Congratulations to the Highlanders of Gregory the Great Academy for their victory on May 19, when they won the Pennsylvania state rugby championship title. It is truly wonderful to see our school of 60 boys achieve so much facing off against enormous schools fielding athletes of talent and depth. There is something so powerful rooted in the brotherhood our school fosters and forms, allowing our students to rely on one another and succeed in a remarkable way. After long training throughout the hard winter months in Northeastern Pennsylvania, the team’s incredible dedication and hard work have reaped great reward.
The playoffs took place over a sunny, hot weekend on the campus of Penn State University Berks where the Highlanders first defeated St. Joseph’s Prep on Saturday by a score of 32-24 and then Cumberland Valley on Sunday by a score of 18-10. This is the third state title the Academy has won, the last being in 2017.
Many to the members of our community whose donations helped see that the practical needs of the team and coaching staff were met, as well as the fans from near and far who united with us at the weekend’s matches or by watching the live stream. Your prayers and enthusiasm were a source of great motivation and encouragement.
It is the duty of a boys’ school to understand the nature and disposition of boys, which is to understand their psychology, physiology, and temperaments. At Gregory the Great Academy, competitive sport is a crucial source of educational development and formation in these vital areas. The body must be cared for as well as the soul and mind. Playing sports leads a boy to a true self-awareness and can teach him such important virtues as perseverance, courage, self-mastery, and magnanimity. Athletics also give boys very tangible lessons about human nature and how to react to adversity. Winning or losing a hard match properly and in the right spirit teaches young men much about what it is to be a man.
This year, the Gregory the Great Highlanders RFC 7’s has two varsity teams that are competing in tournaments throughout the Pennsylvania area: Varsity Black, comprised of many returning and senior members, and Varsity Red which has newer and younger players.
This past weekend, the 7’s teams competed in their fourth tournament of the season held in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Varsity Red won a hard-fought battle against a physical and skilled team from Pittsburgh, earning them the 5th seed in the playoffs.
Varsity Black won both of their pool stage matches without conceding any points, thus earning the top seed in the playoffs. The Highlanders came away with a decisive win in the semi-final match against a very aggressive squad. The final was a close affair played against a talented and well-coached team, with the Highlanders just missing the championship title at the end.
The Highlanders have grown and improved with each and every tournament, and have their eyes on the Pennsylvania 2016 state title held at the end of the month. Please pray for their success!
On May 3rd, after their final regular season rugby match, Gregory the Great Academy’s Highlanders knelt and sang the Non Nobis Domine, as every Highlander has for over two decades: the same red jersey, the familiar numbers on each back, but a different field, different dusty faces with heads bowed: Not unto us, O Lord, but to thy name give the glory.
Rugby has long occupied a central role in the education that the boys receive at Gregory the Great Academy. While high school boys need to run around, rugby has always been something much more than a cathartic pastime. It both reflects and unites the central virtues of our education.
There is a ritual to each rugby game. While it concludes with a hymn of praise, it begins with a Welsh war song, “Men of Harlech:”
See the glare of fires like hell there,
Tongues of flame that writhe and swell there.
Brave men strike with full-voiced yell there:
Forward with all might.
So framed in poetry and prayer, each match itself shares something of both its beginning and its end. Each well executed play finds that gap in the defensive line like the poet who finds that perfect word to complete his rhyme scheme. A moment of beautiful execution building to create the whole, a beautiful poem or a great game of rugby. Each tackle a grappling with fear, an act of virtuous courage offered Non nobis Domine, sed nomini tuo da gloriam.
The true Highlander, like any man who possess true manly virtue, is no brute bent on destruction, but a fiercely joyful soul at play, making an offering of his exquisite playfulness. The Highlanders will be playing their first post-season match on May 10th in Pittsburgh. May God’s guidance and your prayers support them in the contest.