Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Weekly Update from CCM

Dear Students,

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!  The white stuff is exciting, and I'm sure everyone loves it when classes, labs and meetings get cancelled.  We all enjoy a little break from our routine.  The Catholic Student Center is a great place to take refuge from the cold -- we have a warm fire place, hot chocolate, tea and coffee available for you to enjoy, and good company.  However, please use your best judgment and be careful as you walk up to the Center.  The driveway can be slippery, and it's a good idea to use the downstairs entrance to avoid walking up the outside stairway. So be safe!

Here's the schedule for this week...

Sarah is cooking dinner for us - we are having curry (there will be spicy and not-so-spicy options).  Our after dinner program will be led by Rebecca who will be talking about service opportunities.  Come join us!

It's Superbowl Sunday and we don't want to tempt anyone by making them choose between going to Mass or attending a Superbowl party (FYI, going to Mass would be the right choice!).  So to make things easier we are moving Mass time for this Sunday only.  Mass will be at 4:00pm.  We will still have all our regular Sunday activities, so come 30 minutes early to pray the Rosary or for Confession.  We'll also still have Credo after Mass.  This week's topic is "Sin and Grace."  We've been talking a lot these past weeks about moral issues - now it's time to talk about how God's grace is at work in all of this.  We hope you join us!

This Sunday is also the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord.  Father will begin Mass outside in the parking lot with a special blessing of candles.  If you have any personal candles that you use for prayer or devotion, you may bring them and have them blessed at this time, as well.

Small group scripture discussions are ongoing.  Monday, Tuesday and Thursday at 6:30pm.  The Monday group meets in the Albright lobby, the Tuesday group at the Balsam lobby, and the Thursday group on the UC balcony.  Please give one of the small groups a try as a way to deepen your faith.

On Saturday, Feb. 8, we will have a Sacred Music day here at CCM.  This will be primarily of interest to our choir members, but it is open to anyone who wants to learn more about sacred music in the liturgy.  We'll start at 10pm and go until about 2:30 or 3pm with a break for lunch.

Everyone please stay warm, stay safe, and stay holy!  
Pax Christi,

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

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Gospel For Today - 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time


Today St. Paul gives us a message crucial to living an authentic Christians life.  He is writing to the Church in Corinth, which is experiencing difficulty and division.  "For it has been reported to me about you," he writes, "...that there are rivalries among you.  I mean that each of you is saying, 'I belong to Paul,' or 'I belong to Apollos,' or 'I belong to Cephas,' or 'I belong to Christ'" (1 Cor 1:10-13).

There is division within the Church at Corinth. The faithful are separating themselves into different factions, claiming loyalty to different leaders.  This is wrong, and it is against Christian unity.  Christ prayed to the Father on the night before He suffered, "That they may be one, as You and I are one" (Jn 17:21).  When there is division within the Church, it is against the mind of Christ.

Certainly this applies to our own day, when it is not hard to see division within the Church.  One only has to look out upon the vast landscape of Protestantism to see the results of division.  Our Protestant brothers and sisters are a part of the Church.  The Catechism calls theirs "a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church" (CCC 838).  But they "have not preserved unity," as the Catechism also states, quoting from the Second Vatican Council.  The division began with those who said, "I belong to Luther," and later expanded to those saying, "I belong to Zwingli," or "I belong to Calvin," etc.  And it continues today with "I belong to Joel Osteen" or "I belong to Robert Schuller," or "I belong to Rick Warren," and so forth.

Every schismatic or heretical movement has begun with someone sanding up to exert their own will and judgment as supreme.  I know better what it means to be Christian.  Follow me.

But if you look at the names St. Paul mentions to the Corinthians, there are no Biblical counterparts to Martin Luther or John Calvin.  There are no reformers, heretics or schismatics in the list.  The people of Corinth are saying, "I belong to Paul," or "I belong to Cephas (Peter)," and even "I belong to Christ." Certainly St. Paul and St. Peter were not going around stirring up division within the Church.  They were not preaching their own egos; they were preaching only Christ.  

And notice that Our Lord Himself has made the list!  Some in Corinth are claiming, "I belong to Christ."  We may rightly ask, "What is wrong with that!?"  Certainly all serious Christians today should be able to say, "I belong to Christ and Christ only.  He is my Lord and my God."  That's what being a Christian is all about.

It is not St. Paul or St. Peter, and certainly not Christ, who are sewing division within the Church.  Rather it is the people of the Church who are confusedly and misguidedly grouping themselves into different factions, based on who baptized them, who taught them the faith, or for whom they feel a personal allegiance.  And St. Paul reminds them this is wrong.  This is against the spirit of the very Christ they claim to follow.

