Saint John Paul II: Promoter of the Family

Today marks the feast day of a modern saint. Saint John Paul II was a staunch defender of the family. I know many of our own families grew up with John Paul II, and remain fond of his pastoral care.

He was deeply moved by the troubles of the modern heart. John Paul matured in a hostile environment (World War II; Cold War), but he never lost hope. If you could summarize his message it was this, “Do not be afraid”. Observing and analyzing with boldness yet gentleness the difficulties facing the modern era, he stated that Christ “fully reveals man to himself”. In short, we cannot understand who we are without appreciating and embracing the real identity of Jesus Christ.

In a famous encyclical entitled Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), John Paul confidently stated that families can turn back the tide:

The family has a special role to play throughout the life of its members, from birth to death. It is truly “the sanctuary of life: the place in which life-the gift of God-can be properly welcomed and protected against the many attacks to which it is exposed, and can develop in accordance with what constitutes authentic human growth”. Consequently the role of the family in building a culture of life is decisive and irreplaceable.

And in an open letter to families in 1994, John Paul identified the importance of an education in love:

The gospel of love is the inexhaustible source of all that nourishes the human family as a “communion of persons”.  In love the whole educational process finds its support and definitive meaning as the mature fruit of the parents’ mutual gift. Through the efforts, sufferings and disappointments which are part of every person’s education, love is constantly being put to the test. To pass the test, a source of spiritual strength is necessary. This is only found in the One who “loved to the end” (Jn 13:1). Thus education is fully a part of the “civilization of love”. It depends on the civilization of love and, in great measure, contributes to its upbuilding.

MRA to Pray for Future of LaSalette Shrine

October 8th, 2014

And now we’re off! October customarily marks the beginning of recurring schedule irregularities. I thank you in advance for all of your sacrifice and patience. There is a lot of action at MRA right now, both within and beyond the classroom. However, I have always found that the opportunities we take to come together as a school community only increase the bonds between us. I just want to highlight a couple of events and reflections.

Last Friday all of the full time faculty members attended the annual diocesan Teacher Formation Day. No faculty member left feeling confused or deflated! Instead, the general consensus was, “We should do this every year!” There was morning prayer, Mass, and then two talks. We learned about the effects of trauma on children and their emotional development, and we also listened to a parent’s journey through Catholic education. The parent sadly shared his experience with the closing of Villa Augustina, the second independent school in New Hampshire to be officially recognized by the diocese (MRA was the first). The day was certainly a reminder of how blessed we are to share such a dynamic and thriving school community.

Yesterday we made perhaps our last annual pilgrimage to LaSalette Shrine in Enfield. I want to extend a special thank you to all of the parents who drove or attended. As many of you know, the shrine will be closing within a year. It just happened that on Monday the school received a donated statue of Our Lady of LaSalette. The statue will be touring the classrooms throughout the school year. Each classroom will pray for the future of the shrine.

And finally, I just want to clue all of you in on a very critical event taking place in the universal Church. A synod – which is not as big as an ecumenical council, but still a large scale meeting of Church leaders, both religious and lay – on the family is currently ongoing in Rome. We are certainly suffering from a culture crisis, and since the family is the fundamental cell of society – so too a crisis of the family. I like to think that there are no coincidences, only God-incidences. Last week we learned about the effect of trauma on children. Sr. Mary Agnes talked about the wounds of trauma and what needs to be done in order to bring about true inner healing. Thus, my hope is that MRA can continue to be both an instrument of healing in the lives of children, but more importantly, I pray that together – all of our families can be an authentic witness to the world, exemplifying the beauty of family love. If our families are magnetic, then we can help reverse the tide and bring others into the ‘hypnotic’ (Bishop Peter’s adjective!) love of Jesus’ Sacred Heart.

Yours Truly in Christ,
Derek Tremblay

MRA Celebrates ‘School of Excellence’ Recognition

On September 30th Mount Royal Academy was pleased to welcome Mr. Patrick Reily and Dr. Dan Guernsey of the Cardinal Newman Society to campus. Dr. Guersney, Director of the Catholic Honor Roll, presented MRA with the ‘School of Excellence’ recognition, a feat awarded to less than 5% of Catholic schools in America.

