Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Weekly Update from CCM

Dear Students,

What a night!  I'm getting Facebook reports that many of you had to spend some time huddled in the first floor of your dorms or locked away in the library during the tornado warnings.  Thank God it all ended up being sound and fury with no substance.  Please know you are all in my prayers, both during literal storms and the metaphorical storms of exam week.

Next week may be finals week, but this week is a week of "finals" including our final Wednesday dinner and our final Sunday Mass on campus.  Here's this week's schedule.

Adoration in the chapel from noon till 12:30.

We had been planning a special outdoor dinner at the picnic area by Norton, but looking at the weather forecast for this week it looks like we can expect more thunderstorms and rain through Thursday morning.  So unless the forecast drastically changes, we will be meeting, as usual, at the Catholic Center at 6:30pm.  We'll still have yummy outdoor food, though, with burgers, home fries, fruit salad, and yummy dessert.  For our program after, we'll be reminiscing on the past four years with our graduating seniors.  Come for a final night of relaxation before crunch time!

Please note I will be in Hickory all day Thursday for an Education Vicariate meeting.  There will be no Thursday Adoration this week.

Special note: at the 11:00am Mass at St. Mary's, the parish will be celebrating the First Holy Communion for the second grade class.  However, along with them, our own Bekka Mayen will be receiving her first Holy Communion, as well!  Let's wish her our congratulations.  Anyone who is able, please try to make it to the 11:00am Mass at the parish to celebrate with her.

We will have Mass on campus at our usual time of 4:00pm.  This will be the final Mass on campus of the semester.  Gather at 3:30 to join us in the Rosary; Father will also be available for confessions.  After Mass, our Credo topic is "Apologetics Q&A."  Come with your questions about how to better explain and defend the Catholic faith.

We will not have any of our regular weekly activities during exam week.  The chapel will remain open 24 hours a day during exam week; please take advantage of it for prayers as needed.

A special baccalaureate Mass has been scheduled at St. Mary's at 7:30pm on Friday, May 9.  If you are a graduating senior who would like to be recognized at this Mass, please reply to me and let me know approximately how many family and friends may be in attendance.  There will be a small reception afterward.  

Pax Christi,

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

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Gospel For Today - 2nd Sunday of Easter (A)

NOTE:  As today is Divine Mercy Sunday, we will be beginning at 4:00pm with a Divine Mercy Service to be immediately followed by Mass.  The Divine Mercy Service will include the chaplet of Divine Mercy, readings from St. Faustina's Diary, and Eucharistic Adoration.  


Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you."
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
"Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, 
and whose sins you retain are retained." 

With these words, Jesus grants the Church the authority to carry out her most urgent and fundamental mission in the world, which is to reconcile sinners to the Father.  On the evening of His Resurrection, Jesus appears to the Apostles and tells them, "As the Father has sent me, so I send you."   So if we want to know why Christ sent the Apostles (and why God sent us the Church) we must know why God the Father sent His Son into the world.

The scriptures are abundantly clear on this point. From the beginning of the incarnation narrative, the angel who announced the coming of Christ to Joseph said, "and you shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins" (Mt 1:21).  Jesus in His own words said, "I have come to call sinners" (Mt 9:13) and, "For the Son of Man came to save what was lost" (Mt 28:11).   In so many of Christ's parables, including the story of the Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan, and the Good Shepherd, our Lord describes His mission to call sinners to repentance and to grant forgiveness.  And on many occasions we see Christ granting that very forgiveness to individuals including Mary Magdalene, Zacchaeus, the thief crucified next to our Lord, and the Samaritan woman at the well.  

Very plainly, when Jesus heals the lame man who had been lowered through the roof, He says He did so, "so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" (Mt 9:2-8). This was Christ's chief mission, without a doubt.  It was the purpose of all that He suffered through on Good Friday, and here on the eve of the Resurrection we find Christ passing that divine authority on to the Apostles.

In our gospel, we read, "When He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'"    We must remember that it was the breath of God that gave life to Adam in the beginning (Gen 2:7).  The word spirit itself derives from the Latin word for breath.  This also anticipates the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, 50 days later (Acts 2:1-4).  In fact, Christ expressly says, "Receive the Holy Spirit," while breathing on them. 

