The editor-in-chief of the popular Magnificat magazine says that a faithful Catholic college is where he “began to develop daily Catholic habits of prayer and a whole Catholic outlook on the world.” Now Fr. Sebastian White, O.P., helps Catholics across the globe strengthen their prayer lives through the monthly Magnificat prayer companion, which reaches more than 300,000 subscribers in English and Spanish through the U.S. edition alone.
Fr. White is a Dominican priest and convert to Catholicism who earned his Master of Theological Studies from the International Theological Institute Catholic University in Trumau, Austria, which is recognized in The Newman Guide. He oversees the monthly publication of Magnificat, which includes the readings for daily Mass, meditations, essays on saints and sacred art, his own editorial, and more.
The Cardinal Newman Society recently asked Fr. White to share how attending a faithful Catholic college influenced him personally and prepared him for his current role with Magnificat.
CNS: What is it that drew you to attend ITI Catholic University?
Fr. White: In early 2004 I had just returned to the Catholic Church and been confirmed as a Catholic, shortly after graduating from college. (I had been baptized Catholic as an infant, but then raised in a protestant church.) Thomas Howard, a beloved writer and convert who had been a visiting professor at ITI Catholic University in his retirement, became a close friend and mentor. I was spending much of my time reading Catholic books and talking to Tom, and he suggested that I consider going to study at ITI. When I read about the richness of ITI’s international community, the unity of the intellectual and devotional life that it offers, and the beauty and history of Austria, I became more excited at the prospect of living there and studying there. When I applied and was accepted, I knew that it would be a great blessing and would help to deepen my Catholic faith.
CNS: Could you share how your faith was deepened through your studies at ITI Catholic University?
Fr. White: ITI Catholic University is really the place where I began to develop daily Catholic habits of prayer and a whole Catholic outlook on the world. I have always felt that, had I been living in suburban Boston and working for a bank, for example, struggling to find time for daily Mass and daily prayer, I would have had a much harder time maturing as a Catholic. At ITI I was surrounded by other young, intellectually motivated Catholics and formed great friendships that last until this day. Additionally, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, daily Mass in both the Roman Rite and the Byzantine Divine Liturgy, hikes and excursions to other beautiful Catholic sites, all supported what I was I learning in the classroom. At ITI, the Catholic faith is the air you breathe!
Fr. White: At ITI I had to read a lot and write a lot. That was an important formation that helped me, first of all, when I returned to the United States to enter the Dominican Order and in my studies for the priesthood. At Magnificat, I continue to have to read and write regularly. Additionally, ITI gave me a familiarity with the breadth of the Catholic tradition. As the editor, for example, I am responsible for choosing the daily meditations that are a beloved feature of Magnificat. I am better equipped to select those wonderful texts because of my time at ITI.
CNS: What is something about Magnificat that you look forward to sharing with its readers each month?
Fr. White: The most challenging part of Magnificat for me has always been writing the editorial because it is completely open-ended. Whereas the meditations, for example, are essentially a work of selecting and curating great texts from our Catholic tradition, when it comes to the editorial each month, I am, so to speak, starting from scratch. But ITI helped me to grow in the discipline of writing regularly. Consequently, I am less intimidated by the task. Often, I write about my own life and experiences from my upbringing. Readers have seemed to enjoy these stories and feel a personal connection to the editor. I see the editorial as an opportunity for readers to get to know the editor a bit. So over time I have begun to look forward to the opportunity to share some personal story or experience. The Catholic Church is often described as a big family. I think of Magnificat as a family, too.
CNS: What advice would you give to those who are discerning where to go to college?
Fr. White: I think young people ought to consider where they will truly get a good education. After all, college isn’t simply a religious camp. On the other hand, college is a place where a person’s moral and spiritual life can either grow and mature or suffer tremendously. Ideally, young people can find a place that offers both a high quality of academic learning and a milieu in which they can deepen their faith and develop good habits. In college, we are laying the groundwork for the person we will be for the rest of our lives. A good Catholic institution such as ITI Catholic University helps us to grow and mature in faith even while we are learning other natural disciplines.