Christ established the Church as the earthly means of our salvation.  The Second Vatican Council calls the Catholic Church "the universal help toward salvation" through which "the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained" (Decree on Ecumenism 3, 5).  The Church is Catholic, which means "universal."  And so within the Church we find great diversity of culture and language, and even spiritual practices.  After all, St. Paul also told the Corinthians of the body of Christ having many members -- some of us are feet, some are eyes, some are hands, etc.  Some of us are teachers, others prophets, others priests, and so on (1 Cor 12:12-31).

But the Church is also One, which means within that diversity there must be unity.  We all may be different members of the Body of Christ - hands, feet and so forth - but we are members of the same body.  And the Body of Christ is the Church.  Christian unity can be found, therefore, only within the Church.  One cannot say, "I belong to St. Paul" without the Church.  Even though St. Peter is the head of the Apostles, the visible source of our unity here on earth, and the one to whom Christ gave the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, we cannot say, "I belong to Peter" without the Church.  (The name Cephas is the Aramaic form of Peter).  

And even though Christ is head of the Church, one cannot say, "I belong to Christ" without the Church, anymore than one can say, "I belong to the head without the body."  

To be a follower of Christ, then, means being humble enough to submit yourself to be a part of His Body, the Church.  This can be a hard lesson to learn.  A few decades after St. Paul wrote his letter, the Christians in Corinth were still having difficulties.  There was still division.  And so they received another letter, sometime in the 90's, from Pope St. Clement.  

St. Clement was the fourth bishop of Rome, and so our fourth Pope.  He succeeded Cletus, who succeeded Linus, who succeeded Peter (the life expectancy of the Pope was pretty short in those days of persecution).  As successor of the head of the Apostles, Clement wrote to the Church in Corinth and exhorted them to be united with Christ, and with each other, in the Church.  He speaks of Christ being sent by God, and the Apostles being sent by Christ, and the bishops (and the priests and deacons who serve them) as being appointed by the Apostles as successors in their ministry.  And he speaks of the humility required on the part of the faithful to submit to the rightful authority of the Church.

Humility is the key to Christian unity.  Humility enables us all to say, "I cannot save myself," and "I am not my own judge."  Humility enables us to submit to rightful authority and to do so with joy.  Humility within the Church's leadership ensures that they lead with the authority of Christ and not their own.  So that they would be as horrified as St. Paul was to hear Christians saying, "I belong to Paul," if they were to discover that a cult of personality had grown up around them.  

There can be a strong temptation within us today to pin our faith to a charismatic leader within the Church.  This does not have to be someone famous, like Pope Francis or Pope Benedict XV.  Maybe it is your pastor.  Maybe your campus minister, or youth minister.  These people may be holy people, but if you idolize them you miss the point of their message.  You are being like the Corinthians.  For what happens when your pastor is transferred to a new parish, and you aren't  quit sure you like the new guy?  What happens when a new pope is chosen who looks and acts different from the last one?  If these things challenge your faith, perhaps your faith is misplaced.  

We rightly admire the saints (both the great ones named by the Church and the small ones in our own lives).  What makes the saints great is that the holiness that shines forth through them does not emanate from within themselves but from Christ.  To allow Christ to live in you requires a dying to self, and this begins with humility.  To be united with Christ means being united with His Body, the Church.  Even if that is hard at times.  And even if you don't know what that may mean in your life.  "Submission" has become a dirty word in today's society, but it is a requirement of the Christian.  Submission to right and Godly authority is not a source of weakness, but strength.  Dying to self means living in Christ.

In today's gospel reading, Jesus calls to Peter and Andrew as they are fishing in the Sea of Galilee.  The gospel says, "At once they left their nets and followed Him" (Mt 4:12-23).  They had the courage - and the humility - to abandon their way of life and all that they knew to follow Christ.  From this faith the seeds of the Church were planted.  Pray today that we may be just as prepared to die to ourselves and our own ways so that we may also follow Christ as members of His body, the Church.

Also, read the Catechism of the Catholic Church on Christian unity, paragraphs 813-822.

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

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Weekly Update from CCM

Dear Students,

Greetings from Catholic Campus Ministry!  Here's what we've got going on this week...

Our Small Groups have started up again this week.  These small student-led faith sharing groups meet weekly on campus to pray, discuss a scripture passage, and support each other in the faith.  We have three groups meeting this semester.  Each meeting starts at 6:30pm and lasts about an hour.
MONDAYS - meet at Albright lobby
TUESDAYS - meet at Benton lobby
THURSDAYS - meet at UC balcony

WEDNESDAY - Support Life!
This Wednesday hundreds of thousands of people will gather in Washington, DC, in support of human dignity and respect for the weakest among us, the unborn.  The annual March for Life in DC marks the anniversary of the Supreme Court's 1973 decision, Roe v. Wade, legalizing abortion in our country.  In solidarity with those who are able to travel to DC to take part in the march, we will be gathering here on campus in prayerful witness to the dignity of all human life.

