New Things From Old
The Heavenly Father of the universe continually delights his children by bringing out of his storehouse new things and old. In a similar fashion, the wise educator delights his students by bringing out of them new knowledge from old. From where do the new things come except from the old? From where does renewal come except from tradition? Everything is a gift, coming down from the Father of Lights, the Father of Beauty—ever ancient and ever new.
Gregory the Great Academy is a boarding school in the Catholic tradition for boys in grades 9-12 that strives to renew the minds of its students in the truth, goodness and beauty of tradition. Our overview page contains ten adjectives that characterize education at the Academy.
The list is not exhaustive, and the descriptions do not exclude one another. Rather, each offers a significant perspective on an educational approach that finds its beginning and end in the inexpressible Source of tradition.
Every way of life has a rhythm. Some live by the time clock. Others by the TV guide. At the Academy, the day, the week and the year move to the tempo of the Divine Liturgy, which is the life of Christ as it unfolds in time. Every day at Gregory the Great Academy begins with Morning Prayer. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is offered regularly and reverently. Every day ends with Night Prayer. The Rosary is an everyday devotion. If liturgy is the source and summit of the life of the Church, then it should also be the source and summit of the life of the school. At Gregory the Great Academy we place absolute priority on providing our students with beautiful, traditional liturgy to raise their souls and minds to the contemplation of the Divine.
Scripture tells us that Wisdom was with God from the beginning, playing in his presence and in the world. From this we see that play is not to be dismissed as a frivolity, but is central to wisdom, the highest goal of education. Any well-rooted virtue—even intellectual virtue—is characterized not by strain, but by a playful ease, virtuosity, and freedom. Education should aim for this virtuosity, and even anticipate it, just as practice anticipates the game. At Gregory the Great Academy we take play seriously, and strive (with due playfulness) to always rejoice with charity in the good things God gives us.
Of all the things lost to the modern world, there is none more sorely missed than the common accord of heart, mind, and hand that is true friendship. In this virtue—so prized by the ancients—men step outside themselves into the light of a shared endeavor. It offers a higher life, but only at the price of that modern independence which is really only a deadly isolation of the soul. Friendship is central to the life of Gregory the Great Academy. Without forgetting the need for healthy opposition and competition, we work within a Salesian ethos that seeks to assume all relationships into the higher unity of divine charity.
Education addresses not the mind alone, but the whole man. Without the support of the moral virtues the intelligence and the imagination shrink or swell, warping the person. By contrast, in a well-formed character the constellation of moral and intellectual virtues bestows a beauty on the whole. A splendor that is the mark of a certain perfection. Gregory the Great Academy offers every student the opportunity to work on perfecting himself in virtue, while remembering that we live in an imperfect world, and that nothing is accomplished without God’s grace.
The imagination has fallen on strange times lately. On the one hand we are flooded with a vast amount of powerful and often subversive images. On the other hand, schooling gives little attention to the importance of images, concentrating rather on the commercial possibilities of a calculating and manipulative reason. At Gregory the Great Academy, we believe that man is made in the image and likeness of Him who is the image of the invisible God. Therefore we give a high place to the imagination. The Academy works within the venerable Catholic tradition which cultivates the imagination as an indispensable means to the knowledge and communication of the highest truths.
St. Augustine tells us that God is a symphonic conductor guiding the beauty of the cosmos like one grand ineffable song. Thus music and poetry are not decorations on the edges of life’s serious matters, but a participation in the very love that moves the stars. The Academy gives a large place to music and poetry in its program of formation. These arts of the muses, which in our day too often lead the young away from God, should awaken and inform the soul of the student so the he can take his place in the universal chorus of divine praise.
Ultimately, parts only make sense in view of the whole, and every whole is just another part in view of God. But contemporary education is obsessed with finding the ultimate answers in pieces of pieces. Gregory the Great Academy seeks to give its students an integrated vision of the world centered on Christ as well as the tools to expand that vision as they grow in learning and faith.
In every domain nature decrees a certain scale of operation which must be obeyed if we would succeed. People cannot be educated with the techniques of mass production. In the art of education, where a personal touch and repeated effort are essential, the small-scale operation is superior. With a small teacher to student ratio, Gregory the Great Academy is able to give each boy the attention he needs to grow well.
G.K. Chesterton tells us that anything worth doing is worth doing badly. Too many activities are too delightful to be left solely to professionals. According to its root meaning, an amateur is a lover. Just as charity covers a multitude of sins, so the love of an activity excuses our initial blunders and opens up the road to our eventual proficiency. At Gregory the Great Academy we encourage everyone to try everything so that each boy will become someone.
Today many youths have lost the inexpressible benefit that comes from contact with the realities they study. Communications technology is a two-edged sword. It brings the world to us, but on its own terms. Terms that too often flatter and belie. You can’t fit an oak tree in a laptop, or the experience of a spring evening into headphones. Whether in the reading of whole works rather than adaptations, or the priority given to the experience of nature over the experiment in the laboratory, the Academy seeks to challenge students to make contact with the Real.