The purpose of Christ transmitting the Holy Spirit to them at this moment was to empower them - to grant them the divine authority - to fulfill their mission.  And what was that mission?  "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."  Christ says quite plainly that the mission of the Apostles, and by extension the Apostolic Church, is to forgive sins.  He has granted them God's authority to do so.  He has instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or what we commonly call Confession.

How do we know this authority continues on in today's bishops and priests?  We know this because Christ intended that the mission of His Church would continue until the end of time.  If the Apostles did not have the ability to transfer that authority to others, then Christ's mission of forgiveness would have ended with that first generation of Christians, and extended only to those with personal contact with the Apostles themselves.  Forgiveness of sin would have come to an end with the death of St. John.  The forgiveness of sin must continue to be available to us for as long as there is sin in the world, which will be until the end of time.  And so the Church's divinely instituted mission continues on.

But why confess out loud to a priest?  Can't the Church just universally grant forgiveness without us having to go through the act of confessing?  Note that Christ grants the Apostles the authority both to forgive and to retain sins.  How are they supposed to know when to grant and when to withhold forgiveness?  They have to know what it is they are forgiving, the disposition of the sinner, his or her resolutions for the future, their willingness to make amends for any harm done by their sins, and so forth.  All of this requires that the penitent sinner actually confess those sins, and his or her repentance, to the minister of the Church.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a great mercy of God.  Through it the sinner is brought into renewed friendship with God.  Your sins are forgiven.  You receive sanctifying grace.  The everlasting punishment due because of your sins is remitted and God's grace will strengthen you to help you avoid future sin.  Plus, you get the chance to receive spiritual advice and instruction - all freely given!  

Christ will come at the end of days as the Just Judge.  But when He came to us in the Incarnation it was as the Divine Physician; it was as the Good Shepherd searching for His lost sheep.  The prescription for our ailment is repentance and forgiveness.  The Shepherd's voice is a voice of mercy.  The greatest tragedy in our lives would be to not take advantage of Christ's abundant mercy. 

The Divine Mercy devotion is based on the writings of an uneducated Polish nun, St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, who kept a diary of some 600 pages in the 1930s.  In one passage of her diary, she has Jesus saying, "He who refuses to pass through the door of My mercy must pass through the door of My justice" (Diary 1146).  

The door of Christ's mercy is the door of the Confessional.  The key to unlocking that door is our own repentance.  The only cost of entry is to trust in His mercy and love.  

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

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Weekly Update from CCM

He is Risen, Alleluia!

I hope that each of you is having a blessed Easter!  Just a reminder that this week we are celebrating the Octave of Easter.  An octave is an eight day celebration, Sunday to Sunday, that is essentially a feast so large it can't fit into one day.  Christmas and Easter are both octave feasts, meaning each day within the octave is a solemnity.  After the octave of Easter, the season of Easter itself continues on for fifty days until Pentecost.  So don't stop celebrating just yet!

We only have a couple of weeks left before the end of the semester.  Here's what's going on at CCM this week.

Pasquale and Nancy are teaming up to make some delicious spaghetti and meatballs for us.  We hope to see you at dinner at 6:30.  After, Rebecca will be leading us in a program.  The topic is "peace."  What do we mean by that in a Christian context?  When Christ speaks of peace, does He mean the same thing as the world does by that term?  Also on Wednesday, immediately after our program (around 8:30) there will be a brief information meeting for all those signed up to help work our fundraiser dinner this Friday.

Adoration in the chapel from 1:00 to 1:30.  Note the time.  We will be hosting a regional faith formation meeting at the Catholic Center from 10:00 till noon, so Adoration is pushed back an hour.

Our fundraiser dinner at St. Mary's starts at 6:00pm this Friday - we could still use a few more student volunteer helpers.  So if you are free Friday afternoon and evening and can help out, please let me know!

We are organizing a follow-up work day at the Catholic Center to finish clearing the trail, give our sign a fresh coat of paint, and do some other various yard work.  We need all the help we can get!  Please contact Matthew Johnson or Sarah Taylor on Facebook if you can help.

