"He made for them discretion with a tongue and eyes and ears, he gave them a mind for thinking, and filled them with the discipline of discernment.
He created them in the knowledge of the spirit; he filled their hearts with understanding, and showed them good and evil." (Sirach 17:6-7)
Here we are: 2024. Thirty years of existence.
The other day I was commenting to my wife a kind of strange realization: for all of my adult life, I have only known Mount Royal Academy. This is the only location I have been getting up to drive to everyday for the last fifteen years. I vividly recall making the drive from Providence up to Sunapee to interview for a position without any teaching experience. I was passionate about all that I learned about the fullness of our faith at PC, and it is hard to recollect any expectations about the opportunity. Mr. Thibault asked me to prepare a lesson - something that I had never done before - and it was the year of the priesthood. Around that time I became enamored with Pope Benedict XVI and every Wednesday I looked forward to reading the address from his audience at Angelus. The text I selected was one of those audiences. We had less than six high school students at the time; I delivered the lesson to all of them and left with a strange awareness that I just encountered a community that lived differently.
There are stories upon stories that verify the providential hand of God moving this mission forward. I was once told this school persists and excels not because of us but in spite of us. The truth in that statement to me sounds more like when we are open to cooperating with God’s grace, He can bring forth something more magnificent and beautiful than we originally visioned for ourselves.
Today our junior high and high school students gathered for Angelus prior to lunch. That providence of God struck me once more upon hearing all of the students praying in unison. This morning at lauds, I joked to one of the seniors that praying lauds together is equivalent to group literacy development. We learn how to read and pray together the more we do it in the simple and habitual daily acts that are so embedded in the culture of our school.
Of late, observing my own children I find myself thinking about the experience of a child and by extension a student. This is likely because I just had two weeks to engage in wholesome leisure with them. This is integral to the Salesian Way: parents and educators present to children, encouraging and empowering to activate that freedom for excellence innate to all of us.
I saw beauty today when we prayed lauds and Angelus.
I saw beauty today when I saw my oldest son playing with babies with my youngest daughter.
What do we see? Do we see what we want to see? Do we see what God puts right in front of us?
There was a time I found myself moving so fast I failed to see the beauty directly in front of me. Aging faster than I anticipated brought me to appreciate the need to slow down before acting.
Jesus himself asked a stunningly serious question of the first disciples regarding vision: “What do you seek? And they said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which means Teacher), ‘where are you staying’? He said to them, ‘Come and see’.” (John 1:38) The act of seeing isn’t something passive. We move our eyes in certain directions to pick up what we intend to see.
We finished a strategic plan last year to prepare for this moment of a shared vision for the future of our school community. Since that plan, I can assure you we are diligently at work discerning where we can refine and elevate everything that we do based on the recommendations of that communal process.
But at the end of each day, what do we remember the most? We remember the God who gifted us life. We remember the people who brought us here. We remember the faces we have seen. I have seen so many faces, and so many smiles. Anything that masks this vision of goodness, truth, and beauty cannot do so permanently: birth and death move us to see this fundamental reality of our existence - the beauty of God’s love.
Can the love of God be taught?
“Love of God is not something that we can be taught. We did not learn from someone else how to rejoice in light or want to live, or to love our parents or guardians. It is the same, perhaps even more so, with our love for God: it does not come by another’s teaching. As soon as the living creature (that is, man) comes to be, a power of reason is implanted in us like a seed, containing within it the ability and the need to love. When the school of God’s law admits this power of reason, it cultivates it diligently, skillfully nurtures it, and with God’s help brings it to perfection
What, I ask, is more wonderful than the beauty of God? What thought is more pleasing and satisfying than God’s majesty? What desire is as urgent and overpowering as the desire implanted by God in a soul that is completely purified of sin and cries out in its love: I am wounded by love? The radiance of the divine beauty is altogether beyond the power of words to describe.” (From the Detailed Rules for Monks by Saint Basil the Great, bishop)
This is no monastic community; this is a communion of families growing in holiness together. The same rules apply, but as a student reminded me this week, freedom is not opposed to rules. Freedom is just the door to encountering the radiance of divine beauty. Do we want to open it or stay outside in the cold?
The woundedness of love emanates from the warmth of a heart that both sees and shares what it has found. I have found warmth in this community, exceptional warmth. Exceptional warmth from an exceptional source forming exceptional people.
One final anecdote from today; as I was reading student reflections on the Scopes Trial while they were writing another reflection on the Modern Temper, I felt compelled to communicate to the students how much I enjoyed reading their original responses. I hope they know how much I meant what I said. I wonder if children and students know how much joy their existence and activity brings to parents and teachers. There is infinite love and beauty in simplicity.
After thirty years, I think that is what we are here: warm and simple. Nothing wrong with that! - Mr. Derek Tremblay, Headmaster