waterrock Knob.  It's a short easy-to-moderate hike where on a clear day you can see three states.  Wear comfy shoes for hiking, bring a camera and a good attitude.  (For anyone who has peanut allergies, let me know in advance and we'll make a special sandwich for you).  

Our usual Sunday schedule is Mass at 7:30pm with a rosary prayed 30 minutes before Mass.  Father Voitus will be available for Reconciliation during the rosary.  You can also ask him to hear your confession after Mass.  
Lector Meeting:  This Sunday after Mass there will be a meeting for anyone wishing to be on the lector schedule for this semester.  
Mass Intentions:  Fr. Voitus has asked that any student wishing to have a special intention offered for a Sunday Mass to get in touch with me and I will put the intention on the calendar. (There is no stipend for this).

Small Group Prayer & Scripture Study:  Starting next week, we will have student-led small groups meeting in various locations around campus three evenings each week.  We encourage any student who would like to deepen their faith and grow in their relationship with God and with fellow students to consider participating in a small group.  Our current small group schedule is:
Monday 6:30-7:30p, Central Common Room
Tuesday 6:30-7:30p, Scott Blue Lobby
Thursday 6:30-7:30p, in the lobby between Albright & Benton
While you are welcome to simply show up at a small group, we do have a sign up sheet on the bulletin board outside of our chapel.  Please consider signing up to help us get an idea of numbers. We are also putting together a small group for graduate students and young adult faculty.  If you are interested in that, please contact Tim Segert at timsegert@gmail.com.

Rummage Sale.  Campus Ministry is organizing a rummage sale at St. Mary's parish Sept 5-7.  This is a fund raiser to help with our ministry to WCU students.  I am in need of students willing to help with set up the Monday and Tuesday before, as well as during the sale from 6-8pm on that Thursday, 8am till 2pm on Friday, and 8am till 3pm on Saturday.  Please email me if you are interested.

Eucharistic Congress  The Diocese of Charlotte is holding its 9th annual Eucharistic Congress in Charlotte Sept. 13-14.  College students from across our diocese are participating in a Friday night gathering with free pizza and a special talk, all-night Adoration and lock-in at St. Peter's parish in downtown Charlotte, the Eucharistic Procession on Saturday morning, and a day of talks and "getting your Catholic on" all day Saturday.  To participate in the event, we ask you to register.  It costs $15 and that gets you breakfast and lunch on Saturday, plus a t-shirt.  We'll be car pooling down from WCU on Friday afternoon.  Click here to register.

And more...
Take a look ahead at what else we have going on this semester.  Bookmark our calendar at:

That's it for this week.  Please join our Facebook group (link below) for more information and do feel free to come by and say hi!  

God bless,

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

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Gospel For Today - 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time


Today is definitely not one of those "warm and fuzzy" gospel readings.  No bunnies and squirrels or pretty daisies in sight.  We often are tempted to put Jesus into a box with these other huggable things and think of Him more as a supernatural buddy than our Lord who is both Savior and Judge.   He is the ultimate "nice guy."  We are not entirely unjustified in doing so.  After all, Jesus did some pretty nice things and had some wonderfully nice things to say.  He fed people.  He healed people.  He said, "Be not afraid," and "My peace I give you."

But then He also says things like we read in today's gospel, from Luke 12:49-55.  "Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division."  He goes on to speak of households being divided, fathers against sons, mothers against daughters, and so on.  Wow.  What happened the nice "be not afraid" Jesus?

Well, He is still there.  But perhaps we need to rethink our definition of "nice."  We think that if we are nice to other people, then other people will generally like us, and everyone will get along, and won't that be just nice.  But the problem with that kind of nicety is that it is superficial.  It is shallow.  And it ultimately means nothing.  That sort of nicety never challenges.  It never confronts.  It is afraid to make waves.  It is willing to sacrifice principles for the sake of getting along.  It ends up being a mask for all sorts of sins and flaws that we dare not mention because it wouldn't be "nice." 

Nice does not equal holy.  Some of the holiest people on record were notorious for being not nice.  Padre Pio reportedly was not a very nice man (I never met him).  St. Benedict was so ornery that his own monks tried to poison him!  I am not saying that holy people have to be mean - meanness is no sign of holiness, either - but we need to realize that our modern concept of a "nice person" is no guarantee of sanctity.