Below is a text of the introductory remarks offered by Mr. Derek Tremblay, Headmaster Elect of Mount Royal Academy.

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Mr. Patrick Riley and Dr. Dan Guersney, on behalf of the families, faculty, students, as well as the Board of Directors, I welcome you to Mount Royal Academy.  We are honored by your presence, but we are also grateful for the valuable service offered by the organization which you represent.

The Cardinal Newman Society and Catholic Honor Roll perform an essential mission for the Church. In the last decade, numerous trends highlight the challenges Catholic elementary and secondary schools are facing in a changing culture. Between the 2004 and the 2014 school years, 1,856 schools were reported closed or consolidated (23.2%); the number of students declined by nearly 23%. Coinciding with a general decline in the number of Catholic schools and enrollment is a renewal movement. More and more Catholic institutions are returning to the classical curriculum.

I think the mission of the Cardinal Newman Society and Catholic Honor Roll is an influential factor in the renewal of Catholic education. Your mission is based on one simple truth: Catholic education is an extension of the Catholic Church. If any Catholic school is going to be successful, it must first be authentically Catholic. Cultivating a school culture that not only embraces every facet of our faith, but also applies the truths of our faith in every corner of the mission maintains and enhances institutional success. It is important to note that our idea of success is radically different than other institutions. I love Mother Theresa’s simple but appropriate quote: “God does not require that we be successful, only that we be faithful.”

Your role Mr. Riley and Dr. Guersney is a vital factor in the continuing success of Catholic education. We are in the business of making saints so to speak. I think your service to Catholic education helps us all remember that the Catholic standard of success is worth the price of our very lives. Parents, faculty, and students collectively give their lives for this cause. The sacrifices are limitless. But this is all done because we know the pearl which we have found.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,* which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind.

Thank you for calling us to a higher standard. Thank you for affirming us as we joyfully labor and struggle to evangelize the youth. And thank you for your service to the Church.

I now introduce to you, Mr. Patrick Riley.

Mount Royal Academy Recognized as School of Excellence

Catholic HS Honor Roll 2FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 17, 2014

SUNAPEE, NH – Mount Royal Academy is pleased to announce that it has been recognized by the Catholic Education Honor Roll as a 2014 School of Excellence.

Schools receiving this designation are marked by the integration of Catholic identity throughout all aspects of their programs and excellence in academics. The Cardinal Newman Society released the list of 71 schools from 26 states. Less than 5 percent of the Catholic schools in the United States receive this prestigious honor.

“Since competition began in 2004, the Honor Roll has been a helpful tool for administrators, families, and benefactors in recognizing the quality of a Catholic high school education,” said Patrick J. Reilly, president of The Cardinal Newman Society. “The Honor Roll schools are a reminder that Catholic education is getting better every day—not only academically, but in the renewal of Catholic identity—and we are delighted to see the increased level of competition among the schools that participated in the program this year.”

This year’s Honor Roll schools are described as diverse: large and small, new and long-established, highly selective and those with open enrollment admissions policies, as well as a variety of tuition rates.

“I’m proud of our board, faculty, families, and entire school community for remaining committed to our strong Catholic identity,” said Mount Royal Academy Headmaster Elect Derek Tremblay. “Over the past five years, every facet of the school has experienced growth and excellence. I think this is attributed in large part to our dynamic and authentic Catholic culture, which if successful, only attracts more and more individuals to the faith. We form students to be both virtuous and independent. I am so thankful for all of the efforts of each individual in the school community.”

Former Mount Royal Academy teacher and current parent, Dr. Mary Bellino, who co-chaired the application process, echoed Tremblay’s sentiments. “Mount Royal Academy, past and present, has always strived to go beyond the standard teaching excellence by fostering a love of Christ in each and every student, parent and faculty member,” said Dr. Bellino. “It is truly an honor to see Mount Royal Academy listed among the top Catholic schools. We are achieving our mission as a school.”

Mr. Reilly will bestow the honor on Mount Royal Academy during a ceremony to be held at the school on September 30th at 9 a.m. The entire community is invited to join the school for this celebration.