This Sunday is Divine Mercy Sunday.  In honor of the day, we will be offering a Divine Mercy service (including a sung Divine Mercy chaplet) at 4:00pm.  Mass will follow immediately after.  After Mass, our Credo discussion will be on "Religion & Science."  Are faith and reason two opposing forces, as many perceive them to be today.  Or are they, as Pope John Paul II claimed, two wings upon which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth?  Come explore this issue with us!  This is sure to be a special Sunday, and it all starts at 4:00pm.

As one semester draws to an end, it's time to start thinking about the next. If you are interested in being involved in a leadership capacity at CCM next fall, please get in touch with me.  Our student Peer Ministry Council serves as small group leaders, plans our Wednesday after-dinner programs, helps plan our retreats, and more.  A peer minister is a student who has been actively involved in CCM for at least one semester.  We are looking for faithful, prayerful and dedicated student leaders.  If you think you have time and talent to give, and a heart willing to serve others, we would love to have you as part of our team.  Please be in touch with me this week if you are interested.

This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad!


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

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Gospel For Today: Easter Sunday

REMINDER:  No Mass on campus this afternoon.  Masses at St. Mary's this morning are at 9:00 and 11:00am.  

click here for readings

Alleluia, He is risen!  Alleluia!

​The great Lent is now over; through the liturgy of the Church we have all now experienced Christ's suffering, death and burial.  And today we experience the empty tomb, and the risen Christ.  Alleluia.  

Reflecting back on this Lent, we can think of all the sacrifices we made, the little things we have given up, and wonder what was the point of it?  Did giving up desserts make me a better person?  (Or was I secretly just trying to lose five or ten pounds?)  Did giving up Facebook teach me anything?  Are we excited about Easter so that we can now drink coffee again, or otherwise indulge in whatever we chose to fast from this Lent?  Or shouldn't there be more to it?  

Why do we bother making these little sacrifices at all, which compared with the sacrifice of Christ seem so trivial and insignificant?  What is the point of this self-denial?  Is it simply to help build discipline? Or is it meant to be a penance for our sins?  Yes, at least partly, on both counts.  But there is a greater point, all too easy to miss, yet essential to the meaning of Easter.

Most years, we decide what sort of Lenten sacrifice we are willing to make.  But sometimes we find ourselves making sacrifices not of our choosing.  This year, just before Holy Week, my family learned that we had lost a loved one well before his time.  A beloved nephew of mine was killed quite unexpectedly in a freak accident while practicing baseball at his school.  It was and is a tragedy that broke the hearts of their entire community as it has broken the hearts of our family.  This is not a sacrifice any of us would have ever chosen.

For me, this year, Holy Thursday was spent at the grave side of an innocent child.  Good Friday was spent in mourning.  And to top it all off, Holy Saturday was spent flat on my back with an intense, but mercifully short, case of food poisoning.  One is reminded of the famous quote from St. Teresa of Avila, "Lord, if this is how You treat Your friends, it is no wonder You have so few!"

None of this is anything that I would have ever chosen to experience, and that is rather the point.  We live in a fallen world.  It is a wild and untamed existence and the only guarantee is death.  That death does not always come peacefully in your bed during old age.  It does not always come with a warning.  There is nothing we possess in this life that cannot be taken from us against our will at any moment.  That includes little pleasures, of the sort we typically give up for Lent.  But that also includes things like nephews and nieces, sons and daughters, parents, spouses, and friends.  It includes our own health, and indeed our own lives.  We cannot cling to any of these.  We can put our hope in none of these.  We can love them.  We can value them.  We can appreciate and enjoy the time we have with them.   But we will at some point have to let them go, often all too suddenly.

The sacrifices we make during Lent, whether great or small, are to help us learn detachment.  They are to help us remember that there is but One Thing that we can possess which cannot be taken from us against our will, and that is God.

Brothers and sisters:  If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with Him in glory (Col 3:1-4).