What are signs of sanctity?  Well, we can start by looking at the virtues.  The four cardinal (pivotal) virtues outlined in the Catechism are prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance.  (See 1805-1809 in the Catechism).  Let's look just at fortitude for the moment.

Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good.  It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life.  The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions.  It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause (CCC 1808).

For those trying to live out their Christian faith in an authentic way in the world today, fortitude is not an optional virtue.  Especially on a college campus, we find challenges to our faith and morals around every corner.  If we are to remain true to our faith, true to Christ, then we will often find ourselves having to say "no."  And that can feel lonely.  It can make you feel isolated.  It can make you feel uncool, unliked, and not respected by your peers.  And that stinks.

Jesus today tells us, "So what?  You don't need them.  You have Me."  He gives us in the first reading today the example of Jeremiah, His faithful prophet who was thrown into a cistern full of mud and left to die of starvation; all because he dared to speak the truth.  Jesus today tells us that Truth is a greater good than being nice.  But truth will create division.  Some will accept it and live by it.  Others will not.  The fact that some will not accept the truth cannot be reason for you to abandon it.  Pray for them.  And hold fast to the truth yourself.  Be resolute.  Have fortitude.  

Our reading from the Letter to the Hebrews today says, "let us... persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith."  This is my prayer for all those beginning their college career today.  That for the next four years - and for the rest of your life - you will keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.   

Distractions will be everywhere, and not just where you think they will be.  Sex, drugs, alcohol, yes all those will be temptations.  But sometimes they can be the easier ones to resist.  Academic success can also be a temptation.  "I can't come to Mass because I have to study."  "My class schedule is too full, I don't have time to pray."  I have heard these things over and over as a campus minister.  Being a Catholic minority can also be its own cross.  "I know I should be going to Mass, but I don't know any other Catholics and all my friends go to the non-denominational church... and church is church, right?"  

Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.  Don't worry about others' opinions.  Don't worry about "being nice."  Accept that standing up for what is true and right will cause division.  Jesus knows it will, but He also guarantees that if you remain true to Him, He will fill your soul with His peace.  Not peace as the world expects it - but His peace - the peace that comes with integrity of mind, body and spirit.  This is sanctity.  This is being a friend of Christ.

Keep your eyes on Jesus.  Pray every day.  Make time.  Put it in your schedule now, today.  Look at your class times and figure out when each day you will dedicate yourself to prayer.  Come to Mass.  Do not neglect God.  He wants to be in relationship with you.  Make an effort to spend time with Him.  Seek out fellow Catholics and build good, virtuous relationships with them.  They will help you.  Do this, and your four years at college will be a wonderful time in your life; a time when you will grow in maturity of faith, in holiness, and in relation with the Lord.  Start that journey now.  Pray for fortitude.  Be courageous.  Keep your eyes on Christ.

May the Lord bless you and keep you,

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

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

To many Protestants, the Marian doctrines of the Catholic faith are the most troubling. Our devotion to her seems to them to take away from our worship of her son, Jesus Christ. The various things that we believe about Mary, that she was immaculately conceived, that she remained a virgin all of her life, that she is Mediatrix, that she was assumed body and soul into heaven, all seem "non-Biblical" and therefore non-Christian to them. On the occasion of this day, the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, we celebrate our Catholic belief that Mary, the Mother of God, was assumed body and soul into heaven at the end of her life.

It is helpful to first define just what this belief is and what it is not, as many who question it do so because of a poor understanding of the doctrine. It is not, as many assume, the belief that Mary did not die. When Pope Pius XII defined this doctrine infallibly, he wrote that "at the end of her earthly life [she] was assumed body and soul into the glory of Heaven." Note that he is silent on whether or not she actually died. Most theologians are in agreement that she did, in fact, die a normal death. But the Church has not defined the issue one way or another. Unless the Church proclaims infallibly that she did not die, we should assume that she did. What this doctrine means is that after her death, her body was not allowed to decompose or become corrupt. It was assumed into heaven along with her soul. This is not the same as Christ's Ascension into heaven. Christ ascended into heaven by His own power and will. Mary was assumed into heaven through the will and power of God.