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Mount Royal Academy is a private Catholic school nestled in the hills of New Hampshire’s Dartmouth – Lake Sunapee Region. Since 1994 the faculty, families and friends of Mount Royal have striven to provide not only a quality education to the children of our community, but most importantly a formation in Christian faith and morals.  What began as an elementary school, grades Kindergarten through eight, has grown to include a preschool with three-and-four-year-old programs and a liberal arts college preparatory High School.

Welcome Message from Headmaster Elect

August 28th, 2014

First off, I want to express how humbled and grateful I am to be a part of this school community. I received many thoughtful emails, letters, and phone calls over the past two weeks. I apologize as I was not able to respond to each and every message. I do want you all to know that I am thankful for your support and generosity.

Last night’s Ice Cream Social was a very spirited and positive event. We saw familiar and new faces together. Again, I received more messages, and all we can do is reciprocate our gratitude towards all of the families.

Each new school year brings mixed emotions. I know the entire school community is poised to begin anew. We’ve been talking to the faculty and staff this week about reflection. We are certainly called to action, but if we fail to reflect on the reasons for all the good efforts we embark upon, then we ultimately lose a sense of purpose and direction. I just want to reiterate to you that, although there are obvious changes ongoing as we speak, the mission of the school cannot and will never change. We are all here to be instruments of grace, and our essential task is to support the continued growth of our Lord’s kingdom. We are all saint-makers.

As you will see below, there are more changes to come. Throughout this transitional period, Bill Mealey will remain on campus as the Interim Headmaster. Bill and I have a great working relationship. He has been my mentor and friend since I started at Mount Royal Academy.

I do owe another mentor a word of gratitude as well. I am stating the obvious when I say that Dave Thibault and I are very close. He gave me a lot of responsibility at a very young age. He trusted me in ways that I can never repay him for, and I would be remiss if I didn’t share that with the school community. I want to sincerely thank him for all his confidence in me.

Again, thank you all very much. We’ll give the school year to the Blessed Virgin Mary and her chaste spouse St. Joseph. May their intercession bring the whole community peace and joy as we continue to evangelize out of love for their kingly Son, Jesus Our Lord.

Yours Truly In Christ,

Derek Tremblay
Headmaster Elect

2014 Commencement Address

photo 3Each year the senior class selects a commencement speaker from the faculty or wider school community.

Last year featured visiting scholar Joseph Pearce. This year, the class of 2014 chose Mr. Derek Tremblay.

Below is the text of the address he delivered on June 7th, 2014.


Headmaster Thibault, Fr. Michael, board of trustees, fellow faculty and staff, it is an honor and privilege to celebrate and affirm the efforts of these young people with you today.

To the parents, families, host families, and friends of these esteemed graduates, thank you for all of your dedication, investment, sacrifice, support, and love – sometimes painfully, but always generously and unconditionally– poured into the lives of these young men and women.

And finally, to the class of 2014, congratulations for a remarkable accomplishment. All of you collectively managed to remain sane. None of us can deny it – this is a truly unique institution. I’ve heard many of -you quip – “Oh, this is Mount Royal….” – and I won’t embarrass you with the last half of the statement.

Teachers, parents, and students together walk a fine line between familial and professional relationships. And I know it can be trying, awkward, and sometimes overwhelming at times, but I firmly believe that the closeness between teachers, parents, and students is more natural. The family is the root relationship, and families are more formative than any other social institution in the history of humanity. Why wouldn’t a school strive to emulate the environment that is most successful at preparing young people to become heroic saints?

In all seriousness, your collective accomplishments pale in comparison to the moral fiber of your hearts. Success in today’s culture is measured by superficial and fleeting signs of alleged achievement. And yes, you’ve got all those measures accounted for: presidential awards, college acceptances, merit scholarships, most valuable players, model student, and the list goes on… The real reward is the treasure within your hearts. Deep within you is the difference maker.

You see, a standard commencement address is likely going to attempt to inspire you to go out and change the world. “Make a difference in your community”; “Be the next generation of civic leaders”; “Be the best possible humanitarian you can be”, or whatever.