This is what Easter teaches us.  Christ is the One who has conquered death.  God came to earth to become one of us so that He might take upon His shoulders all the suffering and loss of the whole human race, the terrible consequences of the fall caused by the sin of man.  He bore that burden for us all the way to death.  He smashed through the barrier of death and decay and came through the other side victorious.  And we shall, too, if we but cling tightly to Him, the one Person who can never be taken from us against our will.  Christ is the only One we must cling to.

This is why God has given Him the name above all other names.  This is why to Him alone we must bend our knee.  This is why we must love our neighbors as ourselves - because both neighbor and self can be lost - but why we must love God with all our hearts and minds and souls.  Because in the end He is all that we have; but in having Him, we have everything.  He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and end.  Christ is both the source and the summit.  He is all in all.  

Christians, to the Paschal Victim

Offer your thankful praises!
A Lamb the sheep redeems;
Christ, who only is sinless,
Reconciles sinners to the Father.
Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous:
The Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.
Speak, Mary, declaring
What you saw, wayfaring.
"The tomb of Christ, who is living,
The glory of Jesus' resurrection;
bright angels attesting,
The shroud and napkin resting.
Yes, Christ my hope is arisen;
to Galilee he goes before you."
Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining.
Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!
Amen. Alleluia.

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

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Weekly Update from CCM: Holy Week edition

Dear Students,

Because of the Easter break, our normal schedule of weekly activities is on hold.  This means no supper at the Center this Wednesday, and also NO MASS ON CAMPUS for Easter Sunday.  Please enjoy Easter Mass at home with your family!

For those remaining in Cullowhee over break, here is the Holy Week schedule for St. Mary's.
EASTER SUNDAY: 9:00am & 11:00am

If anyone needs a ride to the parish for any of the above, or if you can offer a ride, please post to our Facebook Group so we can coordinate car pools.

A triduum is a three-day period of prayer, recalling the time that Jesus spent in the tomb.  The Easter (or Paschal) Triduum is the season that concludes Lent and introduces us to the joy of Easter.  It begins with the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday, includes the Good Friday service, and concludes with the Vigil Mass of Resurrection of the Lord on Saturday night.  According to ancient custom, a day is considered to begin at sunset the day before, so even though by our modern time keeping the Vigil Mass is on Saturday, liturgically speaking, it falls on Sunday, the day of our Lord's Resurrection.

Here is a brief outline of the three days of the Triduum.

Holy Thursday
The evening Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday recounts both the institution of the Eucharist and the institution of the priesthood (underscoring the link between the two).  Just as Jesus washed the feet of the Apostles at the Last Supper, so the celebrating priest washes the feet of others during this Mass.  It concludes with a Eucharistic procession to an altar of repose, recalling Jesus' repose in the garden of Gethsemane before His passion.  The main altar in the church is stripped bare.

Good Friday
On this day we recall the death of Jesus.  It is a day of fasting and abstinence (just as Ash Wednesday).  Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 are obliged to fast this day.  When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal.  Two smaller meals (think "snacks") may be consumed if needed to maintain strength, but together they should not equal a full meal.  All Catholics age 14 and up are also obliged to refrain from eating meat (fish is ok).  If possible, this fast is to continue until the Easter Vigil on Saturday night, to honor the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus and to better prepare ourselves to more fully celebrate the joy of the Resurrection.

Mass is not celebrated on Good Friday.  Instead, the Church celebrates the Lord's passion and death with a service consisting of a Liturgy of the Word, Veneration of the Cross, and Holy Communion using the Eucharist that was consecrated on Holy Thursday.

Holy Saturday/Easter Vigil
On Holy Saturday the Church meditates on the suffering and death of Jesus.  Then, after sunset, the Church gathers to celebrate the Easter Vigil Mass, the highest and most solemn liturgical celebration of the Church year.  This great liturgy includes the lighting of the Paschal Candle, the proclamation of the Exsultet, and up to seven Old Testament readings and psalms which proclaim the story of God's love for us, leading up to the ultimate expression of that love in the sacrifice of His Son.  The Alleluia is sung again, bells are rung, and the entire Church rejoices at the triumph of our Savior over death.  The Easter Vigil Mass is traditionally when new members of the Church are baptized, and when all Christians renew their baptismal promises.  