Those who can join us, please meet at the fountain in the center of campus at 2:00pm to pray a pro-life rosary.  This should take only 30 minutes or so.  I'll have some pro-life material available for anyone to take if they like.  

Wednesday night we will gather as usual at 6:30 at the Catholic Student Center for our "Supper @ the Center."  This week Joseph, Nancy & Nicole have teamed up to cook for us.  After dinner, Kat & Jessica will lead a program teaching us all how to make our own tied cord rosaries.  We will supply all the materials for you, so no excuse not to learn.  Make one for yourself or to give away.  (I'll have a basket set out to collect any rosaries people wish to donate).  Afterwards, for those who were not able to make it to the earlier Rosary for Life, we have the opportunity to pray another pro-life rosary in the chapel.

ALSO NOTE:  St. Mary's is holding a pro-life prayer service at 12:10pm on Wednesday.

THURSDAY - Knitting Group!
Alex Cassell is starting up a knitting group!  Anyone who can knit or crochet, or wants to learn how to knit or crochet, is invited to take part in this weekly group.  They will meet every Thursday from 8:00-9:30pm at her house in Sylva.  Alex can provide a ride from the Catholic Student Center at 7:45pm (if you need a ride or want to carpool).  You will be learning to make 10" x 10" squares that will be made into blankets to donate to St. Mary's hispanic ministry.  (Another option is to make baby hats to donate to the hospital maternity unit).  Men and women are both welcome!  See Alex's post in our Facebook group or contact her for more details.

SUNDAY - Mass & Credo
We will have our regular Sunday schedule.  Rosary & Confession at 7:00pm.  Mass at 7:30pm.  Credo after Mass.  Our topic for discussion this week is Sexual Ethics.  It should be an interesting discussion - please come with questions.  Because of the sensitive nature of this topic, if anyone has a question they prefer to ask anonymously, please email it to me any time this week and I'll read the question (without the name attached) on Sunday night.

Space is filling up fast for our annual Diocesan service weekend, Give Your Heart Away.  Registration is $50 and gets you a bed and meals.  The dates are Feb. 14-16.  We'll be leaving from WCU on Friday afternoon, after classes, and returning on Sunday afternoon.  For more information and to register, go to:

Our WCU CCM spring retreat this semester will be at the Lake House over the weekend of April 4-5.  More details to come, but go ahead and mark your calendar if you'd like to attend!

God bless!

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

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Gospel For Today - 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time (A)


Last week I wrote that through our baptism we are united with Christ's death and resurrection, and born again as children of God.  This is true.  When we say that these things are brought about through baptism, we are not speaking symbolically -- at least not in the sense that we typically think of something being symbolic.

A symbol is a sign of something else, but we usually understand the symbol to be something quite distinct from the reality it signifies.  For example, the US flag is a symbol of our nation.  But you and I know that the flag, that rectangle of colored cloth, is not actually the United States of America.  It's a piece of cloth.  But it is a symbol that represents our country and so we rightly respect it and treat it with a certain dignity; not because the flag itself is worthy of honor, but because we give honor to the thing being represented.

That's how most symbols work.  A picture of my mother is a symbol that represents her and brings her to mind.  And I may value that picture because I love my mother.  But I know that the picture is not my mother.

But that's not how baptism works.  Baptism is a symbol, but it is a special kind of symbol that we call a sacrament.  The Catechism calls sacraments "efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us" (CCC 1131).  Another common definition of sacrament is "a visible sign of an invisible grace."  A sacrament, such as baptism, is a sign, which is another way of saying symbol.  But it is an "efficacious sign."  That means it is a sign that actually brings about what it signifies.  In other words, baptism doesn't merely represent our union with Christ's death and resurrection.  It actually causes that union to occur.

This is the way that all the sacraments operate.  The Eucharist is not just a symbol of Christ's Body and Blood.  It is Christ's Body and Blood.  Through Reconciliation we do not receive a representative forgiveness, we are truly forgiven by God.  God is the main actor in each of the sacraments He instituted, and there are seven: baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, confession (or reconciliation), matrimony, holy orders and anointing of the sick.  Through each of these God makes His grace present to us in a special and particular way.

