Mardi Gras and the Culture of Festivity

by Thomas More College on March 15, 2012

The Mardi Gras of 2012 is one that students at the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts are sure to remember. It was a spectacular masquerade with festive dancing, celebratory punch, and scrumptious desserts served on silver platters.

Throughout the year several banquets are held to celebrate a variety of things—the holiness of a saint, the brilliance of a poet, or the magnanimity of a heroic act in history. These banquets reflect the abundant harvest that flows from a community life centered on what is true and noble.

“Life in a small community has its challenges, but the joy and camaraderie that one finds in festivity nourish the soul and strengthen our resolve to seek the common good,” said Dr. Fahey, President of Thomas More College.

This particular banquet was to celebrate a traditional festive season in Catholic culture extending from Epiphany through “Fat Tuesday.” This season, commonly known as “Mardi Gras,” is in honor of Christ’s birth and to prepare for Lent. At the time the feast originated, the Church forbid certain foods during the season of Lent; Mardi Gras was an opportunity to clean the cupboards, so to say, in preparation for the penitential season.

“I wanted to encourage the students to take this Lent seriously,” Fahey said. “It is not the Catholic way to try to stamp out fun, but rather to transform it into holy joy precisely because, in the words of St. Philip, ‘A joyful heart is more easily made perfect that a downcast one.’ What better way to prepare for a good Lent than with a masquerade?”

The evening was brilliantly planned by Sara Kitzinger, Fellow, and Gwen Adams, Dean of Women and Visiting Fellow. The students were locked outside the library building and, before being allowed to enter, had confetti poured over their heads from the upper windows. From that point on, the evening was a mixture of nineteenth century style dancing, enthusiastic conversation, and touching toasts. 

“It was the perfect evening,” said senior Mary Monaghan. “In an authentically Catholic community, you learn the true meaning of festivity. You learn that if you want to experience deep joy, you have to understand that there is a time for penance and a time for celebration, both are very important.”

The Thomas More College has taken to heart the reminder Pope John Paul II gave in his Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae, that the distinctive characteristic of an educational institution is its gaudium de veritate, that is, its joy in the truth.  Every institution finds its identity in a common purpose, and the common good at which liberal education aims is nothing less than the whole truth about man and God. It is in Him that we find our joy, and it is this joy that is the cause of true festivity at Thomas More College.

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