Beginning with the entering class of 2019, students will spend the spring semester of their sophomore year traveling to and studying in three locations central to the history of Christianity and the development of Western culture: Rome, Krakow, and Norcia. This semester plays an important role in the education at Magdalen College because it enables students to connect the classic books they study to the lived historical experience that shaped them.
Study in Rome requires no justification. In the Eternal City, students come to experience in concrete and particular ways the very substance of their liberal education through the sights, sounds, tastes, rhythms, and textures of the city. Through this enlivening of the intellect and imagination, the complex of sometimes contradictory realities that constitute liberal education shape ever more deeply the interior life of each student.
Although other cities, such as Athens, Jerusalem, and Paris, play a significant role in our curriculum, Rome uniquely represents the marriage of Christianity and classical culture that has defined the West. In every era, Rome has been at the center of the intellectual and cultural developments that our students study in the Philosophy and Humanities sequence.
Though it would be impossible to list all of the locations that students will have the opportunity to visit and explore, among them would be included: the stational Churches—including St Peter’s Basilica, St. John Lateran, and St. Paul Outside the Walls—the Tre Fontane Abbey, the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, the National Museum, the Borghese Gallery, the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Forum, the Palatine Hill, the Capitoline Hill Museums, the Piazza Navona, Trajan’s Market, and the Via Appia Antica and catacombs.
Students will also have the opportunity for an audience with the Holy Father and Mass at major Churches in Rome.
Given Magdalen College’s deep love for St. John Paul II and the ways in which his vision shapes the mission of the college—both inside and beyond the classroom—it is fitting that the semester of studies abroad would include studies in Krakow, Poland. There, students will enter the rich tapestry of history and culture that shaped Karol Wojtyla—the man who would become St. John Paul II—learning to share ever more clearly his vision of the nature of the human person and the dynamics of reality in which the person lives, moves, and has his being. While immersed in Polish culture, students will continue their studies in Philosophy and Humanities, languages, theology, art, and architecture. Magdalen College is therefore excited to announce its partnership with the John Paul II Project, which will help organize this unique study experience.
Norcia, Italy is the birthplace of Saints Benedict and Scholastica. For many years, Magdalen College has enjoyed a close relationship with the Monks of Norcia and their founder, Fr. Cassian Folsom, O.S.B. During their time in Norcia, students will have the opportunity to pray and study with the Monks while discovering the sources of the spirituality that made St. Benedict the “Father of Europe.”
Following the devastating earthquakes in Norcia in 2016, the college did what it could to assist the Monks, primarily through prayers and by sending care packages. Fr. Cassian Folsom, the founder and founding Prior, visited the college in the spring of 2017, celebrated Mass for the collegiate community, and met with the men of the Confraternity of St. Joseph.
As the monks begin work on a new, seismic-resistant monastery on the site of their old monastic grange, Magdalen College continues to maintain its relationship with the Monks, visiting Norcia during the semester of study abroad as the Monks’ schedule permits.
A Brief History of the College’s Relation to the Monks of Norcia +
The story of the college’s association with Norcia begins with the founder of a Benedictine monastery located in Norcia, Italy, a rural town perched in the Sybilline Mountains, in the province of Umbria. The founder is the Reverend Cassian Folsom, a Benedictine of St. Meinrad Archabbey and former president of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute. The college first became acquainted with Father Cassian in the early nineties when he visited the Warner campus to observe the pedagogy utilized by faculty in the tutorials. Providentially, at the time of his visit the college was in need of a chaplain. Father intended to visit for a few days but stayed for over a month. During that time, a friendship began between Fr. Cassian and the members of the collegiate community. After his return to St. Meinrad Archabbey, Father Cassian continued his friendship with the college. For several years, Father Cassian returned in the summers to act as chaplain for the college’s College Summer Program and visited during Holy Week to celebrate the Holy Triduum. Even after he began teaching at Sant’Anselmo in Rome, Father Cassian would return to visit the college. During this time, Christ was stirring up a desire within Father Cassian to found a monastery. The community was founded on September 3, 1998 and consisted of Father Cassian and two novices, one of whom was an alumnus of the college. The community had inauspicious beginnings. They rented a small novitiate in Rome while Father Cassian completed his teaching assignment at Sant’Anselmo. In the words of Father Cassian, “For two years we lived in a rented novitiate building, which was really just a glorified apartment in which one room had been changed into a chapel. . . . Since there wasn’t enough room for all of us, we renovated the garage, and I moved in there. We were poor, but zealous and on fire with the monastic ideal. Two years later, toward the end of the Great Jubilee Year, after searching vainly for a more suitable place to live, we were offered the possibility of moving to Norcia, the birthplace of St. Benedict. Here we were, a community with no monastery; while Norcia had an empty monastery but no community.” An agreement was reached between the city, the Church, and the new community of Benedictines. Three monks moved on the First Sunday of Advent in the Great Jubilee Year 2000 to the Monastero di San Benedetto in time for an enthusiastic welcome from the clergy and people of Norcia.
Four years later, the college collaborated with Father Cassian and then Brother Clement to inaugurate the Rome and Norcia Program. Visits to the holy sites of Rome and Assisi, the history, art, and culture of the ancient Romans and Renaissance Italy, and the encounter with the monks and townspeople of Norcia were transformative for students and faculty.
In more recent years, the Program divided its time between Rome and Norcia, with trips to other sites. Students and faculty studied classical and Christian Rome, medieval Catholic culture, leisure and the origins of philosophy, and liturgy. Father Cassian Folsom continued to host workshops on liturgy and the rule of St. Benedict for the students. The students attended Mass (in the Extraordinary Form) offered by the priests of the monastery. During their stay the students led chants and prepared motets for meditation at Mass. The monks join the college on outings, and the students joined the monks for Liturgy of the Hours.
Students at Magdalen College who wish to dedicate additional time abroad have the opportunity to participate in a summer study-abroad program in Oxford, England through the college’s association with Second Spring. The college offers merit scholarships to students who qualify.