There are human actors, as well.  There is the one receiving the sacrament, of course, and also the minister who typically administers the sacrament (the exception being marriage, in which case it is the couple receiving the sacrament who administer it to each other).  There is a ritual formula. There is a physical element.  God uses aspects of His creation to impart His grace to us.  We are both physical and spiritual creatures, and so when God comes to us through the sacraments He established in His Church, He comes to us through both physical and spiritual means.  Baptism involves cleansing with water; that is the physical aspect.  We can see the clean, pure water.  We can hear the sound of it being poured out.  We can feel the cool wetness on our skin.  We feel "washed." 

But more than the physical aspect, there is a supernatural aspect to baptism that we cannot see or hear or feel but is nevertheless there.  John said in today's gospel reading that he baptizes with water, but Christ baptizes with the Holy Spirit.  When John administered the waters of baptism to Jesus, he saw the Spirit of God descent upon Him like a dove.  You and I may not be able to see it, but that happens at each and every Christian baptism.  The Spirit comes to rest upon the one newly reborn in Christ.

Baptism is the first sacrament of initiation into the Christian life, the sacrament that opens the doors of grace and brings us into the body of Christ.  It is the first sacrament we receive, and the majority of Catholics (excluding converts to the faith such as myself) are baptized as infants shortly after birth.  You may not be able to remember your baptism, but this is what happened to you.  (And if you are unbaptized and reading this, know that this can be yours).

Baptism brings about the forgiveness of sins -- all sins, both original sin and any personal sin the one being baptized may have committed in life.  Further it removes all punishment for sins.  In baptism one is made a new creation.  The old truly passes away and is no more (CCC 1263).

Baptism fills you with "sanctifying grace," making you a son or daughter of God.  The word "sanctify" means "to be made holy," and the word "grace" means "gift."  Baptism is a gift to help you become holy.  It strengthens you, giving you the theological virtues of faith, hope and love, which are aimed chiefly at God Himself (you have faith in God, you hope in God, and you love God).  Baptism gives you the power to live your life guided by the Holy Spirit and to grow in goodness by living a virtuous life (CCC 1266).

Baptism makes you a member of the universal Church, the Body of Christ.  You become united, in Christ, with Christians of all nations and races, of all places and times.  You share in the priesthood of Christ, meaning you are called to serve others, under the authority of the Church, to help spread the good news of God's love and mercy (CCC 1267-1270).

Baptism also leaves an indelible mark on your soul, marking you as one who belongs to Christ.  "No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation" (CCC 1272).  

This last point is important.  Perhaps you read the above and said, "Wow, that sounds great, but I was baptized as a baby and I don't exactly feel any of that."  It doesn't matter.  That's the glory of the sacraments.  A sacrament works whether you "feel" it or not.  A sign, as we commonly think of it, only has meaning if we choose to give it meaning.  But a sacrament is an "efficacious sign."  That mean it is effective on its own.  Whether you feel it or not, God's grace is truly there.  

It is possible for us to ignore that grace.  And perhaps you have been ignoring all the gifts of baptism that I just described above.  Perhaps you have not been living them out in your life, not allowing them to bear fruit.  Perhaps you have forgotten about those gifts entirely.  It does not matter.  They are still there.  You still bear the mark of a child of God, and not even the gravest of sins can wipe that mark away.  You belong to Him.  

If this is you, then I invite you to start living the grace of your baptism today.  Baptism is the gateway to the sacramental life.  If you have been away from that life for a while, I invite you to recall your baptism and return to it.  Come back to Confession and the Eucharist (the daily bath and daily bread of the Christian).  You are a new creature, reborn in Christ, a member of a royal priesthood.  God has great things in mind for you - nothing short of perfection.  Don't settle for a life of mediocrity and sin.  Start living the life of love and grace.  Start living your baptism.

God bless,

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

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Practical Advice for Choirs and Parish Music Directors - a thanks to Jeffrey Tucker and the CMAA

Tonight we welcome Jeffrey Tucker to our weekly campus ministry dinner.  We are very privileged to have him with us; Mr. Tucker is the director of publications for the Church Music Association of America, editor for the New Liturgical Movement, founder of the Chant Cafe blog, and author of Sing Like a Catholic.  Those involved in liturgical music in America probably don't need that little introduction, but for everyone else, it's enough to know that Jeffrey Tucker has done quite a bit through his example, his writings and publications to forward the cause of sacred music in the Church today; at least in the Church in America, which is all I can really speak on from experience.

When I think of all we have to be grateful for in the sacred music world due to the work of Jeffrey Tucker and the people and organizations he is involved with, I cannot overstate the impact.  This includes the people over at the CMAA, Arlene Oost-Zimmer, Adam Bartlett, Richard Rice, and Corpus Christi Watershed.  There are many others, but these are the ones I am most familiar with.

