Graduation 2016: Valedictorian Address


by Peter Reilly, Class of 2016

Reverend Father, Faculty, Parents, Guests, Students, and Graduates,

Though now is the time for words, I stand here dumbfounded as I wonder where the time has gone, and what these years that I, that we, have spent at Gregory the Great Academy might mean, both now and for the future. What will we take with us? What memories will guide us over the course of our lives? What are the cords that will bind the hearts of these friends of mine together for years to come? What are the chords?

Whatever the string or strain may be, we know the sound of it. We close our eyes, and are enveloped in a symphony of happy thoughts of times together, and they all come with a tune, a song. They are memories that will stay with us with the mysterious strength that songs stay with us, because they all were formed in the music of this school. Rays of warm light fall upon rows of boys dressed in blue and gray chanting the “Kyrie” of a morning Mass. Students, alumni, and faculty sing “My Comrade” bound shoulder to shoulder in an unbroken circle. There is a friend across the candlelit table at the Robbie Burns Supper smiling and singing along with the crowd. We can hear the thud of hands hitting refectory tables as “Sherramuir” is roared. We hear the virile iambs pulsing through the walls as the class in the next room learns a new song. The dorm hallways are alive with noise as in the distance a lone penny whistle plays the Butterfly Jig. Over the shoulders of boys singing “Haul Away Joe” we see bright colored rings and clubs passed across the backdrop of Scranton’s streets. We taste the tears that run down our faces as we sing “Non Nobis” after a rugby game.

These and a host of other memories fill our souls. We know them all by heart and we know their songs by heart. The ten of us before you are linked in friendship by these memories and by this music. One of the foundations of friendship is the enjoyment of a common thing and when you consider the multitude and caliber of our common experiences and memories, so linked together with a shared song, there is much cause for friendship. The harmony of hand and heart has been given to us, and given to us together with a music that will humanize and haunt us for the rest of our lives.

It is truly a blessing to be able to stand here now and know with un-shaking confidence that every member of this class is my friend. It is a blessing to be able to say that we all stand with the confidence that this camaraderie we have founded and celebrated here will prove lifelong. Ours is a friendship that has been forged in the fires of youth and joy, and hammered into shape on the anvils of the rugby pitch. Ours is a friendship engraved and embellished with laughter and jugglery. It is a friendship that has been tempered in waters: in literature, in logic, and poetry. It has been blessed in the chapel and sanctified by the Liturgy. And music, the right music, has presided over all, serving as a Divine voice, as though conducting a choir, and intoning the proper responses to His Divine mysteries. Music is the language of love, of friendship, of the merry life. Together we have heard it, together we have sung it, and we will carry it with us together even as we part ways.

lyreThere is something ethical about music. I would dare to further this thought of Plato’s by saying that there is something mystical about music. Music has the power to awaken and enliven the spirit. It is spiritual. It is religious. Nations have been bound together by their songs, and the rising and falling dynamics of those nations’ music are intimately connected with the rising and falling of their ethics. The power of song lies in its ability to move the soul. This soul-swaying power of music, that power that persuades and inspires, binds souls; and it is in this forge that our Class’s friendship was wrought. Within the songs of Gregory the Great Academy are linked memories, memories that will be remembered at their sound and with their sound. They are memories that, as alumni, we will hold dear to our hearts because in them is reflected the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.

On behalf of the Class of 2016, I thank all of you who have made these friendships possible, and who have refused to let the music of St. Gregory’s fade into silence. Our gratitude is beyond words. Seven of the ten members of this class have older brothers who attended the Academy in former times. When the old school was closed, there was a fear and a sadness that we would never have the chance to experience what our older brothers experienced. They told stories. They sang songs. “I heard of those heroes and wanted the same.” We all wanted to follow in our brothers’ footsteps to the doors of St. Gregory’s. And now, I stand here, grateful for so many things, wearing the same tie my brother wore when he stood at this lectern seven years ago to say farewell for his class. Thank you to all of you whose faith has kept this school alive for us, so that we may learn the songs of friendship as our brothers did, and as our brothers will. You have written us into the song of St. Gregory’s: a ballad of camaraderie. You have metered our names in friendship and rhymed them in the rhythms of the happy life. And although it has taken but a few years to learn these lines, they will not soon be forgotten. They are etched into our very souls—the joys, the sorrows, the victories, the defeats, the battles and banquets, the pains and pleasures. These compose the adventures of life that we all sang at the Academy. We are indebted to you for these memories and their music. We thank all of you who have worked and sacrificed so that the song of St. Gregory’s may resonate in the hearts of students, as they will resound in our hearts for as long as we live.