During the dark days of early December, in the midst of the final flurry of activity leading up to the Christmas holidays, the faculty and students of Thomas More College gather for the annual banquet marking the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. And feast they do, accompanied by the singing of carols and the sound of laughter. Idyllic? Well, no, but when it comes to giving a communal expression of the College’s Catholic culture, Thomas More takes itself seriously. Seriously.
For example, this year’s Feast was opened by the sophomores’ performance of Moses and the Burning Bush, a fourteenth century drama written by English craftsmen in the city of York. The medieval mystery plays, as they are called, were popular productions put on for the common entertainment of the city. An amusing mixture of piety, humor, and plain old storytelling, the mystery plays—and their performance—form part of the sophomores’ reading of key medieval texts alongside Beowulf, Joinville’s Life of St. Louis, and The Rule of St. Benedict. Michael Gilleran’s performance of Pharaoh, and in the snow no less, was particularly amusing.
Following the mystery plays, all trooped in to the College’s cafeteria, red-cheeked and ready for feasting. After College chaplain Fr. John Healey said grace, everyone took to task a delicious meal prepared by Chef Pat. Settling down to generous portions of roast beef, potatoes, and much besides, the laughter and conversation of the assembled company only promised to increase as the evening went on. A somewhat more solemn note took first place, however, as Mr. Kitzinger stepped forward to give a toast in honor of the the Virgin Mary. Speaking of her as a figure of hope, his toast was met with a resounding “Hear Hear!”
After the toast, there was a brief pause. Then, dressed as Dicken’s Mr. Fezziwig and a traditional English Jack-In-the-Green respectively, seniors Joshua Keatley and Paul Guenzel—known for their ridiculous comic duets—led the way to the rest of the night’s entertainment. They were followed by a dramatic reading from Dickens’ Christmas Carol, performed by the current freshmen class.
And who could forget about the gift giving! This Banquet was also the finale of the annual Kris Kringle gift exchange among students, staff and faculty. Hastening to the glistening Christmas tree, everyone tried to find their “KK” in order to deliver their final present after three days of gift-giving. The shouts of laughter that accompanied this exchange—as people found out who had drawn their name—could be heard throughout the cafeteria. The merry mood escalated as the evening concluded with a well-sated company, who either withdrew into contented conversation or, led by Matthew Schultz, a friend of the College, gathered around for a session of Christmas carols that went late into the night. A night of jollity and festivity, taken seriously…well, as seriously as good leisure should be. All in all, the banquet proved a successful climax to Thomas More College’s 2013 fall semester, well preparing the way for Finals week and the Christmas holiday.