Friendship and Mentorship

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At Gregory the Great Academy we place high importance on the teaching relationship as a species of friendship. Thus we foster an atmosphere where teachers willingly work with the strengths and weaknesses of the children in their care, and the students, in charity and respect for their teachers, are moved to cooperate in learning more than academics. In our students and in our teachers we wish for good hearts as much as good minds.

We take as our model St. John Bosco, who writes that harmony and friendship between students and teachers must reign freely in a school. Otherwise, a barrier of distrust develops, hindering any real influence for the good the teacher possesses. Being in a position of respected and caring authority, the teachers at Gregory the Great Academy have the potential to teach much more than their subjects. We strive to teach virtue not only in the classroom, but by example on a social and spiritual level, as students see us caring for our own children at banquets, receiving Communion at Holy Mass, being good sports when we lose a chess game to a student, and working alongside our fellow teachers with respect and care. Gregory the Great Academy follows wholeheartedly the tradition that men ought to be virtuous mentors to boys who are in their sphere of influence, and we point our students to the Saints whose example we ourselves work to emulate.

In this spirit, we have enacted a formal mentorship program whereby each of the ten dorm rooms is under the guidance of one teacher who takes a brotherly approach to his assigned room. Each mentor regularly meets with the six students under his guidance, getting to know the boys’ joys and sorrows, rejoicing and mourning with them in the true spirit of friendship, and modeling manly virtues, pursuing wisdom, and refining their tastes. These are opportunities to discuss why some music is worth listening to and some is not, how social media affects our outlook and why it can be dangerous, how to overcome temptations, and how to cultivate goodness.

This sense of togetherness, which is the essence of teaching, is the fruit of a friendly approach. “A master who is only seen in the master’s chair,” writes St. John Bosco, “is just a master and nothing more. But if he goes into recreation with the boys he becomes their brother.” Students who join in their teachers’ laughter and conversation are all the more willing to give their best effort in classroom, sports, and leisure. Love is a more powerful motivator than rigid authoritarianism.

Integration, Love, and Teaching

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Human beings possess a hierarchy of powers. We experience the world first physically through our senses, we respond emotionally to what we sense, we conform our will to love the good, true, and beautiful or hate the evil, false, and ugly, and we reason about meaning and our place in God’s world. The complete man must not ignore any aspect of this hierarchy. 

At Gregory the Great Academy, teachers point to wondrous things, showing the boys in what way things are wonderful, and giving things the esteem that is their due. In this way, students gain an integrated vision of the world, with each of its parts ordered toward mutual dependence on the Creator. First, the students experience with their senses. Subjective experience is not disparaged at the Academy, and boys cannot help but respond emotionally to beauty in the world, goodness in the saints, truth in our holy Faith. These first steps in knowledge seem natural, but must be encouraged and put in their right order. Emotions move students to conform their wills to goodness, truth, and beauty. Finally, teachers themselves reason with their students about the place every created thing has in the world God made.

Parts only make sense in view of the whole, and every whole is just another part in God’s creation. Seeing the world thus integrated is the goal of liberal education, an education which grants a willing learner “the power of viewing many things at once as a whole, of referring them severally to their true place in the universal system, of understanding their respective values and determining their mutual dependence,” as Cardinal Newman says. Ultimately, this integrated vision leads to Christ.

As one cannot teach what he himself does not have, one of our primary academic requirements for our teachers has been that they themselves have this integral vision of things. When a teacher has this vision the same will be reflected in his teaching. With a grounding in just sentiments for the reality of truth and goodness as manifested in Creation, teachers are a driving force which make students thirst for learning and for Christ. 

Plato taught that teaching is a species of friendship, whose highest degree is love, in which persons see each other as integral parts of something greater than themselves—a marriage, a family, a school, a nation, a faith. In the pursuit of happiness while involved in any type of friendship, we have to ask what the whole thing is: what are all those activities and commitments part of? What is the integer? What is the whole? If a student forgets everything he learned at school or college, he had best remember this one question. It will be on the very final examination that his own conscience will make at the last hour of his life: in the pursuit of horizons—of horizontal things—have you failed to raise your eyes and mind and heart up to the stars, to the reason for things, and beyond, as Dante says at the top of the tower in his poem:

The love which moves the sun
And all the other stars?”

Sudden Inspiration: A Letter from a Friend

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In the rush of running a lively boarding school for boys, it is easy to lose sight of the impact that our work brings to individuals and thereby to the world. When one lives every day with singing jugglers, monastic culture, an ongoing conversation about the highest things, and the constant support of friendship and the sacraments, it is easy to take even these blessings for granted. Every once in a while, however, something happens that brings the effect of our efforts dramatically to the fore—and it is always a humbling experience. Every now and again, I am reminded of the wonderful importance of our work, and often suddenly, through a conversation, a phone call, a reaction from people we meet on our adventures, or, in the case I would like to share with you, a letter.


Dear Mr. Fitzpatrick,

I am a retired accountant, educated in the public schools, 70 years old. I was raised in the Episcopal Church, from which I became estranged many years ago. I have not attended any church service in over 30 years.

I have been receiving your great newsletter, The Minstrel, for a couple of years now. I don’t remember how it first came to me, but it doesn’t really matter. You might ask, as I have asked myself, why a fallen-away 70-year old Protestant would contribute to a Catholic school for boys, 3,000 miles away. I read your newsletter carefully. It inspires me. As nothing else has in more than three decades, it makes me feel closer to God. I greatly admire your mission to turn boys into Godly, strong men. Our country very much needs Godly strong men. I read the letter from your founding Headmaster, Alan Hicks with his description of the elements of education at Gregory the Great, including “…Latin, poetry, music, Classical Logic, Rhetoric, the Great Books, rugby, the direct experience of nature…” That is the description of a classical education, something that is non-existent in the public schools, public universities and even many Catholic universities.

God bless you, your staff and your boys. Keep up the great work!


I received this letter recently from a man I do not know, but who knows us, and reminded me of who we are and what we are doing. I am deeply grateful to him for his acknowledgement, for his encouragement, and for his support—but especially because he told me how we have touched his life. It is a gift, perhaps even a grace.