I want to show you a simple yet critical principle: The transformation of society cannot be achieved without the transformation of hearts. Too many young people set out on the road of selflessness without first getting their own internal house in order. And then – guess what happens – as I always say, you meet resistance. Your plans don’t go your way. Your goals are taking too long. You aren’t good enough. And then, the next likely thought becomes, “Man, that person is obnoxious. I can’t stand being around him.” Finally, your whole worldview becomes deeply pessimistic and fatalistic. Why? Because again, it is impossible to make a difference without first getting your heart in order.

Individual transformation prepares the way for cultural revolution.

I’ll go back to the greatest achievement of your lives up to this point: All of you are open to transformation. All of you are willing to change.

If you are never willing to change, then you’ve already lost your humanity. Living an authentically human life is the only ingredient required for success. And all of you know what it means to be human. Beware though, some voices out there would rather you think that human nature is ‘evolving’, or ‘always subject to change’, or even worse ‘we create what it means to be human’.

The greatest achievement of the class of 2014 at Mount Royal Academy is simply this: you know where your heart belongs. You know that it thirsts. You know that it is destined for an ultimate good. And you know that unless your heart is going in the right direction, the roads you take will lead to the loss of your humanity.

This is the greatest threat to our time: We have lost not just a sense of what it means to be human, but the sense of what it means to be human. What it means to be human is not up to us. We don’t decide the best version of ourselves. Instead, we look to one who set up the master plan. We look out instead of looking in. And if we are at least willing to let Christ do the work, our hearts will be transformed.

Again, individual transformation prepares the way for cultural revolution.

There is one maxim that applies to all young people: we sometimes don’t like ourselves. I see this as a positive. It ought to be the ignition switch that lights the transformative fire of grace.

You all know I cherish St. Thomas Aquinas. I prepared some of you for Confirmation, and there are a host of you out there in the audience who know this about me. I was the one who made fun of my Confirmation instructor for crying after she felt the transformative power of grace. I like to think my Confirmation saint is Thomas Aquinas. However, I am still a little fuzzy on the details. I was not open. I did not have a moral compass. I did not know where my heart was going. However, I do know that Thomas Aquinas steered me in the right direction.

There are two simple principles that influenced the whole of this man’s inward achievements. His outward accomplishments pale in comparison to the gift of his heart. He met serious resistance along the way.  First off, his parents put him in a dungeon to prevent him from entering a revolutionary but barely established religious order, the Dominicans. The Church nearly condemned him as heretical because of his integration of Aristotelian philosophy into Christian theology. His peers called him the ‘dumb ox’. He was gravely overweight and barely verbalized a thought to anyone.

Thomas thought more truthfully and wrote more theology than any other person in the history of Christianity. At the end of it all, after a deeply transformative experience during prayer, he said “I have seen things that make my writings look like straw”. Now if you’ve ever encountered the totality of Thomas’ writings, you will certainly understand the magnitude and significance of that statement.

Alas, two principles summarize STA’s heart: ‘grace perfects nature’; and ‘as a person is, so does the end seem to him’.

Once you tread the transformative path, complacency and stagnancy become intolerable. Tolerance cannot be the supreme virtue. We should not seek to be as tolerant as possible. Instead, we ought to embrace the transformative power of the supreme being who makes all things new. Tolerating the status quo of self and society is less than human. If for a moment you think to yourself, “Wow, my life is so easy right now”, then you are settling for something less than human.

The central statement of Christianity is simply this: grace transforms, uplifts, exalts, and re-humanizes human nature. Sadly, the beauty and goodness of our original human nature is depleted and wounded. But the spark is still present, the flame is still lit, and the true mark of human nature remains deeply embedded in the recesses of the human heart. Grace ignites that spark, like an incendiary. The fire of grace consumes and restores us back to our original condition. And so grace perfects nature. God  refuses to save us without us. St. Augustine once said, “pray as if everything depends upon God, and work as if everything depends on you.”

In short, self-help is impossible, but the improvement of self is not. And if for a moment we think ‘we’ve made it’, we are as ‘good as we are going to be’, or ‘we are good enough’, then we settle for something short of our ultimate destiny.

