Archive of June 22, 2014

Pennsylvania boarding school aims to build Catholic culture

Scranton, Pa., Jun 22, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Gregory the Great Academy, a Catholic all-boys boarding school, has graduated its first class as part of its efforts to form young men in a life of virtue for the building up of a Catholic culture.

“The spirit of the school is certainly characterized by joy,” Sean Fitzpatrick, the academy’s headmaster, told CNA June 11.

“We strive to rejoice in the truth at Gregory the Great and to participate in those mysterious realms of joy where men can, by some miracle, join their voices and even their actions to a chorus of divine praise.”

The academy, presently located in Scranton, was founded after the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter closed down the Elmhurst, Pa.-based St. Gregory’s Academy in 2012 after 19 years in operation.

Many of the school’s lay faculty and a group of alumni decided to begin a new school, with no official link to its predecessor.

The new school’s supporters include Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, who sits on its board of directors, and Abbot Philip Anderson of Our Lady of the Annunciation Monastery in Clear Creek, Okla.

Fitzpatrick said the school, inspired by the ideals of the University of Kansas professor John Senior, aims to foster “an authentic Catholic culture.”

It asks its students to live as “a prayerful community.”

“Saying prayers together, working, studying, and playing sports, our boys form very close friendships with one another and are encouraged to thrive in a healthy and well-balanced way of life.”

“Our students are free to live a life of virtue in a wholesome environment with ready access to the sacraments, athletics, and some of the best works of Western Civilization,” Fitzpatrick continued.

“These are the pillars of our program and it is a program that is not easy to come by these days.”

The headmaster suggested that the academy shows that young people “will often accept the call to discipleship rigorously and without regret” when offered the chance to have “an authentic experience of the Catholic faith.”

Johnathan Gearhart, a 17-year-old from Dayton, is one of four young men in the school’s first graduating class. He said every boy should consider the academy.

“They will go there and they will fall in love with it. Maybe not at first. But they will grow to enjoy it,” he told CNA. “They will appreciate the world much more. They will find the good things outweigh the bad after coming out of Gregory the Great Academy.”

Gearhart, who plans to study engineering, praised the relationships he established with both his peers and his teachers.

Fitzpatrick said the school features a “camaraderie that springs from a semi-monastic life freed from technological distraction and imbued with the fire of faith and friendship.”

The school bars its students from watching television and using personal music devices, computers, or cell phones.

Fitzpatrick said that while electronic devices are not bad in themselves, they are “often a huge distraction” and can separate teenagers from “the real world around them.”

Students who want to listen to music must learn to play songs for themselves, he said.

Gearhart said the school’s rule against electronics helped him become a better conversationalist.

“You get a stronger bond of friendship with the other guys, because when you talk to them, there are no distractions. Your friend’s cell phone won’t be going off.”

The headmaster said the school’s liberal arts curriculum is based on the concept of a “poetic education.”

It prioritizes synthesis over analysis, incorporating analytical skills into a vision that “values the whole over the part.” It also prioritizes experiential learning over “remote” forms of learning such as textbooks, scientific experiments, and the use of communications technology.

“It is far better for the student to wrestle with ‘Hamlet’ or the ‘Odyssey’ in all their difficulty, profundity, and beauty, than to encounter them pre-digested and excerpted in an anthology.”

The school also focuses on the “centrality of the liturgy.” The liturgy is “a school of praise” that fulfills the purpose of the liberal arts to help students pursue their final end – eternal beatitude.

The academy’s schedule includes daily prayer such as a morning Office of Readings, an evening rosary, and chanted Compline at night. Its chaplain, Fr. Michael Salnicky, is a priest of the Ruthenian Eparchy of Passaic.

The students’ choir sings for several nearby communities, including those that celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass.

Fitzpatrick acknowledged that boarding schools have the reputation of being “elite” institutions. He said most students are from middle-class families and more than half receive “some form of tuition discount” thanks to the school’s benefactors.

This allows students to come from across the country, including rural areas with few education opportunities.

“Boarding schools are especially appropriate for boys, since the male trajectory involves breaking away from home to search for adventure and to make a way in the world,” the headmaster added.

The school’s extracurricular activities include a juggling troupe; juggling plays a vital role in graduating seniors’ Camino pilgrimage with their teachers to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

Fitzpatrick said that students on the pilgrimage are “expected to survive on whatever tips they can bring in.”

“We were on the Camino with no money and the only way that we got money to pay for food was using the fruit of Gregory the Great Academy and by relying on God,” Gearhart said.

Twenty-five students from four grades were enrolled for the school year ending in 2014, while 40 enrollees are expected for the next school year.

“This is a good number as it keeps class sizes small and allows for a tight-knit, familial community among the students, staff, and faculty,” Fitzpatrick said.

He said the school is a small part of “a much larger cultural movement towards authentic Catholic education in the United States,” and voiced hope that the academy can help inspire and support similar institutions.

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Presbyterian denomination's 'gay marriage' votes draw criticism

Detroit, Mich., Jun 22, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s general assembly has voted to allow its ministers to perform “gay marriage” and to redefine marriage as a “commitment between two people,” drawing objections that it is moving away from Christian orthodoxy.

