Wednesday, October 01, 2014

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Catholic Education Daily

 

Why College Students Should Study Sacred Music, By Dr. George Harne

The following article by Dr. George Harne is the next installment in Catholic Education Daily's series of articles about how Catholic colleges and universities can live out authentic Catholic liturgical life on campus.  The Cardinal Newman Society is co-sponsoring the Sacra Liturgia 2013 conference in Rome, which is currently taking place, and providing registration scholarships for Dr. Harne and other Catholic scholars to attend the conference.  Sacra Litrugia's goal is "to study, promote and renew the appreciation Dr. Harneof liturgical formation and celebration and its foundation for the mission of the Church," according to organizers.  The Newman Society aims to help spur on this liturgical renewal in Catholic higher education.

St. John Bosco said that “A school without music is like a body without a soul.”  This certainly applies to colleges and universities.  Music can animate a collegiate community and unite it more effectively than almost anything else.  When music is informed with faith, when that music is sacred music, the life and unity of the community takes on a transcendent dimension.

Rather than consider how this would work in the abstract, let me share with you how music fulfills this function at the College of Saint Mary Magdalen.

At the College, the study of sacred music is an essential part of our Great Books and liberal arts curriculum.  Traditionally, music has been part of the seven liberal arts and we study music as a liberal art, a fine art, and a liturgical art.

Sacred music plays a role in the intellectual and spiritual formation of our students in three ways: through the singing of beautiful sacred music in the liturgy, through the contemplation of beauty in the classroom and the concert hall, and through the study of the Church’s teaching on sacred and liturgical music.

All of our students sing sacred music (chant, polyphony, and classic hymns) in the all-college choir for four years.  Our Sunday and daily liturgies are celebrated with reverence and beauty, with students singing chant in Latin and English, including both the Ordinaries and the Propers.  The highlight of each year is Holy Week:  our students rehearse for months to prepare the sacred music for the Triduum and Easter.  For many of our graduates, these days and these liturgies are the highlight of their time at the College.  (The beauty of that they have produced can be heard on five cd’s made by the choir: http://www.magdalen.edu/campus-store/)  If that were not enough, we also have a student schola devoted exclusively to polyphony.

In the classroom our students study practical music and the teachings of the Church on sacred music during their freshmen year.  During their sophomore year they focus on the musical masterworks, including sacred music.

At the College we believe that beauty—when brought to bear on the soul through the working of grace—can change us.  As our students contemplate beautiful music within the classroom, in the concert hall, and in the liturgy, beautiful music can open us to Goodness and Truth.  The aesthetic experience of sacred music and the intellectual consideration of its forms and structures can shape the affections and the intellect.

Through these means, sacred music forms our students, allows them to reverently worship their God through the most beautiful means, and gives them the knowledge and skills to renew the liturgies of their parishes after graduation.  As one of our professors was heard to say, “We are not educating our students to become choir members, but rather choir directors.”  Through sacred music we are not only renewing the liturgy at the College, but are sending out students who can renew the liturgy across the nation.

[Dr. George Harne is a Tutor at the College of Saint Mary Magdalen in Warner, New Hampshire, where he has also served as President since 2011.  Dr. Harne entered the Catholic Church in 2005 from Anglicanism.  He studied the Great Books at St. John's College and musicology at Princeton University.]

[The College of Saint Mary Magdalen is recommended at TheNewmanGuide.com for its strong Catholic identity.]

[Read previous installments to our Catholic higher education and sacred liturgy series by Dr. Peter Kwasniewski and Dr. Kurt Poterack.]

Catholic Education Daily is an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. Click here for email updates and free online membership with The Cardinal Newman Society.

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