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Editor's Column

Calling, Service and Newman

By Thomas Wiley
On March 1, 2012

  • America Isolated. The Honorable Irving Stolberg spoke on America´s relationships with the UN and the world.

Cor ad cor loquitur. Heart speaks unto heart.

This was the motto of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, from whom Colgate's New­man Community takes its name. In this editor's column, I would like to talk about the New­man Community and being a Catholic at Colgate. Like so many before me, I'm going to turn to that great shepherd of young spiritual thinkers, Cardinal Newman, for guidance as I try to speak from my heart unto yours. In doing so, I hope to share a little of why this group has meant so much to me.

I came to Colgate confused, not so much about who I wanted to be in college, but more how I would go about being this person whom I imagined. I came here clutching a Catholic missal of the Liturgy of the Hours that, as my roommate can testify, I somewhat eccentrically prayed from every night, by myself, to spiritually orient myself. I had the background of a family, community and high school that worked to instill Catholicism and a dedication to social justice in me. However, all that hard work can be made to seem insignificant among the pressures of college life.

I believe this moment of confusion that college students experience is a yearning for what Cardinal Newman called a "definite service," which Pope Benedict XVI described at New­man's beatification as the "specific task that our divine Master has assigned to each one of us… uniquely." It is simply that we must find what is important to us and what we should do with ourselves having found that. My journey led me to personally focus on my spiritual life and on my Catholicism. I found my way through the friendly, necessary encouragement of some people in Newman who came up to me and said that they would love it if I was more involved. Their support empowered me to try and work for a "definite service," to be able to think of myself along the lines of this extraordinary statement of Cardinal Newman:

"I have my mission. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do his work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place…if I do but keep his commandments and serve him in my calling."

Once I arrived at Newman, I immediately felt what a friend in Newman once beautifully described as the feeling of being "at home and with family." I believe that this is a reflection of the religion that Newman serves. Catholicism is centered upon the Eucharist and story of the Last Supper, which is the story of Christ and his apostles sitting around a table and breaking bread together. For Catholics, there is nothing else that you need in life – it's all in this story. All the happiness on earth and in heaven can be found in entering into community with other people, sitting around a table as equals together in faith. And as anyone in Newman can testify, Newman involves a lot of eating and sitting around tables.

Of course, the person sitting at the center of the table is very important, too. For Newman, that person is University Chaplain and Catholic Campus Minister Mark Shiner. I know that I'm not alone in saying that he is an invaluable friend, teacher and chaplain to those not only at the Newman table, but any table of belief here at Colgate.

My involvement in Newman brought me into spiritual life with other people, into a life of prayer. By praying with Newman, I have developed into that person that I imagined and into something more. Cardinal Newman has described this process:

"A habit of prayer, the practice of turning to God and the unseen world in every season, in every place, in every emergency – prayer, I say, has what may be called a natural effect in spiritualizing and elevating the soul. A man is no longer what he was before; gradually…he has imbibed a new set of ideas, and become imbued with fresh principles."

I have heard many stories of people in many seasons of their lives as college students turn­ing to the Newman Community and finding such spirituality. However, I believe that for all Colgate students of any faith or belief, it is vital to align this gift of a college education toward a higher calling. From my heart, I only hope that you keep your heart open to whatever that calling, or that "definite service" as Cardinal Newman would say, might be.

As Christ himself said in John 3:8, "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

Contact Thomas Wiley at twiley@colgate.edu.


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