For more information on the Easter Triduum, you may enjoy the following resources.
It is my prayer that each of you have a blessed Holy Week with family and friends, and safe travels over this break.  We will resume our normal campus ministry schedule when we return next week.  

God bless,

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

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Gospel For Today - Palm Sunday (A)


(The following is adapted from my Palm Sunday reflection of 2013.)

Today is Palm Sunday, also called Passion Sunday.  These two names reflect two very different aspects of today's liturgy, which is unique in that two different gospel readings are proclaimed.  In churches all over the world today people will gather outside the parish doors, or in the fellowship hall, parking lot, or otherwise out of the church proper to begin the liturgical celebration in joy and triumph.  We will read from Matthew 21:1-11, of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, riding on an ass.  As he rides along people spread their cloaks out on the road for him, and praise God with joy singing, "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord." 

After the gospel reading we are given blessed palms and asked to lend our voices to the praising crowd, as we sing, "Hosanna to the Son of David, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel!"

Inside the church, though, is another matter.  Turn a page or two in Matthew's gospel.  Now we hear of the Last Supper, Jesus's arrest and trial, his passion and his death.  We participate in the gospel reading this morning, reading aloud the words belonging to the gathered crowd.  With the crowd, we shout, "Let him be crucified!"  Our voices are the ones that choose Barabbas over Jesus.  Our voices, that moments ago sang his praises, now condemn him.

Isn't this exactly like the human heart?  Aren't we all too often like Peter, swearing that we would never deny our Lord, but then before the cock crows find we have done it not once, but multiple times? 

Why does the Church ask us today to be the voices that call for Christ's death?  I know some people who literally break down into tears as they shout those words at Mass; it breaks their heart.  We do this because we are the ones who crucified Christ.  We are the ones who are responsible for his suffering and his death -- you and me, and every other person who has ever sinned, which is to say everyone.  We need to be reminded of this not simply so we can express gratitude (though we should), but so that we can feel true sorrow for our part in Christ's passion.  It should break your heart.  It should hurt. 

But Jesus doesn't just suffer because of us; he suffers for us.  Christ is not only crucified for us; he asks us to join him on the cross.  "If you would be my disciples, you must take up your cross and follow me."  Being a Christian means you must suffer on the cross as well.  Jesus did not come to end all suffering; he came to transform suffering into a means of salvation. The way this is achieved is for us to join our suffering to his.

When we are baptized, we are sacramentally joined to Christ's death and resurrection.  From that moment on, each occasion of suffering in our life can draw us closer in communion with our Lord's passion.  This all sounds rather grim, I know.  But the Passion is not the end of the story.  Palm Sunday is followed by Easter.  When we join our suffering to the Lord's, we join with the one who conquered death.  The more we die with Christ, the more we will rise with him.  This is the great joy of the cross.

Hanging from the cross, beaten and bruised, thirsty, humiliated, and in excruciating pain, our Lord uses one of his last breaths to exclaim, "My God, my god, why have you abandoned me?"  Did Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, really feel abandoned by God?  No.  Our Lord was quoting from Psalm 22, which we hear at today's Mass.  The psalm is prophetic.  Composed by divine inspiration hundreds of years before the Crucifixion, the psalmist speaks of being mocked, having his hands and feet pierced, surrounded by evil doers, and having lots cast for his garments -- all things that describe the suffering of the Christ.  But then the psalmist proclaims, "But you, O Lord, be not far from me; O my help, hasten to aid me.  I will proclaim your name to my brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise you..."

Jesus was never and could never be separated from God.  And God is never far from those who suffer with His Son.  The closer you come to the cross, the closer you draw to God.  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel, and the Suffering Servant.  

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

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Dinner Invitation - campus ministry fundraiser

You are cordially invited to attend a Fundraiser Dinner to benefit WCU Catholic Campus Ministry at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Sylva, NC, on Friday, April 25 at 6:00pm.

Music will be provided by the campus ministry student choir, "Vocal Apostles."

Dinner will be provided by Half Past, with menu to include...
A variety of Italian pastas
Mexican favorites
Fresh Garden salad selections
Deserts galore including...
   bread pudding with wine sauce
   dark chocolate cake
   bakery cream puffs and more!

