College kids today have no memory of the intense religious and cultural experiences of my generation. Our academic careers took us from the seminaries of the Catholic Church to my home in nearby West Chester, Pennsylvania, a community with a long history of religious and cultural openness. We faced the same trials of global trends and pop culture that my generation’s dumber “Millennials” face.
People around us in that time had much more demanding jobs, and they had had their own cultural experiences. People had chosen to do a job. Our idea of the ideal career wasn’t available to us.
For Christians today, the emphasis on “balance” on an individual’s path makes it seem impossible to do what we want to do. Not only do we have to be busy working for paychecks, but we have to balance our lives with the lives of our families and loved ones. This balance of a long list of responsibilities doesn’t exist for my generation, and it won’t exist for my successors either. But simply being busy isn’t an option. We must be faithful in being joyful.
In God’s musical universe, there are many cities, provinces, and kingdoms each with a distinct musical characteristic, and each a variety of musical tones. If you listen carefully, as I did when my “bachelor” year at Indiana University of Pennsylvania began, you can sense how the religious music of Notre Dame matches the passion of the children of God for the arts and for each other. The university music faculty provided the fortes, chords, melodies, and tempo we needed to rise in the performance. We knew what we wanted to do. We’d practiced. This was something we cherished, something we wanted to do, and something we could do with our children if only they were alive now.
Christian music attracts the campus. It is part of the fabric of this family of students and the campus itself. It’s a part of the cultural furniture of the university. Many of the students performing in the choirs are performing in the parishes of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where I serve as bishop. These students are wonderful ones. They are committed to making a better world, in higher education, in their communities, and in the world beyond. They sing with passion and joy, and they love being around each other.
When I was a young man, the songs of Notre Dame presented me the desire to do what I was called to do. Now, as an old man, it brings me the desire to do what is called to do in the music ministry.
This week, the Pope celebrates the celebration of the feast of Vespers of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The music faculty at Notre Dame will celebrate the feast of Vespers in association with several sister colleges that use the music of Notre Dame as a setting for sacred music.
For some students, it is the first time they will ever celebrate this Marian feast. Most will have been to Notre Dame and received many blessings along the way.
Catholic music is one of the most honored forms of religious music. Music leaders have long recognized the importance of both the ethnic traditions of music of their nations and the musical legacy of the traditions of their parents. What we make of music today is the legacy that we carry forward into the future.
The more we listen to the music of Notre Dame, the more we discover that we can make beautiful music together. Today, we’re calling on you to join us in singing, too.
Michael Bruns is the bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.