“Only declining denominations reject historic Christian standards and in nearly every case that rejection reinforces the decline,” Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy said June 19.

“Who respects a church that only echoes the secular world?” asked Tooley, whose inter-denominational organization aims to support orthodox theology and practice in mainline Protestant denominations.

The Presbyterian General Assembly, meeting in Detroit, on Thursday approved an amendment to change the definition of marriage in the denomination’s constitution, the Associated Press reports.

The amendment, which passed by a vote of 429-175, defines marriage as “a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman.”

The amendment must now be approved by a majority of the denomination’s 172 regional groups, called presbyteries.

By a vote of 371-238, delegates to the general assembly also voted to allow the denomination’s ministers to preside at same-sex “weddings” in states where the civil law recognizes such unions and where local congregation leaders approve.

Bill Norton, a delegate whose Presbytery de Cristo includes parts of Arizona and New Mexico, asked for a delay in any changes.

“We are laying hands on something that is holy, that God has given us, so we need to be sure any changes we make are in accord with God's will revealed in Scripture,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

Krystin Granberg, a minister of the New York Presbytery and a supporter of the changes, said she frequently receives requests from friends and parishioners who “want to be married in the church they love and they want me to do it.”

The Presbyterian Lay Committee accused the general assembly of making “an express repudiation of the Bible.”

The committee in a June 19 statement called for “repentance” and “reform.”

Tooley contended that the decisions will hasten the denomination’s “already fast-paced demise.”

Previous changes within the denomination have eroded its membership, with 428 Presbyterian congregations disaffiliating from the denomination or dissolving since a 2011 vote to eliminate clergy requirements of marital fidelity and chastity in single life.

That vote allowed the ordination of ministers and the selection of lay leaders who are openly homosexual or living in unmarried relationships.

The denomination now has fewer than 1.8 million members, down from 2 million members in 2010, and 3.1 million in 1983, when two Presbyterian denominations merged.

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God's immeasurable love transforms lives, emphasizes Pope

Vatican City, Jun 22, 2014 (CNA) - In his Sunday Angelus today Pope Francis stressed the limitless nature of God’s love that transforms the heart and life of every Christian.

“One cannot measure the love of God: it is without measure. And so we become capable of loving even those who don’t love us: and this is not easy,” the Pope said to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square on June 22.

His reflections followed Sunday’s reading from the gospel of John in which Jesus proclaims himself to be the “living bread sent from heaven.”

The Christian community’s union with Jesus in the Eucharist, underscored Pope Francis, “obliges us, his disciples, to imitate him, making our existence with our attitudes, bread broken for others, as the Master has broken the bread that is truly his flesh.”

“Jesus underlines that he has not come into the world to give something, but to give himself, his life, as nourishment for those who have faith in Him,” Pope Francis explained.

Christ’s gift of himself in the Eucharist is a not only a model for the Christian life, but acts to transform us interiorly, the Holy Father noted.

“Every time that we participate in Holy Mass and we are nourished by the body of Christ, the presence of Jesus and of the Holy Spirit acts in us, shaping our hearts, communicating interior attitudes to us that translate into behaviors according to the gospel.”

“Thanks to Jesus and to his Spirit, even our life becomes ‘broken bread’ for our brothers,” he said.

Pope Francis acknowledged that Christian attitudes and actions can be difficult to practice. “To love someone who doesn’t love us… It’s not easy! Because if we know that a person doesn’t wish us well, then we also carry ill-will.”

Nevertheless, “we must love even someone who doesn’t love us! Opposing evil with good, with pardon, with sharing, with welcome.”

Christians gain a type of “maturity” in following Christ by receiving the Eucharist, including “docility to the word of God, then fraternity amongst ourselves, the courage of Christian witness, the creativity of charity, the capacity to give hope to the disheartened, to welcome the excluded.”

Just as Jesus’ life was a total gift of himself, so too, his followers are called to make their lives a gift for others.

“Our life, with the love of Jesus received in the Eucharist, is made a gift - as was the life of Jesus,” he explained. This self-offering brings “true joy” in “reciprocating the great gift that we have first received, without our own merit.”

The Pontiff reflected that Jesus “was made flesh thanks to the faith of most holy Mary,” who not only gave birth to him, but “followed him faithfully unto the cross and at the resurrection.”

“Let us ask the Madonna to help us rediscover the beauty of the Eucharist, to make it the center of our lives, especially in Sunday mass and in adoration,” he said, leading the crowds in the Angelus prayer.

Following the prayer, Pope Francis noted that June 26 is the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. “In this circumstance I reiterate the firm condemnation of every form of torture and I invite Christians to oblige themselves to work together for its abolition and to support victims and their families.”

“Torturing people is a mortal sin!” he exclaimed. “It is a very serious sin!”

The Pope closed his Angelus remarks by greeting the pilgrim groups who had traveled to the Vatican, and wishing everyone a “good Sunday and a good lunch.”

“Pray for me!” he added.


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