The Catholic News Agency reports that the chart-topping Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, are releasing a new album in time for the paschal season, Easter at Ephesus. For three years in a row, the community, which is based in Gower, Missouri, has been the best-selling artist on Billboard’s “Classical Traditional” list. Two of the nuns, Sr. Mary Josefa of the Eucharist, OSB (Kathleen Holcomb ’07), and Sr. Sophia Eid, OSB (’08), are alumnae of the College.
Following the success of past albums Lent at Ephesus, Angels and Saints at Ephesus, and Advent at Ephesus, Easter at Ephesus features 27 tracks, in both English and Latin, including traditional hymns, original compositions, and chants. The compilation, the order’s mother superior tells the Catholic News Agency, is “a snapshot of the music our community sings already throughout the season in our little chapel.”
Following yesterday’s post about alumnus Mark Langley (’89), who is brewing a batch of beer this Lent, is a story about Sean Kramer (’86), who, throughout these 40 days and nights, is teaching middle-school students to paint icons.
The subject of a recent profile in his native city’s archdiocesan newspaper, Catholic San Francisco, Mr. Kramer is an iconographer and teacher at the New Hampshire Institute of Art. For the past six years he has offered Lenten classes in iconography at St. Patrick School in Portsmouth, thanks to funding from the local council of the Knights of Columbus.
“As one works on an icon, one is working on oneself, realizing oneself as a more complete image of God,” Mr. Kramer told Catholic San Francisco. “The materials and steps in making an icon are all symbolic of levels of ourselves and the stages of our transformation.” The story notes that Mr. Kramer opens each class with a prayer asking God, the saints, and the angels to “help us make these holy icons images that will remind us and those who see them of God’s presence and love for us.’”
“I do not see a flickering candle at the end of this year’s Lenten journey,” writes alumnus Mark Langley (’89) on his blog, Lion & Ox. “No, I see a burst of glory and the veritable Super Nova, that is Christ’s Resurrection from the tomb, and what’s more, I also see over two cases of a very fine pale ale, some of which will enable me to celebrate that Resurrection with more propriety.”
The founder and the academic dean of The Lyceum, a classical school in Cleveland, Ohio, Mr. Langley is also a husband, a father of 12, and an amateur brewer. In this last capacity, he has detected a relationship between his faith and his hobby. “Lent was specifically designed for brewing beer,” Mr. Langley writes. “The reason for this is obvious. Beer takes exactly 40 days (more or less) to ferment and grow from a weak sweet slop of ‘wort’ into a fine, noble, life-giving, heart-cheering, spiritually-enhancing liquid — whose foam raises itself in the glass as does incense in the chapel.”
And so, at the start of Lent, Mr. Langley began a new batch of English pale ale that will be ready precisely on Easter Sunday. “Of course we fast and pray for forty days first primarily in imitation of our Lord,” he observes. “But the same period of time is also roughly speaking an ideal space for brewing beer, and therefore I think it is obvious that this is a fitting thing for Christians to do in the first week of Lent.”
On Wednesday evening the College’s Office of Career Services hosted a visit from Anthony Grumbine (’00), a design associate at Harrison Design in Santa Barbara, California. A graduate of the master’s program at the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture, Mr. Grumbine spoke about the state of architecture and the employment prospects for would-be architects today. He also discussed Notre Dame’s architecture program, calling it “the best thing going,” and telling the College’s students that, because of their classical background, they “have a great advantage at getting into it.” Read the full story.
The photo above shows the Most Rev. Kevin William Vann, Bishop of Orange, at the ordination of Frater Jacob (Joseph Hsieh ’06, left), O.Praem., to the transitional diaconate. The ordination took place on June 21 at the Mission San Juan Capistrano.
Shortly thereafter Frater Jacob, a seminarian with the Norbertine Fathers at St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, California, departed for the Eternal City. “I am at the Norbertine Generalte, the place where Norbertines from all over the world stay to study in Rome,” he writes. “I’m here to study theology and music for a year, then I will go back and teach chant at the Abbey.”
Yet that is not Frater Jacob’s biggest news. “My ordination to the priesthood will be, God willing, on June 27, 2015 — less than a year away!” he adds. “Pray for me!”
“We have books and catechism classes to educate the mind, but the heart is captivated above all by the majesty and mystery of divine worship.”
So writes Dr. Peter Kwasniewski (’94) — a professor of theology and philosophy, an instructor of music, and the choirmaster at Wyoming Catholic College — at Corpus Christi Watershed, where he blogs regularly. As the above quote suggests, the liturgy, its music in particular, is near and dear to Dr. Kwasniewski’s heart — so much so that he has recently authored Sacred Choral Works, a book containing 20 years of his musical compositions for the sacred liturgy. Complementing the book are three CDs featuring recordings of nearly all the compositions, so as to facilitate their learning for choir directors and members alike:
“Without the Bread of Life, there is eternal death for us,” Dr. Kwasniewski continues. “That is why, as long as the New Evangelization means what it should ― the proclamation of the truth that Jesus is Lord and there is salvation in no one else, either for the individual or for society ― it will also always and everywhere begin and end in the sacraments, and in particular, the Most Blessed Sacrament, in which, says St. Thomas, the common good of the entire universe is found.”