Sometimes questioners will make a big deal out of the fact that "that this was not a Catholic doctrine until 1950." If this is truly a matter of faith to be believed, why did it only come up almost two millennia after the Apostles? This argument is based largely on the false assumption that the Catholic church "invents" teachings. The proper thing to do is to remind people that this particular doctrine of faith was not defined until 1950. There is a big difference between "define" and "invent." Beliefs and practices can be around a long time before they are officially defined as doctrine. Most often, the Church waits until the need is present before it will make an official proclamation on a subject. In fact, the dates of the definitions of various doctrines usually correspond to the first time the doctrine is widely questioned (and thus the need for a formal definition), not when it was first widely believed. So to say that the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary was not defined until 1950 is not the same as saying it was a new belief then. Far from it. We can look at early church records and see that this is a very ancient belief of the church.

The earliest known written reference to the Assumption can be found in the text De Obitu S. Dominae, which dates to the fourth or fifth century but has been attributed to St. John the Evangelist. In the East, it is mentioned in the sermons of many early Fathers including St. Andrew of Crete, St. John Damascene, St. Modestus of Jerusalem and others.

In 451 AD, at the Council of Chalcedon, the Emperor Marcian and Pulcheria desired to own the body of Mary, the Mother of God. St. John of Damascus tells us that St. Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, told them that, "Mary died in the presence of all the Apostles, but that her tomb, when opened, upon the request of St. Thomas, was found empty; wherefrom the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven." The Catholic Church does not, however, claim to derive this doctrine from any of these early writers, but from Apostolic Tradition itself, which these early sources merely point to.

The Assumption of Mary has also been celebrated since early times with a Feast day. We do not know exactly where or when this celebration first occurred, but according to the life of St. Theodosius (d. 529) it was celebrated in Palestine before the year 500, probably in August. It has been celebrated at other times of the year in various places, however, such as in Egypt and Arabia, where it was observed in January. By 700 it was one of the principle feasts in Rome, and was a Holy Day of Obligation. As we do not know exactly when Mary died, we cannot mark the exact anniversary of her death, but we can still remember her Assumption with this celebration.

Many will argue that nowhere in the Bible can mention be found of Mary's Assumption. In Genesis, Enoch is said to have been assumed, and the same goes for Elijah in 2 Kings. So if Mary was truly assumed, then wouldn't this event have warranted mention in the Bible? On the face of it, this argument seems to hold weight. There are no express Scriptural proofs that show the validity of this doctrine. As Catholics, though, we need not rely solely on the Bible as our rule of faith. For us, it is enough that the living, infallible, teaching Church has told us that it is true. This requires an examination of the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura (Scripture Alone). For now it is important to point out that nowhere in the Bible does it exclude the possibility of the Assumption. In fact, in Matthew 27 it describes a scene where "graves were opened, and many bodies rose out of them, bodies of holy men gone to their rest: who, after his rising again, left their graves and went into the holy city. . ." This scene certainly seems to imply that such a thing as the Assumption is possible.

If one were to look to the Scripture for references to Mary's Assumption, the best place to look is the book of Revelation, chapter 12.
"And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery. And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth; she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, . . ." 
Many commentators identify the woman with the Church. However, since the dragon is always identified with Satan, and the child always Christ, and these are both singular entities, it makes sense that the woman should be identified first as a singular entity, and secondarily as a collective entity. The singular entity is, of course, Mary. John's vision of Mary in heaven with her son, Jesus, only makes sense if she had been Assumed into heaven, as Pope John Paul II as well as Pius X have stated. And this is, of course, what the Apostles believed happened, according to what the Bishop of Jerusalem said at the Council of Chalcedon, as we read above.

In fact, the absence of a body, or any remains at all, attributed to Mary speaks volumes. The Biblical silence on her assumption is neither an affirmation or a rejection of the fact--it is simply silence. But the silence of anyone claiming to have, or have seen, her earthy remains is worth noting. From the very beginning of the Church, Catholics have had a special veneration for the saints. The bones of the martyrs killed in the Coliseum were gathered up and preserved almost immediately, according to the biographies of those first Christian victims. Cities would vie for the claim to fame of being the final resting place of a famous saint. For some of the more famous saints, the bones were even divided up so that more than one town could claim them. These relics were preserved and venerated and were objects of great devotion. Surely a saint such as Mary, the most well known of all, who had such a special honor among all the saints, would be preserved and venerated more than any other. Yet no city anywhere has ever claimed her remains. We know she lived for a while in Ephesus with John and may have died there. There is also a good case that she may have died at Jerusalem and her temporary tomb is said to be there. Yet neither of these cities claims or ever has claimed to have her corporeal remains. Nowhere are her bones venerated. No one claims to have them. Why not? Because there were no remains to venerate and the people of the time knew it.

