Kutarna Chosen for Prestigious Ratzinger Foundation Grant Study Award
Only five individuals in the world are chosen to receive a Ratzinger Foundation grant each year. Ph.D candidate Alexis Kutarna, an instructor of sacred music at University of St. Thomas Houston, was selected for 2021-2022. Kutarna, who also serves as an assistant principal and music director at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School, was surprised to learn the news.
“When I read the acceptance email, I let out a big gasp of surprise,” Kutarna recalled. “I was overjoyed, as it represents a scholarly acknowledgment of my work, and it will support the remainder of my Ph.D.”
UST colleague and Associate Professor of English, Clinton A. Brand, Ph.D, said, “A grant from the Ratzinger Foundation is one of the most prestigious awards available for pioneering work in Catholic scholarship. Alexis is both passionate and shrewdly perceptive about the evangelizing capacity of the Church’s tradition of sacred music fully integrated with the liturgy as a transformative work of grace.”
For her dissertation, Kutarna is writing about Joseph Ratzinger’s (Pope Benedict XVI) theology of music. Her supervisor is Dr. Hans-Jürgen Feulner, professor of Liturgical Studies and Sacramental Theology in the Institute for Historical Theology in the Catholic Faculty of the University of Vienna.
“It is the intersection of the study of sacred music and sacramental theology,” she explained. “Ratzinger’s theological writings on music are centered on the importance of the Word. There is an especially beautiful phrase from his work: the ‘musification of the Word,’ meaning that the Word is given life in a particular way when sung—that, ‘When man comes into contact with God, mere speech is not enough.’ This is why the highest form of the Mass is one that is fully sung!”
Kutarna also is writing a case study focusing on how this theology can help establish a Word-centered method of adapting Gregorian chant into English for use in the Ordinariates established by Pope Benedict XVI for communities of former Anglicans now in full communion with the Catholic Church.
“Ultimately, my goal is to teach others about the beauty of sacred music and to come to know Christ more deeply through sacred liturgy.”
At UST, Kutarna teaches several courses for the Master of Sacred Music program. In addition, she teaches studies in liturgy and sacraments for the permanent diaconate programs in the Graduate School of Theology. Kutarna will offer a graduate course in the History and Spirituality of Gregorian Chant (called “Chant” in the catalog) in the spring 2022 session.