When the World is Puddle-Wonderful

E.e. cummings’ odd and memorable poem about spring imagines a world of joy, color, and traditional games taken up after having been put away for the winter. In the “mud-luscious” and “puddle-wonderful” season the world awakens into the light and plays. Children express the joy of spring with balloons, marbles, hopscotch, and dancing, and grownups would do well to do likewise, remembering that “Nature’s first green is gold,” as Robert Frost teaches, and precious, and fleeting, and grace-filled, like childhood itself.

The Spirit of Youth

At Gregory the Great Academy we have the privilege of preserving and participating in the innocence of childhood alongside our adolescent students. Our boys climb trees, hike through our woods and fields, sing around campfires they have built with flint and steel. They make up crazy games that involve a lot of running and shouting, they tackle each other, put together a juggling show to dazzle local children. In short, they participate in the energy of life when they feel the energy of spring, “when proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim / Hath put a spirit of youth in everything,” as “Sonnet 98” has it.

Innocence Preserved

Not only the students, but teachers feel it, too. What a privilege it is to laugh with these young men as they pretend to be Merry Men, to strive with them in spirit as they struggle in a rugby scrum, to share a quiet moment watching a bird’s clumsy attempt to begin a nest in a new-leafed tree. Gregory the Great Academy is a place where innocence and simple pleasures are treasured, where nature or a good poem can draw us closer to God and His sacred mysteries. We try to heed this advice from “Spring” by Gerard Manley Hopkins:

What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden. –Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

Beauty and Virtue

On our 193 acres of woods and fields, we can help our boys get all this and help keep their hearts unclouded. We can foster in these good boys a love for goodness, truth, and beauty, the kind of beauty that dwells in the heart as nursery rhymes do. Wholesome recreation, studies informed by the Church, and revels with unfettered nature form habits of lifelong virtue. When they emerge from their youthful spring, may they keep these habits, these loves. May our Lord keep them safe and temperate through any winter weather that may come into their lives, until they enter the eternal spring of Heaven.

Beginning the End of Lent

Gregory the Great Academy and Lent

Lent is winding down to an end. Both faculty and students at Gregory the Great Academy reflect on how well we have joined our sacrifices to Christ’s as we joyfully anticipate the Resurrection. If we have failed, this is not the time to throw in the towel. Rather, we acknowledge our all-too-human shortcomings, ask our Lord for new resolve, and use all our strength to make this last week, this time between death and rebirth, a triumph. The end of Lent is a great time to begin again.

Under the Same Roof as the Blessed Sacrament

We are greatly helped in this resolve by our privilege of living and working under the same roof as the Blessed Sacrament, Who reposes in our beautiful chapel’s tabernacle. If you were to slip into the chapel at any time of day or night, you would be likely to see several adolescent boys devoutly praying before the altar, or offering a private Stations of the Cross. How moving it is to silently share with young boys this time with God! They sacrifice their time, their much-needed sleep, and their enjoyment in order to love and serve the Lord.

Our best help, of course, comes from the Lord through the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist. Confession is available daily, and the Eucharist is offered four times a week. During Lent, our Byzantine chaplain offers the Liturgy of the Pre-sanctified Gifts, wherein the Eucharist has been consecrated at a previous Sunday Liturgy. This Pre-sanctified Liturgy is celebrated in the evening and combines Great Vespers with a solemn service of Holy Communion.

Daily Rosary, Lauds, and Compline, private devotions—all are seriously practiced by boys who are learning to be good Catholic men. They will be the priests, religious, and fathers of families who bring Christ to their little corners of the world. Their observance of Lent, fostered by the helpful atmosphere of Gregory the Great Academy, will make America and the world spiritually great. The end of Lent is the beginning of life.

The School of Divine Wisdom


A Natural Order

One of our greatest teachers, St. Thomas Aquinas, says that Sacred Liturgy uses physical things to communicate the divine so that we may cultivate friendship with God. God called the things He created “good,” and therefore, the good things of this world have a purpose in worship, which brings us closer to the divine. The Church’s Liturgy, the highest form of worship, appeals to the senses, and then, through these familiar experiences, to the soul. This is the natural order—experience of earthly things first, then worship, liturgy, and finally friendship with God.

