Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Converted by Beauty: President of the College of St. Mary Magdalen

An interesting interview appeared on the National Catholic Register yesterday, Converted by Beauty, with George Harne, president of the College of Saint Mary Magdalen in Warner, N.H.

I have no familiarity or contact with this college, but it certainly sounds interesting.

A few excerpts:

With your advanced degrees in music and musicology, how do you envision Magdalen’s strong music and choral program influencing students and contributing to the Church in general?

As a musicologist — someone who has studied music history and theory — I have a special appreciation for the power of beauty, particularly musical beauty.

If we believe in the fundamental unity of the True, the Good and the Beautiful, then we recognize how Beauty can draw us deeper into Truth and Goodness. Beauty can and must be an integral part of the New Evangelization. There are those who might oppose certain theological or moral teachings of the Church that can be brought much closer to the truth through the beauty of the liturgy or the other forms of beauty.

Beauty also played a role in our conversion. My wife and I entered full communion with the Church a little over five years ago, and one of the turning points came when we attended a traditional Corpus Christi procession. It was there that I came to believe in the Real Presence. The beauty of the procession — musical and visual — overcame my intellectual reservations. From there, my understanding of the Church and the sacrament of holy orders began to change. Beauty can make it easier for a person to accept the claims of the Church and her moral teachings. This is one way that Beauty can be an essential part of the re-evangelization of the West.

The effects of beauty can also be simpler yet equally important — I studied clarinet, my wife is a singer, and our children study music as well. We have seen how musical beauty within our family can make us more fully human and open new perspectives that had been previously unavailable.

Obviously, the liturgies remain a vital part of the college.

Our goal is to celebrate the liturgy in the most beautiful and reverent way possible. Our hope is that our students will take their liturgical experiences at the college back to their parishes and help renew the liturgy there. When teaching our students chant and polyphony, our choir director likes to say that she is not merely training choir members, but future choir directors.

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