Mary's Assumption cannot be explained without also considering the doctrine of her Immaculate Conception. I cannot give that doctrine a full treatment here, but it states that Mary was conceived immaculately, without the stain of original sin. That from her conception she was set aside, chosen by God, to be the New Eve, the one to bear Christ to the World. Death and decay are the punishments for original sin, and since Mary was free from this stain, she was free of its consequences. So why did she die? If she died, it was because she was united with Christ. It was her desire to do the will of God, and just as Christ chose to die for our sins so that we may be redeemed, she chose to suffer and die an earthly death to be united with her son. Just as we all will one day be reunited with our physical bodies in our eternal home, Mary's body was taken into Heaven along with her soul. God would not allow her body, the body of His servant, free of sin, to corrupt. Her assumption gives us a glimpse of what the final destination of all of us may be.

This doctrine of the Church was proclaimed infallibly by Pope Pius XII in the Bull Munificentissimus Deus, 1 November, 1950. It was re-emphasized at the Second Vatican Council in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium that "the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, when her earthly life was over, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things."

"All generations shall call me blessed; for he who is mighty has accomplished great things on my behalf." - Lk 1:48, 49
Communion antiphon for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary

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

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Weekly Update from CCM

Welcome Students!  

Cullowhee is beginning to come to life as some of you are returning to campus early for various activities, and I look forward to welcoming the rest of you this weekend.  I especially look forward to getting to know all the new freshmen who have been in touch with me over the summer expressing an interest in Catholic Campus Ministry.

As you get settled in on campus, please make a point to come by to check out some of the events we have going on at the Catholic Student Center and get to know your fellow Catholic students.  (For new folks who don't know where we are, we are No. 68 on the campus map.  Or you can see our web site for a map to our location.)

Thursday, Aug. 15:  The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a Holy Day of Obligation.  Mass times at St. Mary's are 9:00am and 6:00pm.  If you need a ride from campus, or can offer a ride, please post on our Facebook Group to arrange carpools.  

Saturday, Aug. 17:  Valley Ballyhoo on the UC Lawn from 4:30-7:00pm.  Catholic Campus Ministry will have an information table set up, so please come by and say hello!

Sunday, Aug. 18:  First Mass of the Semester in our campus chapel.  Mass is at 7:30pm.  Come a half an hour early to pray the Rosary with us.  Stay after Mass for some fellowship.  Meet our new pastor, Fr. Voitus, who will be available for Confession before and after Mass.  

Wednesday, Aug. 21:  Freshmen and new transfer students are invited to an Open House at the Catholic Student Center at 5:30pm.  Get introduced to campus ministry, your campus minister, and one another.  Then at 6:30pm everyone is invited for our first "Supper @ the Center" fellowship dinner.  Enjoy a free home cooked meal each week.

Friday, Aug. 23:  Sunset picnic and hike at the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Meet at the Catholic Student Center before 6:00pm; we will carpool up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and enjoy a hike to the top of Waterrock Knob.  It's a brief hike, but steep, so wear good shoes.  If the weather is clear you can see three states from the top.  A picnic dinner will be provided.  Bring a smile and a camera!  (We'll be back on campus around 9:00pm).

Parking Stickers:  One way we raise funding for CCM is by selling parking stickers for our lot.  They are $50 per semester and are available at the Catholic Student Center.  Please come by and ask about a parking sticker if you are interested.

Rummage Sale:  One of our other big fundraisers is an annual Rummage Sale at St. Mary's parish.  This year the sale dates are Sept. 6-7, with a "parish preview" evening on Sept. 5.  I will be needing student volunteers to help with the sale, both the days of and in the weeks before for preparation.  If you are interested, please contact me.

