The morning dew drips from a blade of grass, as a deer, like a general, stands tall in the field overlooking his domain. Overhead, in a hue of red, blue, purple, and gold rises the sun, like a proud master stretching his arms to announce the beginning of a new day.
At first the grounds are silent and still, and then…one bird’s song calls another and becomes two, two becomes four, and suddenly, all of creation is singing the glory of the new dawn. The night prowlers burrow into their holes, while the gentle folk of the forest, wake up to begin a new day. The chill of the night air gives way to the warmth of the sun, and the sweet smell of flowers, leaves, and foliage fills the air.
Overlooking this magnificent, complete ecosystem, stands a building whose halls shelter and protect prospects for the world’s future. It is a majestic place charged with doing the most noble of things, educating children. Through her hallowed halls pass the greatest teachers of history…our Blessed Lord, Plato, Aristotle, Boethius, Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, Dostoevsky, Tolkien, Chesterton, Chrysostom, Maximus, Paisios, and others, all guardians of the great conversation which began with creation and which will continue long after we go to our reward. Her halls echo with laughter when a joke is told, resonate with the melodies and harmonies of beautiful voices singing to God, provide a passageway for students in their quest to understand the great mysteries of math, history, rhetoric, and Greek, and keep copious notes hanging on her walls as a testament to the leaning happening in her rooms.
The Christian academy’s job is simple…to provide shelter, safety, virtue, Wisdom, and Truth to students, those eager, smart, selfless, inquisitive souls whose minds are worth forming, whose notions are worth challenging, whose hopes are worth supporting. An academy is a community where love of learning and love of God intersect, where curiosity about the created world is nourished, discussed, and debated, where objective truths are taught and defended, and where everyone’s contribution is encouraged and necessary. Like the forest and fields below her walls which are the foundation for nature itself, it has its own ecosystem, an intricate weave of good, true, and beautiful things, at once as delicate and as strong as a spider’s silk web. A place where knowing “what” is not as important as knowing “why” and “how.” A place where friends are made, ignorance is conquered, and confidence instilled.
I see an academy where children are allowed to be children and develop their natural skills and talents.
I see an academy where wonder and imagination are fostered, developed, and perfected.
I see an academy where observing the created world up close is more important than reading about it in a book.
I see an academy where hard questions are asked, where children learn to think things through and not just give the status quo answer, and where facts are balanced and judged against truth.
I see an academy where math, literature, science, and history, are studied not for the utility they give (which can be important), but for the human being that they form. A child who knows these things well can explain the universe, which is not so easy a thing to explain.
I see an academy in which laughter, joy, peace, and harmony join hands to encourage, form, and make whole those whom she has charge over.
I see an academy where virtue is just as important as knowledge, where rich and poor have access to and can converse with the greatest wisdom of the past, and where everyone’s input is crucial to its success.
I see an academy where children have courage to face difficult things, to prioritize duty and honor over sloth and cowardice, and where grit is a four-lettered word that will stand as a badge of honor, when everything else around them has given in.
I see an academy where human formation is the raison d’etre of its existence, where we are made whole by the sacrifices we make, the challenges we face, and the people we love.
In short, I see an academy which will strive to be a beacon of light in a dark world, a community of learning which can hear the good news, cope with the bad news, and locate itself in the historical arena in which it finds itself.
This will not be an easy task. While many things vie for our children’s attention, perhaps nothing are more distracting than those that come from the world. With its empty promises of fortune and glory, the world is like a freeway of billboards, all recommending the latest trend, the newest fad. And when those new things become old, a newer new thing sneaks up to replace it. The observer is often left bewildered pondering the newest gadget in his or her pocket and why these things which were new only 5 minutes ago are now obsolete. If we are confused, how much more so are our children.
As educators we have a duty to focus on those things which are permanent. Truth does not change, regardless of what many say…imparting timeless wisdom to eternal souls. That is the reason the academy exists.
Unlike the newest gadgets or fads which seek to replace it, a real world does exist, and it is a beautiful world, a world where nature and humans cooperate in harmony, where the telos or end of a thing dictates the steps to achieve it, and where there is calm tranquility, like the forest at dawn. Everything with purpose, everything with meaning, everything with its place in the whole.
The preeminent mathematician Lord Alfred Whitehead once said, “From the very beginning of education, the child should experience the joy of discovery.” To seek to know what we do not know and encourage our children to seek to know what they do not know is the challenge that faces us here today.
As night descends on the world and the hustle and bustle of the day unwinds, this academy stands firm on a hill looking over the forest below ready, willing, and able to provide that process of discovery to students and families willing to join her. Soon, the night prowlers will scurry out of their holes and the forest will settle down to a whisper. Today they gave glory to God by doing what it is they do…live. Tomorrow morning standing tall, the deer will once again look out over his domain and will guard that abode below the academy walls. Together, they form a whole which invites those willing to pause and observe to join their conversation.
We invite you and your children to join us in pursuit of the good, beautiful, and the True. We are stewards and guardians of the great conversation and are charged with inviting into that discussion the future leaders, teachers, doctors, lawyers, scientists, mothers, fathers, and friends. Like Aeneas fleeing Troy with his son Anchises and his father Ascanius, the academy preserves the wisdom of the past, strength of the present, and the hope of the future.
May God bless each one of you for your prayers and support of this most worthy endeavor, and may God bless St. John Chrysostom Academy.