I recall a time back when I first started to get involved in liturgical music.  I was a fairly new Catholic convert, and had no training at all in sacred music.  (I wouldn't have even used the terms "liturgical music" or "sacred music" back then).  Not only had I not read the General Instruction to the Roman Missal, I didn't even know such a thing existed.  (That's sort of the "instruction manual" that tells you how Mass should be celebrated with the Roman Missal, and has quite a bit to say about music in the Mass).  I was doing my best to provide prayerful and inspiring music at Mass from the hymnals in the pews at the time.  I remember being very frustrated at the fact that part of the parish liked "traditional" music while others favored "contemporary" music.  I felt a weight of responsibility to pick songs each week that everyone would like.  At some point I realized that sacred music shouldn't really be about what people liked or didn't like.  Since the music was a part of the liturgy then surely the Church must have some sort of guidelines that people like me could use to select what to sing.  I stumbled around and eventually discovered the GIRM and the fact that there are in fact proper chants that belong to specific days and seasons, which are actually part of the text of the liturgy, and that this is what the Church is asking us to sing.

I acquired a copy of the Graduale Romanum, which is the official music book of the Roman Rite.  I quickly discovered, however, that the entire thing was in Latin.  Not just the chants, but the instructions, and even the table of contents!  While the book was great to have, it was also next to useless in terms of something I could practically use in the parish at that time.

I bought myself a copy of the Gregorian Missal, which was a step in the right direction.  It had all the Latin chants for Sundays and Solemnities, with English translations and English instructions.  But the music was written in this funny square note stuff that I couldn't read.  Oh, dear.

I persevered.  I learned.  I got to the point where I could read those funny square notes.  I gradually introduced the use of proper antiphons in the parish, with the support of fellow choir members. One of the more daunting challenges we had to overcome was the expansive gap between Glory & Praise songs and Gregorian chant.  There wasn't much available to help bridge that gap (or if there was, it was hard for me to find).  Making that transition took a long time and a lot of work, but it was worth it.

Contrast that to the situation today.  Thanks to the CMAA's publication efforts and the hard work of individuals there and at Corpus Christi Watershed, we live in a different world. Imagine yourself as a music director at a small parish today.  You have read the GIRM (which now is available for free online) and discovered that the Church requires the chanting of proper liturgical antiphons at the Entrance, Offertory and Communion.  You want to do what the Church requires in the liturgy.  You want to sing the antiphons.  But you have little knowledge of Latin.  You have no experience singing chant.  You have a small choir with a few volunteers who also have no experience singing chant - or maybe you are on your own.  And your parish has zero budget to purchase new hymnals or other musical resources.  What do you do?

Because of the work of Jeffrey Tucker, the CMAA, Corpus Christi Watershed, and the others I mentioned and their promotion of authentic liturgical music, you could be singing the propers of the Mass next Sunday.  Seriously.

Here's what you do.  First, download Simple English Propers from the CMAA web site.  This resource by Adam Bartlett has all the proper antiphons for Sundays and Solemnities, in English translation, arranged in a Gregorian chant-like style.  If you like the sound and character of chant, but want to use English instead of Latin, this is the resource to use.  The music is in square notes, so that may be an obstacle.  But if you are serious about sacred music, you really want to learn to read square note anyway.  There are instructions for reading square note in the book, and it is much easier than you might thing.  (I found square notes much easier to learn than modern musical notation).  This chant sounds good sung by a choir or schola in unison, or by a cantor alone.  And it is completely free and in the creative commons.  Feel free to use it, print it, and make copies to your heart's content.

And bonus!  For many of the chants, there are free practice videos on YouTube.  For example, just at random, here is the Offertory antiphon for the Tenth Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Or, let's say you have a small choir and prefer something that involves harmonies.  You can download the Simple Choral Gradual by Richard Rice.  This is another English language collection of antiphons for all Sundays and Solemnities, arranged in simple four part harmonies.  Whether you have a choir of four or forty, they can easily learn the melodies and start using this music immediately.  Seriously.  Even an amateur volunteer choir (which is what most parishes have) can start singing these antiphons with less than thirty minutes of practice.  And, it is also completely free and in the creative commons.

What about the Psalms?  Click on over to Corpus Christ Watershed.  They have online a collection of psalms for each Sunday of the year.  They have loads to choose from.  I like the ones that are included in the Vatican II hymnal; they are beautiful and dignified, and each one also has graphics for worship aides and a practice MP3 file.  But there are usually at least a half-dozen other options or more to choose from each Sunday.  And did I mention this was a completely free resource, in the creative commons?

What do you do with those old hymnals in the pews?  Select an old favorite to sing as a post-communion (which is allowed in the GIRM) or as a recessional hymn.  There is no need to eliminate hymns entirely to advance the cause of sacred music.  Just use them in their place, rather than as substitutes for the actual text of the Mass.