On a recent episode of EWTN’s Life on the Rock, the show’s young viewers heard some music and words of wisdom from several members of the Thomas Aquinas College community. Appearing on the show was the Hope and Justin Band, named for Thomas Aquinas College Regent Justin Schneir and his wife, Hope. Backing up Mr. and Mrs. Schneir were three recent graduates of the College: Sean Wood (’13) on the fiddle, Daniel Bagdazian (’13) on the bass guitar, and Gabriel Bagdazian (’14) on the keyboard. (Band appears at the 8:40 mark in the video below.)
In the episode Mr. and Mrs. Schneir described how their band came into being when various friends — including several students of the College — would visit their Camarillo home for Tuesday-night jam sessions. From thence sprung the music that, the band’s members hope, will evangelize audiences with its simple focus on the true, the good, and the beautiful.
Toward the end of the show, the hosts interviewed Mr. Wood, who discussed how he wrote about this theme of evangelization through the arts for his Senior Thesis at the College. “My thesis was basically how an encounter with beauty can lead us to God, tracing the thought from Plato up to Thomas Aquinas, to John Paul II and von Balthasar,” he said. “Those encounters really open our heart to become receptive to God’s love. And I think they’re really necessary in order for a true conversion, and in order to really see the Faith as something not merely worth following, but worth giving your life for.”
Music that is “authentically human,” Mr. Wood continued, can show us “what the human condition is, and see that we are made for so much more.”
Frater Jacob (Joseph Hsieh ’06, left) and Frater Simeon (Charles Goodwin ’10, second from right), joined by 12 of their Norbertine confreres, performed at Los Angeles’s Disney Concert Hall on May 4, where they assisted Grammy Award-winning organist Paul Jacobs in presenting Bach’s Clavier-Übung III.
Fraters Jacob and Simeon are seminarians with the Norbertine Canons in Silverado, Calif., where they sing in the Abbey Choir. Mr. Jacobs, chair of the organ department at the Juilliard School, invited the choir to sing the chorale melodies of the German Missa Brevis at his concert. According to an article on the Norbertines’ website, the organist “was particularly interested that music written originally for religious purposes should be sung by a schola of religious.” Jacobs and the Norbertines performed the two hour-long work from memory, without intermission, drawing “an instant standing ovation from the packed house afterward.”
On Easter Sunday, CBS Sunday Morning featured the above segment about the Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, who have topped the Billboard Classical Music Chart with their albums of sacred music. Two of the nuns, Sr. Mary Josefa of the Eucharist, OSB (Kathleen Holcomb ’07), and Sr. Sophia Eid, OSB (’08), are alumnae of the College. Sr. Mary Josefa can be seen — front and center in — the video’s choir shots.
Last summer Sr. Mary Josefa sat for a rare interview with the Cardinal Newman Society, in which she discussed the role of liturgy, sacred music, and Catholic identity in higher education Among her notable responses, Sr. Josefa had these kinds words to say for her alma mater:
I chose to attend Thomas Aquinas College because it integrated classical and Catholic education; I was fascinated by the liberal arts program, with its consideration and discussion of original sources, introducing the student to the perennial questions with which mankind has always grappled, but I was further drawn by the Catholic identity of the school, which orders this program of studies in order to lead the student from the contemplation of created truth to the contemplation of God Himself. …
At TAC, I was blessed to be part of a community that was really unified and ordered by its Catholic identity. I attended daily Mass and Rosary with my teachers and fellow students; the chapel was the central point of the campus and teachers and students always would stop on the way to or from class for a visit; everyone acknowledged senior theology as the culminating point of the curriculum to which all the other classes were ordered; in these and countless other ways, I experienced a community that recognized that the invisible realities are more real, more important than the visible ones. Naturally, this greatly nourished the inclination that I had had to religious life since I was young. Many of my fellow students were also drawn to religious life as a result of the strong Catholic community and contemplative program of studies, and having peers considering a vocation really strengthened my own.
“Bl. John Paul II,” by James Langley (’85)“We are having an epic, all-day event for the canonization of Bl. John Paul II in Denver,” reports Andrew Whaley (’05).
Mr. Whaley is the owner of Calix Coffee, a consulting business, as well as the manager of the Tolle Lege Coffee Bar & Bookshop at the Augustine Institute in Greenwood Village, Colo. In that latter capacity he has organized a tribute to the late Holy Father that will begin at noon on April 26, and then continue into the early morning of April 27 for Bl. John Paul’s canonization.
According to the Denver Catholic Register, the celebration will begin with a group discussion of Pope John Paul II’s “Letter to Artists,” after which various local artists will display their works depicting His Holiness. That evening, Mr. Whaley will moderate a panel discussion about John Paul II’s life and legacy, followed by a musical performance featuring another Thomas Aquinas College graduate, Elizabeth Wood (’11). Then there will be readings from one of Karol Wotijyla’s plays, until around midnight,. “We’ll keep vigil and pray until the live feed starts,” says Mr. Whaley — at which point all eyes will turn to video of the canonization in Rome.
All are welcome. If you care to attend, please RSVP by e-mail or call 303-937-4420.