RSVP required by April 21.  Please RSVP via email ccm@wcucatholic.org, or by phone at 828-293-9374 (indicate the number in your party).  
Black tie optional.

Thank you, and may God bless you!

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

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Weekly Update from CCM

“Without prayer, faith becomes weak and the religious life atrophies. One cannot, in the long run, remain a Christian without praying, as one cannot live without breathing.” (Fr. Romano Guardini; The Art of Praying)

Dear Students,

We are entering the final stretch!  No, I am not talking about the upcoming end of the semester (though that is also upon us).  I am talking about the end of Lent and the glorious celebration of Easter, which is even more near.  If you were to enter our chapel this week you would notice that all of the statues and pictures are covered.  This is because these last two weeks of Lent, traditionally known as "Passiontide," anticipate in an ever more intense way the coming passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ on Good Friday.  As we said way back at the beginning of Lent, this is a season of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  As we draw closer to the end of this penitential season, I urge you to continue and even ramp up your observance of these traditional Lenten practices.

If you have perhaps been negligent in your observance of Lent this year, start in earnest now.  It is never too late to take up a fast, to start praying each day, or to return to the sacraments (especially by starting with a good confession).  And if you have been observing Lent faithfully this year, now is a good time to intensify that observance as we draw closer to the glorious day of our Lord's Resurrection.

We have many opportunities on our calendar to help you in those efforts.  Here is what's going on this week.

Eucharistic Adoration in our chapel from noon till 12:30.  Come spend thirty minutes in silence before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  

Come to "Supper @ the Center" this week at 6:30!  We are serving up a taco dinner for you.  Our program this week will be led by Ann Marie.  There are only three more Wednesday dinners left in the semester, so don't miss it!

I will be at the Pastoral Center in Charlotte for a meeting this Thursday, so there will be no Adoration.  If that changes, I will post it in our Facebook Group.
EDIT:  I received word that my meeting is being rescheduled, which means our noontime Thursday Adoration is back on!

Come pray the Stations of the Cross with us at 3:00pm.  For those unfamiliar with this devotion, it recounts the last events leading up to Christ's death on the cross.  It was begun by St. Francis in the Middle Ages and continues to be a popular devotion among Catholics today, especially during the Lenten season.

This Saturday is the 30th annual Tuckaseegee River Clean Up.  We'd like to get as many as possible from CCM to participate.  It's an opportunity to serve our community and spend a fun day out on the river!  Registration is at the UC Lawn any time from 11am till 1pm, but if you'd like to go with our group, meet at the Catholic Student Center before 11:00 and we will walk down to the UC together.  Wear clothing that you don't mind getting wet and dirty.  You must also be wearing shoes that won't come off during a swim (i.e. no flip-flops or shower sandals).  There is more information on the university web site, here.

Mass is at 4:00pm.  Please note our new time!  Come 30 minutes early to pray the Rosary with us.  Father is also available for Confessions at 3:30.  After Mass, our Credo discussion will be all about Mary.  Someone once said that Mary is like the moon, which has no light of its own, but shines brightly because it reflects the light of the sun.  So, too, Mary shines so bright in our faith because she reflects the light of her Son. Come learn more, and come with questions!

This Sunday is also Palm Sunday, which means we will gather before Mass outside in the parking lot for the procession with blessed palms.  

Next week, due to Easter break, there will be no Wednesday dinner, and NO MASS ON CAMPUS EASTER SUNDAY.  Please enjoy celebrating Easter at home with your families!  For those staying in Cullowhee over break, I will post the full Easter Triduum schedule for St. Mary's next week.  Easter Sunday Masses at the parish will be the usual times of 9:00am and 11:00am.

For all those graduating this semester - and this includes graduate students, as well - we'd like to honor you with a Baccalaureate Mass.  We are in the process of scheduling it, and it would help to know how many may be attending and when you are walking.  So if you would like to participate, please email me to let me know which commencement ceremony you are participating in, and (roughly) how many family and friends you think might come.