If you have access to the internet and a modicum of Google-fu skills, you can access these and other sacred music resources that can make the music in your parish so much more authentic to the liturgy.  And you can start singing this music right away.   We owe a great deal of gratitude to the people behind the CMAA and Corpus Christi Watershed; people like Jeffrey Tucker and the others I mentioned.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Weekly Update from CCM

Welcome back to the 'Whee, students!  And welcome especially to any new students.  We are glad you are here at WCU and hope to see you involved in campus ministry and get to know you better.  Here's what we have going on this week, and beyond.

Each Wednesday evening we gather at 6:30 at the Catholic Student Center for a free home-cooked meal, followed by a faith program, which is generally student-led, and lasts until about 8:30.  This week Jessica is cooking beef stew for dinner (just the thing for a cold January evening), and Kat is making a special treat for dessert.  You'll have to come and find out what!  After, instead of a student-led program, we will welcome special guest Jeffrey Tucker who will be joining us.  Jeffrey Tucker is the author of Sing Like a Catholic, and is one of the foremost experts in Catholic liturgical music in America today.  He is the publications editor for the Church Music Association of America, editor of the New Liturgical Movement, and founder of the Chant Cafe blog.  He'll be speaking to us about sacred music and answering questions.  It will be an information conversation, and a great opportunity to learn from an expert, so please come!  (Remember, sacred music is something that impacts the worship experience of all of us, so this is not just for choir members).

The reason we are so privileged to have Jeffrey Tucker join us is that he is also a preeminent economist who is coming to Western to speak as part of the WCU Free Enterprise speaker series.  He'll be giving a presentation entitled "Liberty as a Do-it-yourself Project" Thursday in Forsyth 101 at 4:00pm.  While his talk is not religious in nature, it would be interesting to get a group to attend and then discuss afterwards how his talk relates to Catholic Social Teaching including the principle of subsidiarity, respect for human dignity, etc. 

We offer Mass on campus each Sunday night at 7:30pm in our chapel.  Father Voitus is available for Reconciliation at 7:00.  We also pray the rosary together before Mass starting at 7:00, so please come early if you can.  After Mass each week those interested are invited to join us upstairs for an hour or so of catechesis and discussion with Credo.  We've been taking a tour of the Ten Commandments, and this week we'll be talking about the 5th commandment -- it's literally a matter of life or death.  It will be an interesting discussion, as always, so please join us, and please come with your questions.


Our small group scripture studies will resume next week (starting Jan 20).  We have three groups this semester, meeting at the following times and locations.
MONDAY - 6:30pm in the Albright lobby
TUESDAY - 6:30pm in the Balsam lobby
THURSDAY - 6:30pm on the UC balcony (or just inside if it is raining)
What goes on in the small groups?  Each small group is led by a student facilitator.  The group reads a passage of scripture, prays with it, and discusses how the lessons of scripture can be integrated into their lives.  It's a great way to grow closer to God through His Word, and to grow closer with your fellow Catholic students.  It's a good introduction to campus ministry, too, so if you haven't been involved in your faith for a while, we encourage you to find a small group to be a part of.  Just pick the day that works best for your schedule.  

We will be offering the opportunity for Eucharistic Adoration regularly throughout the semester.  Generally we will be offering it at least on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the week from noon till 12:30, but this schedule may change.  We post the days Adoration is available on our Facebook Group.   So check that for the latest update. And remember, our chapel is open until 10pm each night, so come by any time you need some quiet prayer.

Give Your Heart Away is our annual Diocesan service experience for college students.  The dates are Feb. 14-16 and the location is once again at the Catholic Conference Center in Hickory.  The weekend includes service work at various sites around the Hickory area, prayer, reflection on the meaning of service in a Christian context, and fellowship with other college students from across the diocese.  Cost is $50, with your bed and meals provided.  For more information and to register, please see the link below:

If you have any questions about any of the above, please contact me.  I'd like to end with a reminder to all that the Catholic Student Center is here for your use.  Please feel free to pop by at any time to relax on the couch, watch TV, do your homework, eat lunch, take a nap, pick up a book or magazine for some inspirational reading, chat with me or your fellow students who may be hanging out here, or - most importantly - spend some quality time with Jesus in the chapel.  It's your student center, so use it!

God bless each one of you,


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

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Gospel For Today - Baptism of the Lord

REMINDER - Today is the first Mass on campus of the new semester.  Tonight at 7:30pm at the Catholic Student Center.  


Today we conclude the Christmas season with the celebration of the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord.  A common question that arises at this time each year is, "Why was Jesus Baptized at all?"  It's a fair question, especially when you consider the reason and the effects of our own baptism.