The pedagogy of Gregory the Great Academy participates in this order by firmly rooting every aspect of life in the Church’s Liturgy. Our whole rhythm is set by the Church’s calendar. We celebrate the saints in daily worship and at banquets on Feast Days. We see and teach the world as the book God gave us to study in a school of divine wisdom. In this school we strive to know Him. Knowing Him, we love Him. Loving Him, we desire to serve Him, and to serve well.

Latin Mass or Byzantine Liturgy? We Choose Both!

This is why Gregory the Great Academy not only lives the liturgical calendar, but offers Mass and Divine Liturgy in their most beautiful forms. We are blessed to have a bi-ritual resident priest who has faculties for both the Latin Mass and the Melkite Byzantine Liturgy. Both present to God the best we can offer: ourselves as participants in Christ’s sacrifice, singing and praying words the Church handed down to us in her school of divine wisdom, beautiful words and moving, worshipful music.

Beautiful liturgy is the school that reaches the soul through the senses. This is the school of divine wisdom that Man participates in to his everlasting benefit. It is fitting to offer God the best Sacrifice in our power. And we in turn benefit by deepening our friendship with Him as our souls are moved to contemplate mysteries we cannot fully apprehend.

Gregory the Great Academy and Don Bosco

St. John Bosco

In his treatise on education, St. John Bosco says, “There are two systems which have been in use through all ages in the education of youth: the Preventive and the Repressive.” Of these two, the Preventive method was adopted by Don Bosco and now inspires teachers at Gregory the Great Academy. Teachers often use St. Francis de Sales’ words: “You can catch more flies with a teaspoon of honey than with a barrel of vinegar.”

John Bosco was convinced that Reason, Religion, and Kindness, the title of his treatise on education, were the best methods of conquering souls for Christ. We wholeheartedly agree.

Reason calls for the active and friendly presence of teachers with pupils, a pleasant togetherness. We listen to our students, we play ping pong and chess with them, we rejoice and sorrow with them, we work side by side with them. Boys long to belong, to be secure, and to be recognized. We strive to be teachers who are like loving fathers encouraging and praising, rather than finding fault. We fulfill boys’ need for recognition in the wholesome outlets we offer: sports, music, drama, field trips, and countless other interscholastic activities.

The remedy for disordered values is religion, which fosters permanent change for the good. The Religion program at Gregory the Great Academy draws from the rich tradition of our Church, not only in classroom lessons, but most importantly, in the frequent reception of the Sacraments—the ordinary channel of God’s grace and help. Boys learn to serve Christ at both Byzantine and Latin Rites, they pray the Rosary, Lauds, and Compline daily. They sing Gregorian Chant and Sacred Polyphony, not only for their beauty, but because these cultural inheritances foster a deep life of worship. The very atmosphere at Gregory the Great Academy is infused with the love of God and the good things He created. Our spiritual muscles become stronger as we breathe the free air of our Holy Faith.

To Reason and Religion is added kindness. Kindness seeks to create a persuasive atmosphere, where trust and communication are fostered, generating the confidence so much needed by today’s youth. This kindness—another word for charity—guides us to do as we would be done by, to consider a youth’s light mindedness when he misbehaves, and to punish, if that seems necessary, only for the sake of his good.

But when practiced with diligence, the Preventive Method makes punishment rare. When a student realizes that he has disappointed his trusted and friendly teacher, he desires to return to good behavior. Teachers and dorm fathers strive to be like brothers or fathers to the students in their care and treat them with due respect, which is returned in full. As in a family, mistakes can be made on both sides of the student-teacher relationship, but when they occur we are guided by our saintly mentor John Bosco, and both student and teacher meet in the charity of friendship. The Preventive Method of discipline is thus a foundation on which to build character in both student and teacher, reforming both in Christ.