Wait for the Lord; be strong; be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord! (Ps 27:14)  
Entrance Antiphon from today's Mass

May the Lord continue to shower you with His blessings this Lenten season, and may you be ever willing to cooperate with His grace.

Pax Christi,

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

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Gospel For Today - 5th Sunday of Lent


In today's gospel reading we hear the story of the raising of Lazarus (Jn 11:1-45).  Lazarus is the brother of Mary and Martha, and a friend of Jesus.  Jesus gets word that Lazarus is ill, but rather than go immediately to heal him, Jesus waits two days.  Finally our Lord says, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awake him out of sleep."

As an aside, the disciples here mistakenly take Jesus literally, thinking He means Lazarus is just resting.  But Jesus quickly corrects them.  The gospel tells us, "Then Jesus told them plainly, 'Lazarus is dead...'" (Jn 11:14).  This illustrates that Jesus does not hesitate to clarify His meaning when He is being misunderstood.  So, for example, in John 6 when Jesus tells the disciples repeatedly that they would have to eat His flesh and drink His blood to gain eternal life (speaking of the Eucharist), many take Him literally and so leave.  Jesus does not correct them as He does in this instance, because they were not misunderstanding Him - though of course they could not know at that moment how His words would become true.

But returning to Lazarus, Jesus travels to his home to find him four days dead in the tomb.  In fact, Martha tells Jesus that "by this time there will be an odor."  Lazarus is dead as dead can be.  Nevertheless, Jesus commands them to open the tomb.  He cries out, "Lazarus, come out!"  And Lazarus comes out.  Christ has miraculously raised him from death, so that people may know that the Father sent Him (Jn 11:42).  

I have heard some cynically say that Lazarus is to be pitied above all men, because the poor man had to die twice.  There is a certain amount of truth to that.  After all, Lazarus is not still walking about alive today, two thousand years later.  He did, eventually, die a second death.  However, he is not to be pitied, because his death - even the second time - was not the end.  Jesus said in today's reading, "This illness is not to end in death; it is for the glory of God" (Jn 11:4).   Jesus was speaking, of course, of Lazarus' particular illness at the time, but like many things in the scriptures there is a deeper and broader meaning to be had.  The "illness" Jesus mentions is our fallen human nature and our suffering due to sin (original and personal).  With Christ, this illness will not end in death.

Throughout the readings today we hear talk of resurrection.  In our first reading from Ezekiel, we are told, "O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them (Ez 37:12).  In our second reading, St. Paul tells us, "If the Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the One who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also" (Rm 8:11).  

In our gospel today, before performing His miracle, Jesus tells Martha that her brother will rise.  Martha says, "I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day" (Jn 11:24).  There was by this time a strong belief among most of the Jewish people (with the exception of the Sadducees) of a general resurrection, meaning our physical bodies would rise again at the end of time.  They understood, as we Christians understand now, that death is not natural.  It is an affliction that entered into the world as a consequence of original sin, but from the beginning was not part of God's plan for us.  

Our Catechism teaches, "Even though man's nature is mortal, God had destined him not to die.  Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God the Creator and entered the world as a consequence of sin" (CCC 1008, cf. Wis 2:23-24).  

God made us as creatures with both a material body and a spiritual soul.  We could, in a way, be described as "part animal, part angel."  But this is by comparison only.  The truth is we are neither.  We are unique in all creation, citizens of both the physical and spiritual realms.  Death is the separation of the soul from the body.  Death rips apart the physical and spiritual aspects of our being.  We call a body without a soul a "corpse" and a soul without a body a "ghost."  Neither are very pleasant things.  This is not how God made us to be, and this is why death is so tragic and so sad.

The shortest sentence in the Bible is contained in today's reading.  "Jesus wept" (Jn 11:35).  Even the Incarnate God, who knew that He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead only moments later, mourned the death of His friend.  I have known Christians to feel a bit guilty when they mourn for deceased loved ones, because they have been told that for Christians death is a happy occasion, a birth into eternal life.  But here we see that even Jesus mourns the dead, and rightly so.  God did not make us for death, and so death - even temporary death, as we see with Lazarus - is sad.  It is right to grieve.  

