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Friday, 13 March 2009

Singing is at the Heart of Our Life

First off, mea culpa, I know of this site and its frequent value yet forget to check in on a regular basis. It was only from reading an article by The Bow Tied One that I came to this all but thrilling interview with the president of Magdalen College in New Hampshire, an institution I had not hitherto heard of.

I suppose had I known of such a place when I was "in the market", so to speak, even had I not been keen on going to a conservatory, it would not have appealed to me.
There's no one more stupid than a young person..... unless it's a middle-aged person ;oP (And I fully expect to be cognizant of how stupid I am prone to be as an elderly person...)
I have been thinking lately not so much of roads not taken, as of roads to which I was completely, (and inexplicably considering the particulars of my life,) oblivious.... why, for instance, did I never consider the monastic life?

I can only think it because at one time I was sure, I was positive that a second career would soon open to me, and that I would be ordained.
So, isn't it good that I began the post with a "mea culpa"?

I certainly never intended to be married.

But I digress....
Any way, a bit about Magdalen, via her president, Jeffrey J. Karls in an interview:
Interviewer: I understand that Magdalen College is a place where the students sing. Could you tell me about that?

Jeffrey J. Karls: Singing is at the heart of our life at Magdalen College. Other colleges might highlight their athletic programs, but we highlight the music program, especially the singing. Each student sings every year in the choir. Even students who don't think they can sing find their voices. Some enter the college a bit apprehensive about singing but are tutored in everything they need to learn to be a member of the team. They sing polyphonic harmony at Mass every day, and they chant the Mass in Latin.

Everyone who visits here comments on how incredibly beautiful our liturgies are. ....

the Cardinal Newman Society college guide described your college as one of the top "joyfully Catholic colleges." Do you think your singing has anything to do with that?

It has everything to do with it. Singing gets the students out of themselves, helps them to be creators of harmony and beauty, and it nurtures their sense of wonder. That is part of the reason that joy permeates our campus. ..

We are a classic liberal arts program with a core curriculum based upon the classic works of western civilization... We also have a four-year emphasis on theology and catechesis. If a student keeps above a B average, he receives an apostolic catechetical diploma in addition to a Bachelor of Arts degree....

What you are telling me is somewhat at odds with the Magdalen that is perceived to have a reputation as a "Catholic boot camp."

These rumors are very misleading; they were probably first circulated in the founding years, in the early 1970s, and never went away. Magdalen, at the beginning, was somewhat like an overprotective mother and could have a bunker mentality, but we think we have now achieved a much better balance. For example, there is a rumor that we looked in students' drawers to see how their socks were folded. The truth is that each dorm has a clean-up day, and the resident life assistants check to make sure all the rooms are neat and tidy. [Okay, I admit, this would NOT have been a good fit for me....] The campus is 17 years old, and we still have the original carpets and paint -- everyone takes pride in our campus.

I have heard students are not allowed to date. Is that true?

That's another misunderstanding about our college. Our students go out together all the time... A former student, Nancy Carlin (class of 2002), said on EWTN's Life on the Rock, "If I was at another college or university I would have been friends with two or three students just like myself, but at MC I have 80 friends." That is the kind of community we want to nurture. [Okay, might have been a GREAT fit...] Couples actually thrive at Magdalen because the friendships are so strong....

Each day on campus begins with Mass at 7:30 a.m. -- it is not mandatory, but there is 100 percent participation among the students. Confessions are heard every day before Mass, and there is singing at every liturgy. The altar servers have a great training program, and [a visiting prelate from elsewhere] said they should come train his seminarians on how to serve Mass. The liturgical life coordinator, chaplain, altar servers, and choir directors put everything together in a beautiful, sacred way. Some Masses are the Novus Ordo Latin, and some are a combination of Latin and English.

By the way, we have two Protestant students at Magdalen who were so motivated by the seminars they come to Mass every day.

What is your vocation record?

Thus far we have had 45 vocations to the priesthood and the religious life -- a little more than one per year. It is very natural for Magdalen students to consider a vocation, since the spiritual life is so front and center. ...

Magdalen is a place where young people come to know and understand themselves better in relationship with others and with God and His beautiful creation. We provide the kind of academic environment described by Pope Benedict XVI in his address to Catholic college and university presidents last April: The Holy Father said that, first and foremost, every Catholic educational institution should be a place where its students encounter Jesus Christ and His love. That is very real at Magdalen College and is why our students are truly and joyfully Catholic.
Incidentally, the implicit acknowledgment of the truth that in our society college age students are still in need of "parenting" is utterly countercultural, spot on,and fascinating to me.

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