President’s Message: A Musical Gift

By Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J.

If you have attended Lessons and Carols in Alumni Memorial Chapel, you know it’s practically the eighth sacrament here at Loyola.

As dusk falls on campus that evening in December, students, parents, alumni, faculty, administrators, and members of the community fill the chapel’s overflowing pews, prepared to immerse themselves in the experience. The music of the Advent season gives us a beautiful, restorative way to focus ourselves during this very hectic time of year—and attending Lessons and Carols is like unwrapping a gift and realizing that it’s just what you wanted.

In a setting that is peaceful but powerful, spirited yet solemn, candlelit through the darkness, we come together as a community trusting that as we listen to the traditional nine readings of the Lessons each year and let the incomparable music embrace us, the experience will offer us a way to connect with God and with one another.

The Festival of Lessons and Carols has a long tradition far beyond Loyola; it was first held nearly 100 years ago at King’s College in Cambridge. Still, although I have attended lovely versions of the blend of scripture and sacred music elsewhere, the traditional service at Loyola is truly distinctive in its meaning to our community and the intimate spiritual journey it provides for its listeners. Loyola’s Lessons and Carols offers a poignant and spiritual beauty that exemplifies what St. Augustine had in mind when he said, “Qui bene cantat bis orat”—“He who sings well prays twice.” The whole event at Loyola is a highly choreographed performance featuring exceptional musical talent, but it is also a liturgy, and truly comes across in that sense.

Every year, as I sit in the chapel, I marvel at how the students come together with a variety of musical backgrounds and interests to create such magnificent harmony. Often I hear a soloist who is approaching graduation and wonder how we’ll ever find a student to fill his or her shoes—yet another always rises to the occasion and steps into that role. Thus, the legacy of outstanding musicians continues.

In my tenure as president, it should be no surprise that considering the matters of curriculum has been of utmost importance, and I have taken a special interest in both the sciences and the fine arts. After all, the strength of those areas is really the test of a liberal arts education. Cultivating the fine arts and the sciences is essential to offering a complete liberal arts experience to our students. And I am pleased to say we are investing in both.

Earlier this fall, I traveled to England, where Loyola is partnering with Newcastle University to open a science-focused study abroad center for exceptional students not just from Loyola but from all American universities. At the same time, we have been nurturing the fine arts programs on our Evergreen campus—including bolstering our music faculty and our choral programs so that we increase the opportunities available to our students—and strengthen our university as a whole.

Whether you join us in singing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” in Alumni Memorial Chapel or find time for reflection elsewhere, I extend my blessings for a peaceful holiday season and a rewarding new year.

Especially as many of our alumni, parents, students, and other friends continue to be affected by the destruction of Hurricane Sandy, please be assured that you, your families, and communities continue to be in my thoughts and prayers.

Wishing you a blessed Christmas and all the best in the new year,

The Reverend Brian F. Linnane, S.J.

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