Martha expresses her faith in the general resurrection at the end of time.  Jesus tells her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die" (Jn 11:25).  We will not exist in the world to come as disembodied spirits.  Nor will we be transformed into angels or any other spiritual beings.  We will be the human beings God made us to be, and that means body and soul.  

Jesus is the resurrection the Jewish people awaited.  He is the reason for their hope (1 Peter 3:15).  His resurrection of Lazarus is a foreshadow of His own Resurrection to come.  For even the one who said, "I am the resurrection and the life" had to die.  It is by His death that Christ conquerors death for us, and so if we are to rise with Him we must also die with Him.

Through baptism, the Christian has already sacramentally died with Christ.  If the Christian dies in the friendship of God (not in a state of mortal sin), then physical death completes that "dying with Christ" and therefore completes our incorporation into His Resurrection (CCC 1010).  

St. Ignatius of Antioch is one of my favorite early Church Fathers.  He was the second bishop of Antioch after Peter (most likely ordained bishop by the Apostle), and he was instructed in the faith by the Apostle John.  He is a true witness for us of the Apostolic faith.  I will leave you with his words, from his letter to the Church in Rome, where he was to become a martyr for the faith around the year 110 AD.

It is better for me to die in Christ Jesus than to reign over the ends of the earth.   Him it is that I seek - who died for us.  Him it is I desire - who rose for us.  I am on the point of giving birth... Let me receive pure light; when I shall have arrived there, then shall I be a man.

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

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Weekly Update from CCM

Dear Students,

Happy April Fool's Day!  Did you know that April Fool's Day has a Catholic origin?  Seriously (this is not an April Fool's joke).  It's not a holy day or feast of any sort, but it does have its origin in the correction to the calendar that the Catholic Church implemented in the late sixteenth century.  You can read the story here:

Here is this week's schedule:

We are serving up a pasta dinner this week at "Supper @ the Center."  After dinner, it's time for some fun and games.  We are going to play "Whose Line is it, Anyway?" Catholic style.  The part of Drew Carey will be played by your intrepid campus minister, and the part of the contestants will be played by you!  Just like the TV show, the points don't matter.  It all starts with dinner at 6:30pm, and we hope to see you there.

Knit for charity!  Or crochet, if that's your thing.  Baby hats and blankets knit by our students will be donated to the Smoky Mountain Pregnancy Care Center and other locations.  The group meets at Alex Cassell's house from 8-9:30pm.  If you need a ride, meet at the Catholic Center at 7:45, and let Alex know (you can also post on our Facebook group).  If you don't know how to knit or crochet, they are happy to teach you.  (This group is open to men and women).

Also, our Thursday night small group will be taking a field trip to St. Mary's this week.  Instead of the normal meeting time at 6:30 at the UC, members are asked to meet at the Catholic Student Center at 5:30 to car pool to St. Mary's to participate in an Adoration and Vespers service.

We will pray the Stations of the Cross this week at 3:00pm.  

The Bishop's Lenten Pilgrimage at Belmont Abbey is this Saturday from 9:00am till 3:00pm.  For more information and a schedule, please see:

Please note our new Mass time of 4:00pm.  Come 30 minutes early for Confession or to pray the Rosary with us.  After Mass, our Credo discussion will be about prayer - different forms of prayer, the purpose of prayer, what is accomplished through prayer, etc.  Come with questions!  Credo usually wraps up around 6:30pm.

Looking ahead...

Saturday, April 12 is the 30th annual Tuck River Cleanup.  We'd like to get a CCM group together to enjoy a day on the river and help clean up God's creation.  If you are interested, please let us know.  See here for more information.

Are you graduating this May?  If you'd like to be recognized at a Baccalaureate Mass and reception, please email me.  I'd like to know a) which commencement ceremony you will be participating in, and b) approximately how many family/friends you expect to come.


SMALL GROUP BIBLE STUDIES meet at 6:30pm on Monday at the 3rd floor of the UC, Tuesday in the Balsam Lobby, and Thursday on the UC balcony.  Small groups are always open to new members!  (See note above about the change in schedule for the Thursday group this week).  

ADORATION happens most Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon till 12:30 in our chapel. 

Have a blessed week!

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