Why are we baptized?  The short answer is, "for the forgiveness of sins."  We are sinners, plain and simple.  We are conceived in the state of original sin, which is the general state of all mankind since the Fall of our first parents, the effects of which are many but include the loss of the grace of original holiness.  We also, if we are baptized as adults, will have committed many personal sins in our life.  These sins are called "actual" sins, not because original sin is not "actually" a sin, in the way we use the word today; rather because these are sins we commit in act, or by our actions.  In either case, original sin or actual sin, baptism cleanses us of that sin.  It transmits God's forgiveness.  "By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin" (CCC 1263).

But Jesus Christ is the sinless One.  He is God Incarnate.  In His human nature He is like us in all things except sin.  So if Christ was conceived without original sin, and if He committed no personal sin, then why was Jesus baptized by John?  

We are not alone in asking this question.  In today's gospel reading from Matthew John himself tries to stop Jesus from being baptized.  "I need to be baptized by you," he says, "and yet you are coming to me?"  Yet Jesus said His baptism was fitting, "to fulfill all righteousness."  

There is more here than meets the eye, and there is more to baptism than meets the eye.  Baptism does more for us than simply wipe away all sins.  Not that the forgiveness of all sins and remission of all punishment due to sins is not enough, mind you!  That alone is a miraculous, generous, and merciful action of our God.  It already is more than any of us deserve, but God does not stop there.

According to St. Paul, the one who is baptized unites himself or herself with Christ's death.  That sounds kind of bad, until you realize that it is only by being united to His death that we can be united to His Resurrection.  

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life (Rom 6:3-4).

This "newness of life" begins with Christ's baptism.  When Jesus arose from the waters, our gospel today tells us that "the heavens were opened."  These same heavens were closed to us after Adam's sin; they are opened now with Christ.  The gospel also speaks of the Spirit coming down and resting over Jesus in the water.  Just as the Spirit hovered over the waters of creation in Genesis 1:2, now the Spirit descends over the waters of the new creation which is being wrought in Christ.

So why was Jesus baptized?  The answer is not for the forgiveness of His sins, but for ours.  Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  By subjecting Himself to baptism, He is emptying Himself.  The Catechism calls His baptism the "first manifestation" of His self-emptying (CCC 1224), a self-emptying that would end with His suffering and death on a cross.   Likewise the descent of the Holy Spirit over the waters is a manifestation of the new creation to be worked in Christ through His death and Resurrection.  The appearance of the Holy Trinity (the Son, being baptized, the Spirit descending over the waters of baptism, and the Father saying He is well pleased) is a manifestation of the Trinity coming to rest in our own hearts upon our baptism.  

If you recall from last week, we spoke of the word epiphany meaning "manifestation," or making known.  Thus the Baptism of the Lord is a sort of epiphany, an extension of the epiphany we celebrate when the wise men, three Gentile sages from the east, came to worship Christ the Lord.  And as a symbol of dying and rising, Christ's baptism foreshadows the passion, death and resurrection to come.  Thus it is fitting that we celebrate His baptism today, to end the Christmas season and prepare us for the great Lent and Easter celebrations to follow.

Why was Jesus baptized?  He was baptized for us, to give our own baptisms meaning; so that the waters of this earth would be made holy, conduits of His grace, in order that we might be united with Him in death, united with Him in eternal life, reborn as children of God, creatures in the new creation.  

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

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Weekly Update from CCM - Welcome Back!

Greetings, students!  And a Merry Christmas to you - remember, the Christmas season extends to the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord, which we celebrate this coming Sunday, so don't be in such a rush to put Christmas behind you.  I hope you all have had a wonderful break and are ready to come back to Cullowhee recharged and ready for the next semester.  

We are busy preparing to welcome you back at CCM.  Here's a look at our first week.

Our first Mass of the new semester.  Rosary & Confession at 7:00pm.  Mass at 7:30pm.  After Mass, during our Credo session we will be talking about the Fourth Commandment (honor thy father & mother).  What does that teach us about family?  What does that teach us about society?  Come with questions!

Our first Supper @ the Center of the new semester.  Come at 6:30pm for the grub (menu TBD).  Stay for a special program at 7:30.  This Wednesday we welcome a special guest to join us.  Jeffrey Tucker is the director of publications for the Church Music Association of America, the editorial director of the journal Sacred Music, and editor of the New Liturgical Movement.  He is the author of several books, including Sing Like a Catholic.  He also runs the Chant Cafe blog.  He'll be speaking to us about liturgical music and will be taking questions.  It should be an interesting discussion, so we hope you will be there!

