On March 12, fourteen hundred years ago, Pope St. Gregory the Great died. As his honorary title proclaims, he was a great man and a great pope. But this greatness was his not because he wanted to make the Roman papacy great again—which he did. St. Gregory was called great because he was good—the servant of the servants of God, as he phrased it. His greatness was achieved in a spirit of humble reluctance to be great: a spirit of holy meekness. In fact, greatness was the very thing Gregory did not desire, and it was in that desire that he achieved greatness.
This reluctance to be great is a mystery at the heart of St. Gregory the Great’s grudging yet accepting rise to papal power. It is a mystery to be embraced in following the standard of St. Gregory—and the teachings of Christ, for that matter. The reluctance to be great is a measure of both sanctity and sanity, and it is, therefore, a cause for greatness through the virtue of meekness. Meekness is not weakness. It is the noble desire to sit at the lowest place. It is strength. Though the meek do not resist evil with force, they overcome it with patient and enduring goodness. The meek are those whose reason guides impulse, restraining anger and passion. They are not free from anger or without passions, but have the will to control and master them. In this lies strength, virtue, and greatness.
The reluctance to be great is not necessarily a sign of laziness or selfishness or mediocrity. The reluctance of Gregory, and of every great man, is a sign of knowing oneself in relation to God, and embracing the humility that Christ taught us by becoming Man—even by His Own reluctance in the Garden of Gethsemane. St. Gregory was well used to worldly turmoil and the need to rebuild from the ruins, but he did not seek the glory that accompanies such tasks. The world is ever in need of reform and the re-establishment of faith. Gregory was the man to bring this to the world in his lifetime, and his example and leadership are not obsolete. The problems of a crumbling culture which he grappled with are still absolutely real and absolutely relevant. History and reason tell that the best leaders are not those who have ambition for greatness, but rather those whose power in leadership lies in a quiet dedication that is not focused on being great. This is the secret of St. Gregory and it is why he was great.
The boys of St. Gregory’s celebrated the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception with a day of feasting. It was the second of four banquets they hold every year, and which are central to the spirit of their school. The Academy is a family and the domestic meal is the expression of community—it is a sign and celebration of the gratitude that follows and flows from those labors of love and life that bind people together. This is especially the case when celebrating the familial ties that all share under the Motherhood of the Mother of God. As Catholics, we are a people united by the hallowed ties of family and faith, who have the strength to smile in the face of tribulation and yet rejoice in the good things of heaven and earth. Banquet days at St. Gregory’s are days of enjoyment (in Latin, fruor, “I enjoy;” related to “fruitfulness”)—not days of mere pleasures. The sturdy fare heaps high on the boards together with that type of plenteous cheer that is well grounded in the sweat and suffering that begets true enjoyment. Our banquets, like our salvation through the Mediatrix of all grace, is the fruit of toil and trust. This is the heart and origin of the Immaculate Conception Banquet, and it is an experience that is slipping away from the culture at large. The idea and ethics of meals is deteriorating into a hurried and harried pre-packaged affair punctuated by interruptions. If anything can help reverse the trend, it is those old-fashioned and sacred approaches to food and fellowship that remind us what it means to hold a Feast Day and why it is important.
On November 1st the Church celebrates the Feast of All Saints. This solemn holy day, established more than twelve-hundred years ago, honors all of those who have finished the race and achieved the final goal: Heaven and life with God. Becoming aware of the liturgical calendar and the proper observation of feasts is part of the Saint Gregory’s educational experience. The Church provides her children with many beautiful reminders – both to feast and to fast – throughout the year. These special days in the calendar of the Church are there to nourish our spirits and to help us in our journey throughout this life.
The banquet began with grace during which Father Christopher blessed a special bread he baked for the feast. The traditional bread contained fruits and nuts, symbolizing the saints in the bread which represents the world. The bread began the main meal, after which Headmaster Sean Fitzpatrick gave a talk on sainthood and the Beatitudes.
As you can see in the pictures, the refectory was decorated by four beautiful banners, made by the four different classes at the school. Each banner was made in honor of a particular saint chosen by the individual classes. The seniors made a banner honoring Saint Joan of Arc, the Juniors’ banner commemorated Saint Augustine, the Sophomores chose Saint Michael, and the Freshmen selected Saint Maximilian Kolbe. During the evening, delegates from each class came to the podium to explain the imagery on their banner and to give a toast to their saint.
There were other forms of entertainment sprinkled throughout the evening. Mr. Stephen Fitzpatrick and senior John Paul Fitzmaurice performed a folk song, senior Daniel Weichert played some tunes on his uilleann pipes with Daniel Snyman accompanying on the guitar, and alumni Joe Long and Zach Bateman sang a few songs.
Overall the evening was extremely pleasant and a wonderful testament to joy and proper celebration. Thank you to our cook, Mr. Hastings, for spending so much time preparing the delicious meal. Thank you to Mr. Strong for organizing the banquet. And thank you to the Junior class for working the event and especially for cleaning up after it was over!