Christendom College, Franciscan University of Steubenville, and Ave Maria University are inspiring a resurgence of interest in and appreciation for sacred music at the campus level, according to a recent article in the National Catholic Register.
Even though students often come into college without much knowledge of sacred music, the Register reports, they are more open than in the past to learning the theology behind it and how to incorporate it into the liturgy.
Christendom professor of sacred music Kurt Poterack says that the best argument for Gregorian chant—which Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Second Vatican Council’s dogmatic constitution on the sacred liturgy named the highest form of song—is the actual demonstration of it. Poterack told the Register:
A liberal arts college has the responsibility to train students in the contemplation and, ultimately, the rational discussion of music and of all the arts. However, the experience of beauty has to come first, which means the development of tastes for higher things precedes their discussion. Otherwise, students are ill-equipped to discuss things they don’t know well.
This past summer, The Cardinal Newman Society provided scholarships to a number of Catholic chaplains and campus scholars, including Poterack, to attend a Rome conference on Sacred Liturgy. One of the topics addressed was “Liturgical Music and the New Evangelization” and Poterack wrote an article for Catholic Education Daily about this nexus titled, “How to Have a Beautifully Sung Liturgy on a Catholic College Campus.”
Bringing sacred music into the liturgy is “most fitting,” according to Nicholas Will, first-year professor of sacred music at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Will credits Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI with inspiring a renewal of sacred music, and he incorporates it into the parish where he serves as music director. He stated:
While the beauty of our art is witnessed anywhere it is performed, its most fitting place is in the liturgy itself. It’s so significant that we are teaching students about sacred music, not just from the standpoint of a hobby, but as an integral part of their lives in the Church. The Church’s musical patrimony is an essential part of the liturgy, and the liturgy is a living, breathing entity.
The liturgy itself is musical, and by singing it excellently, we glorify God. Participating in beautifully sung liturgy is both a foretaste of the eternal heavenly liturgy and the principal means of nurturing our faith in the heart of the Church.
At Ave Maria University, a Women’s Schola Gregoriana (a Gregorian chant choir) provides music for the Extraordinary Form of the Mass on most Sundays during the school year. Susan Treacy, a professor at Ave Maria, said that the Schola is “bringing the beauty of grace to the lives of others through the liturgy,” but not all students are so accepting of Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony. She observed:
More students are now aware of what the Church teaches about sacred music, but some of them flatly disagree with it. I’m not sure they’d feel so free to disagree with the Church on other topics, but with music, there’s an emotional attachment that’s hard to break.
Christendom College, Franciscan University of Steubenville and Ave Maria University are recommended in The Newman Guide for strong Catholic identity.
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