By Magdalena Dajka ,’20
The entire college community assembled on Friday, September 13, to inaugurate the academic year. After a morning of reading, reflection, and conversation, faculty and students gathered in the library for Traditio, the first in a series of all-college discussions centered on a common work. This Traditio was dedicated to Robert Bolt’s play about St. Thomas More, A Man for All Seasons. A panel of three faculty members—Academic Dean Jay Thompson, Dr. John McCarthy, and Mr. Clark Mitchell—shared their impressions of the play, followed by questions and discussion. A common conclusion was that although Bolt’s portrayal of More is admirable and has deeply influenced the spiritual lives of many people, it does not do full justice to the college’s patron.
Traditio was followed by a solemn Convocation Mass, celebrated by Fr. Theophan Leonarczyk, with music led by the TMC Student Schola. During Mass, the entire faculty renewed their Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity to the teachings of the Catholic Church. In his homily, Fr. Theophan reminded everyone of how unique this gesture is in today’s academic world, even among so-called Catholic colleges and universities. Here at Thomas More, he noted, faith is not something reserved for the chapel; it flows into every aspect of life. And so it is fitting that we begin the year with a Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit, asking the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds and hearts, to guide our pursuit of truth, and to help us live together in joyful charity.
“Here at Thomas More, faith is not something reserved for the chapel; it flows into every aspect of life.” —Father Theophan Leonarczyk
After a festive formal dinner, the college community assembled under the large white tent on the sweeping lawn between the Barn and the Library for the Convocation ceremony. Faculty, staff, and board members, clad in caps and gowns, solemnly processed in. Dean Thompson formally welcomed each new student by name, thus officially beginning the semester. President William Fahey then introduced a new tradition that, he explained, is really an old tradition: the signing of the name of each member of the college community in a leather-bound book designed and illustrated by student artist Anna Gawley.
In his formal Convocation address, President Fahey spoke of the importance of images, particularly images presented in film. These images fill the imaginations of modern men; they can either “lead to disaster or allow a ray of God to enter in.” He talked about three movies which students had watched over the past week: “High Noon,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” and “A Man for All Seasons.” Building on the Traditio seminar discussion, he pointed out that the Thomas More portrayed in “A Man for All Seasons” is closer to the heroes of the other two movies than to the historical saint. The saint the college reveres as its patron was not great because he remained true to himself, but because he imitated Christ.
Toward the close of his speech, Dr. Fahey unveiled another image: a striking wooden statue of St. Thomas More, recently given to the college by Brother Thomas More, a monk of the Benedictine Abbey of Fontgombault, France. The only thing the monk asks for in return for this generous gift, noted Dr. Fahey, is that the college continue to study and grow closer to his and our beloved patron. Dr. Fahey concluded the moving ceremony and address by exhorting the students to imitate St. Thomas More in all circumstances of life and “look first to God.”
The solemn ceremony of Convocation was followed by the traditional “Afterglow,” a celebration with dessert, wine, and conversation in the festively lit library. In true Thomas More fashion, students then gathered under the tent to sing folk music into the wee hours of the night. The entire day was a fitting tribute to the college’s patron, and the perfect prelude to the following day’s celebration of The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.