Every year on December 8th, the Saint Gregory’s community celebrates the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The regular daily routine is forgotten for the day, and the students instead attend a beautiful High Mass, participate in a sevens rugby tournament, and attend a banquet in the evening. Over the years, several traditions have formed surrounding the school banquets. At every banquet for example, each class sings a folk song they have been especially preparing for the occasion. But there are also some traditions that are particular to certain banquets. One such tradition is the singing of the Boar’s Head Carol by the senior class as they process around the room with the object of their song. Such traditions, says Hilaire Belloc, nourish the soul in a mystical way and help to make sense of the strange and perhaps even horrifying fact of our mortality. At Saint Gregory’s we wish to show the students under our care the importance of good and beautiful traditions so that they in turn might show it to their families and communities and thereby make the beginning of a restoration of what is quickly and tragically being lost in the world today.
Man has a body as well as a soul and the whole of man, soul and body, is nourished sanely by a multiplicity of observed traditional things. Moreover, there is this great quality in the unchanging practice of Holy Seasons, that it makes explicable, tolerable, and normal what is otherwise a shocking and intolerable and even in the fullest sense, abnormal thing. I mean, the mortality of immortal man.
The upper form of Gregory the Great Academy traveled to Hudson New York this past weekend for the town’s annual “Winter Walk” festival. Each year the town shuts down the main street in town and the business stay open. Street vendors and performers come from far and near to celebrate the holiday season. For our part, the students performed several juggling shows while singing Christmas Carols and folk music on the street for passersby. Children from one to ninety-two expressed their joy at seeing the boys perform their juggling tricks and acrobatics. Many of the spectators joined in the singing even though it was a very chilly night.
This October, the students of Gregory the Great Academy held the annual Robin Hood Days where all lived under the greenwood tree for three days, participating in woodland sports, eating, drinking, and making merry around the fire of friendship. The traditions and tales of Robin Hood are central to the Academy’s spirit, as they are a precursor to an ultimate merry-making. Robin Hood is more of a gold-bearded angel than a man. A legion of yeomen follow Robin Hood in serving God’s people, giving gifts as unseen guardians, moving benevolently among those who have not yet won their freedom from earthly cares. Like an angel, Robin Hood plays in the presence of the Divine in an unsullied, invincible domain. Robin Hood fights as a warrior who knows an epic inside-joke: that the battle is already won, and so laughs as he swings his staff, looses his shaft, and flies before the foe. The merry adventures of Robin Hood gambol in the great game of human redemption with a confidence and courageousness that we all must learn to win our own eternal suit of Lincoln green, and it is in this spirit of happiness and holiness that the boys of St. Gregory’s enjoyed this goodly taste of woodland life as merry men all. Special thanks are due to dorm father and bushcraft master, David McMyne for preparing the camp and leading the games.