Some important dates to have on your calendar.
Sept. 13-14:  Eucharistic Congress, Charlotte, NC
Oct. 25-27:  Fall Beach Retreat, Folly Beach, SC
Nov. 8-10: Charis Retreat, Black Mountain, NC
More information about the above events will be forthcoming, so stay tuned!

If you have not already, please join our Facebook Group to keep up to date on all the events and opportunities we have going on at CCM!

That's all for this week!  I encourage each of you to pray for a successful and anxiety-free start to the new semester, for blessings upon all those travelling back to WCU this week, and that God's will be done in you life during your time on campus.

May the Lord bless you and keep you!

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

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Gospel For Today - 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time


Today's readings are all about one thing: faith.

In the second reading, from Hebrews, we are reminded of the story of our Father in faith, Abraham.  Abraham was called to travel to a land he was told would be his inheritance, even though he did not know where it was.  While travelling, he and his family lived in tents, even though they were promised a city made by God.  Abraham, even in his old age, with a sterile wife, conceived a son through faith.  And Abraham was later asked to sacrifice his son, the same son whom God promised would provide many descendants.  

All this Abraham was able to do because of his great faith.  So what is faith?  We talk a lot about "the faith," meaning the sum of our Christian beliefs and practices.  But faith is also a virtue one can possess.  Abraham had this faith in abundance.  

The glossary in the back of the Catechism is a wonderful tool.  It tells us faith is "Both a gift of God and a human act by which the believer gives personal adherence to God who invites his response, and freely assents to the whole truth that God has revealed."

Clearly, then, faith is a give and take.  It requires the actions of both God and man.  God proposes, and man accepts.  This is why faith (along with hope and charity) is called a "theological virtue."  It has its origin in God; it also has God as its end.  

Blessed John Paul II issued an encyclical in 1998 entitled Fides et Ratio, or in English, "Faith and Reason."  This wonderful work explores the relationship between these two ways of knowing.  Most of the knowledge we learn comes to us through reason.  God has created us with senses - sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell - through which we gain information about the world around us.  God has also gifted us with a rational intellect allowing us to draw conclusions about the world based on the information provided by our senses.  

To give a basic example, we can learn through use of our sight that yellow and blue mixed together make green.  We can also deduce through reason things like 2 + 2 = 4, or that gravity keeps the planets in their orbits, and that broccoli is better for our health than gummy worms.  We don't need any divine revelation from God to teach us these things.  Knowing that 2 + 2 = 4 does not require the virtue of faith.

Faith is something different from reason, though it is not incompatible with it.  Faith allows us to accept certain truths proposed to us by God that our reason alone would not allow us to grasp.  The foundational teachings of our faith are like that.  Jesus is both fully human and fully divine.  God exists as one God in three Persons.  These things we could never know using only our reason.  Though they do not run contrary to reason, we could never deduce them on our own.  We must accept them through faith.

But more than having faith in the doctrines taught by the Church for our benefit, we must also have personal faith in God.  Abraham shows us the virtue of this faith in action.  God promised Abraham some pretty radical sounding things.  Even though he was in his 90's, and his wife Sarah in her 80's and sterile, God promised them a son.  He promised them a land to be the inheritance of their many descendants.  He promised that Abraham would be the faith a great nation.  These things sound impossible.  Yet Abraham had faith and did not shy away from what God was calling him to do.  Why and how did Abraham have such great faith?

Our reading today from Hebrews gives us the answer.  "For he thought that the one who had made the promise was trustworthy."

The one who made the promise was trustworthy.  My faith in the Eucharist has nothing to do with what my senses can tell me.  It is not because of anything special about the bread and wine.  I believe in the Real Presence because of the One who said, "This is my body," and "this is my blood."

Likewise I don't believe in the infallibility of the Church because of anything special about the men who make up the College of Bishops.  As intelligent and pious as they may be, there is nothing in their humanity that would guarantee to my reason that they will always lead the Church in the truth.  I believe it because of the One who said, "Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it."

St. Augustine once said, "I would not believe in the Gospels if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so."  With him, I admit that there is nothing in the Scriptures that would cause my reason to take them for anything other than a great work of historic literature.  But the Church who speaks with the authority of Christ tells me that this is the inspired Word of God.   And so I believe.

The one who made the promise is trustworthy.