We are working on a schedule for our small scripture discussion groups for the spring semester.  We plan on starting our small groups the second week of the semester.  Stay turned for the locations and times!  

Please mark your calendars for Feb. 14-16, the weekend of Give Your Heart Away, our annual diocesan service retreat weekend for college students.  Once more it will be in Hickory at the Catholic Conference Center.  Registration form and more information is online.

We will have our annual WCU CCM spring retreat at a date TBA (likely sometime in April).  I am working on finding an available weekend and will post that information as soon as I have it.

Parking stickers are available for the CCM lot for $50 per semester.  Come by the Catholic Student Center and get yours while they last!

I do look forward to seeing all of you in just a few days' time.  Travel safely and keep warm until then!
Pax Christi,

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

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Gospel For Today - Epiphany


The word "epiphany" means "manifestation."  So what does the word "manifest" mean?  Manifest means "to make known."  Today we celebrate the great solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, considered to be the apex of the Christmas season.  In what way today is the Lord made known?

One would think that the manifestation of the Lord would be considered His birth, which we celebrated on Dec. 25.  This is the day when we celebrate His arrival on the human scene, when we welcome Emmanuel, God-with-us, into our midst.  Did that not complete the great incarnational event that began when the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would conceive a son by the Holy Spirit?

In a way yes, but in a way no.  While at the Nativity we celebrate the birth of Christ and His arrival to the Jewish people, that is by no means the whole story.  For while it is true that Christ, the Messiah, came to the Jews, He did not come only for the Jews.  In our first reading today from Isaiah, the prophet says, "Rise up in splendor Jerusalem, your light has come!"  But he continues, "Raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you."  Our psalm today proclaims, "all kings shall pay him homage, all nations shall serve him."  And our second reading from Ephesians tells us that "the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise of Christ Jesus."  

This is what is unique about our Catholic faith - that it is catholic.  "Catholic" comes from the Greek meaning "of the whole."  It is usually translated as "universal." We call it the universal Church not only because she teaches universal truths, but that those truths and  the salvation they proclaim are meant for all peoples, of all lands, of all times.  There is not a single nation, tribe, clan, family or individual whom Christ did not come to redeem.  While Christ is the fulfillment of all that God promised to His chosen people, He is also the extension of that covenant to the whole world.  

The event we celebrate today with the arrival of the magi to pay homage and adore the infant Christ is the manifestation - the epiphany - of Jesus' universal kingship.  Who were the magi?  The Bible is silent as to their names, but tradition gives them as Casper (Gaspar), Melchior and Balthasar.  The magi were eastern sages.  They were not Jews and there is no reason to believe that they were familiar with Jewish prophecy or scripture.  So why would they care about the birth of a baby boy to a young woman in a backwater Jewish province of no real political significance?

The magi were the priestly caste from Persia.  We sometimes refer to them as the "wise men" and that is important.  For even though there is no reason to believe they were exposed to Jewish traditions or prophecy they did seek out wisdom.  In their tradition, in the east, they sought wisdom from the stars.  And something they saw in the stars at that time told them that a great king had been born in Bethlehem.  And not just any king, but a universal king, such that even though He was born among Jews, these Persian sages felt compelled to make the long and dangerous journey to pay Him homage.  

Through the method of learning they looked to for truth and guidance - watching and reading the stars - they came to know the truth of Christ's kingship.  They responded to that truth in the only way that seemed appropriate to them.  They desired to worship and adore the Lord.  The magi are considered to be the first fruits of the Gentiles and the beginning of the Christian faith, bringing in their wake the whole mass of earth's people who would come to worship the Lord Jesus Christ.  They were not looking for a Messiah.  They did not know the prophecies of Isaiah.  But they were seeking the truth.

Like them, we today need to seek out truth.  Our minds were made for this task.  The Second Vatican Council affirms that God comes to those "who seek God with a sincere heart" (Lumen Gentium 16).  Even in non-Christian religions, we recognize "shadows and images" of God, elements of "goodness and truth" that are "a preparation for the Gospel" (CCC 843).  

These elements of truth can also be found in the physical sciences, where the open mind can discover signs pointing to the transcendent creator of this magnificent universe.  They can be found in the study  of history, where can be discovered accounts of the creator-God born among the Jewish people in Israel and working miracles, including His own Resurrection.  They can also be found in the lived experiences and examples of those around us who have allowed Christ to enter their lives and forever change them.

When we discover the truth, whoever we are and however it comes to us, there is only one proper response.  We need to do what the magi did.  We need to realize that in the light of this Truth, nothing can ever be the same.  We need to stop what we are doing - leaving behind our old lives if need be - and seek Him out.  A King has been born.  Come, let us worship.

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