Gregory the Great Academy is a testament that God does provide. My name is Joseph Long and I graduated from St. Gregory’s Academy in 2008. The heart of the school is pilgrimage. Faith is the essence of any true pilgrimage. As the beginning and the end, Faith permits the person to embark on a journey – providing immeasurable confidence and surety that God will provide. It is unthinkable that so many good things could have come from nothing. God has been with the school from its beginning. Just last week, I experienced once again the nature of God’s providence with this little community of men as the senior class marched into Rome, having walked from Florence following the footsteps of St. Francis in holy pilgrimage. It became clear to me once again that God rewards those who attempt goodness. As Aesop puts it, ‘fortune favors the bold.’
I met the pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square on Saturday, June 20th. All I remember are smiles. Joy emanated from the group as they approached me in song. How humbling it is to be met with such gratitude. Although I thought myself fortunate to be there with them in the Eternal City – to lend a helping hand to my brothers in a city that I know and love having lived there for a few years – it was obvious that these young men considered themselves the fortunate ones. They had walked from Florence to Rome without any money. Song and spirit was the only currency they had – and it proved itself priceless as God’s love acted through the generous and willing support of countless individuals whom they met along the way. They had experienced true charity on their pilgrimage of Faith. By humbling themselves to a state of poverty these young men were able to give more than they ever could have with money. The songs and juggling shows that they shared with little old Italian ladies in the middle-of-nowhere Italy were more than just an act. They were a free gift of joy that reaped even more joy in return. It was not the filling of stomachs that made these pilgrims happy. It was the filling of spirit. Nothing is more joyful than seeing someone else joyful. It brings people together in spirit – in a singular and supernatural phenomenon that we call love. It was this spirit that urged the senior class to embark on pilgrimage in the first place and it was the same spirit that provided them with immeasurable good things along the way. The men simply cooperated and put themselves at the mercy of providence, which they experienced to be quite merciful, or rather, charitable.
In Rome providence could not have been more rewarding. Joy was transmitted on such a large scale. Medieval piazzas provided the scene. A whirlwind of music, juggling and prayer made its way into the hearts and minds of the thousands of people who witnessed the well-trained talents of our little group of sixteen. The reaction of the crowds was for me a witness to the power of charity. Everyone was involved in one and the same action of giving. Laughter, applause, song, encore, pictures, more pictures, Red is the Rose – it is so good to give! We were so happy. Not because of the thousands of Euro these generous people were pouring into our hats, but because of the reception our giving was given. People are good. It simply takes a bit of Faith to see it. The root of pilgrimage, Faith provided the young men of Gregory the Great with a true Christian Spirit characterized in joy, humility and courage.
God has blessed our little school so generously with His Spirit. Gregory the Great Academy returns on pilgrimage every year to remind itself of its origin and its identity. To remind itself of the reality of this earthy pilgrimage. To remind itself that God is everything and without Him there is nothing. It is curious that more people do not put themselves at the mercy of God’s providence. It proves itself overwhelmingly charitable.