If this is true about great matters of our faith, it is also true in our personal lives.  Abraham was not given some great doctrine proposed for believe, such as the Real Presence in the Eucharist or the infallibility of the Church.  He was given a task - an impossible sounding task.  And he was able to accept it with faith because he trusted the One who asked him to do it.  

Aren't we too often unwilling to ask God what His will is for us, because we are afraid that we may not be up to what He wants us to do?  Are we afraid that God might want us to do something we will fail at?  Whether that be teaching faith formation in your parish, starting a new charitable aid group, getting involved in hospital ministry - or maybe giving our lives completely to Him in a religious vocation - whatever it might be, if that calling is truly coming from God, then we need to have faith that He will provide a way to make it happen.

Like Abraham, the path before us might not be free of difficulties.  We may have many hardships and obstacles to overcome.  But we persevere in faith, because we trust in the One who makes the promise.

May the Lord bless you and keep you!

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

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Gospel For Today


The Catholic Church does not advocate prudery.  She advocates for chastity, which is a completely different thing.  Dr. John Haas is a renowned Catholic ethicist and speaker who now serves as president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center.  Once during the Q&A session after a talk he gave, a college student asked him, "Why do you Catholics have such a problem with sex?"

Dr. Haas replied, "I don't have a problem with sex; I have nine children!"  Catholics don't have a problem with sex.  In fact, we think it is holy.  It is a wonderful gift from God.  Which is why any abuse of this gift is such a sin.  We don't have a problem with sex.  We have a problem with adultery, fornication, pornography, homosexual acts, contraception, and so forth.  

In a similar way, Catholics are not teetotalers.  We don't have a problem with drinking alcohol.  In fact, our Lord's first miracle was turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana, when the host ran out of the good stuff.  The wine produced by that miracle was so wonderful that all the guests commented on how the host saved the best for last.  We don't have a problem with alcohol.  We have a problem with drunkenness.  

Nor do we have a problem with eating food.  We do, however, have a problem with gluttony.

And while there is nothing wrong with owning money and possessions, we condemn greed as a sin.

This may sound like "all things in moderation" (which is generally sound advice), but that's not the point.  The point is to put nothing before God.  All of these sins, the sexual sins, greed and gluttony, etc., are wrong not because they treat evil as good, but because they wrongly place a good above the good.  It is easy for us to take a good of this world and exalt it above the one who created the world.

Is sex the first and last thought of your day?  Do you obsess over finding the right job to land you that lucrative paycheck?  Do you live for the weekend so you can get wasted with your friends (or maybe you don't wait for the weekend)?  Or perhaps it's nothing that sinister; maybe it's just spending too much time on social media, or gaming, watching 24 hour news networks, or working out in the gym.  Even rather innocent pursuits can become problematic if we prioritize them above God.  

Today's scripture readings are all about putting God first.  The first reading from Ecclesiastes reminds us that all of our human work and profit will eventually pass away.  In the second reading from Colossians St. Paul tells us to "think of what is above, not of what is on earth."  

In the gospel reading from Luke Jesus tells the story of the rich man whose chief problem is that he has so much grain his buildings cannot store it all.  He is considering tearing down all of his barns so that he can build bigger ones.  That would solve his problem.  Little does he know that this will be his last night on earth.

Isn't that a characteristic "first world problem?"  We are drowning in stuff.  Our homes are overwhelmed with it all (and by extension, our lives).  How many television shows are geared today towards people who need help organizing their possessions, paring down their possessions, or just letting go of that hoarding instinct?  We build bigger houses each generation; but they are not filled with larger families, only more stuff.  We have to rent storage buildings to keep the overflow stuff.  We are like the rich man with too much grain.

All this needless stuff keeps us from having a meaningful relationship with Christ.  Maybe for you it is not material possessions; maybe for you it is an obsession with good looks, or popularity, or a political cause, or sexual pleasure, or some other distraction.  Whatever it is for you, I urge you today to let it go.  Stop letting it have mastery over your life.

In the words of St. Paul from our second reading: "Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry.  Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed for knowledge, in the image of its creator."

Put nothing in your life before God.  Let nothing have ownership of you but God.  Love nothing above God.  Only then will you be able to enjoy the richness and bounty of God's gifts to us in a healthy and holy way.  Only then will you find true happiness.  

May the Lord bless you and keep you!
WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
(828)293-9374  |   POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723