Why? “As a person is, so does the end seem to him.” Or, as St. Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.”

In a word, joy: limitless joy; unceasing joy; true joy. That is our destiny. It is a destiny that goes beyond this world. The void can only be filled by a God whose joy is infinite.

You know, when I sat with the seniors to help them reflect on a class motto, the discussion was basically empty. They were mentally and emotionally taxed. And then, one of them piped up and said, “How about, ‘to infinity and beyond’”. And I thought, Buzz Lightyear? Come on, you’ve been exposed to the greatest thinkers of all time, and you want to quote Buzz Lightyear as the most influential thinker encountered in your education. Eh, whatever. It is a very true thought nonetheless.

Never settle for less than lasting joy. If you think your destiny is permanent joy, then that ought to influence your worldview, lifestyle, and every day affect.

The most encouraging component of Christianity is that God concedes that our lives are miserable because of ourselves. But he stoops to our level and descends downward to help us on our re-ascent.

Your hearts are ready for this truth. I know each of you is capable of acquiring that experiential knowledge whereby you live transformed, restored, and joyful. Book knowledge ought to prepare you for heart knowledge. If it doesn’t, then we fail as educators. If it does, then you’ve learned how to be human.

The challenge is this: Will you live a life transformed? Will you allow the most decisive factor in your life to change you? Or, will you accept imperfection? Will you embrace tolerance? Will you remain less than human? As St. Ireneus said, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive”.

Individual transformation prepares the way for cultural revolution. Now, to the second part. One of the amazing insights of St. John Paul the Great was the effect of culture. The culture of a civilization is the best indicator of heart knowledge. Do individuals within a society know where their hearts are going? If so, the culture will reflect that; if not, the culture will reduce and distract us from our true human nature.

The sad truth is that our own culture has lost a sense of direction. We don’t know where we are going. It is no accident that Jesus spent the bulk of his time journeying while on earth. Jesus understands our tendency to journey and look for the right road. All roads do not lead to the same destination, and some are faster or slower than others. The crux of the issue is that our hearts are travelling towards superficial goods. We keep stopping at McDonalds instead of eating an authentically prepared meal. Thus, the heart becomes unhealthy. Instead of walking down the path that will truly lead to a healthy, human heart, we sprint down as many paths as possible in search. Hey, at least the culture is searching. If we stop searching, then you know we’ve lost our humanity completely.

You graduates are a source of hope for all of us. I know I ask for a lot, I won’t deny that. And I am about to ask for one more lofty, seemingly pointless task. Please, we beg you: go out and revolutionize the culture. Once you’ve been transformed, enlighten others. Share the hope born of experiential knowledge; the joy that comes from pain; the love that overcomes hate; and the selflessness that squashes selfishness. This is our true humanity. Not the humanity of indulgence, consumption, and “I don’t need children. I’ve got my own things to worry about”.

I will share with you one final poem:

By the word and command, mortal man can stand, son of man is the manna manifest

In the flesh and the blood, and the bones and the rocks, in the valley of the dead

The dry bones are gonna walk and talk

To the rhythm of the saints y’all, to the rhythm of the saints

And I paint it red to remember the dead, who layed down their lives for the truth

And the seed that is buried takes root, and this ignorant world will have proof

If there’s a God I screamed, “Answer me!”

I didn’t expect an answer to be received, He said

You must die, to be set free, living in the kingdom of God eternally

Open up my eyes so that I can see, and die with a cry revolutionary

Every man and woman is a witness, and we will never forget this

Truth

Fear not the world cannot stop what must begin within you and me

A fire wind, holy hymn, beautiful diadem, hidden within positively pure prism refraction

Every colors broken down, harmonize with my eyes spectrum

In the end bleeding into the One, to the source, to the beautiful father of light

All the pressure and pain, produces perseverance

It’s purged by the flames, without interference

Produces a hope, In the glory of God

My God I am your son, and I know that you will finish the work that you’ve begun

Never settle for less than what you are, and allow your hearts to be the tools used by God to revolutionize the world. We need to build a civilization of love, not a culture of me.

Oh and in case any of you ever doubted this, I apologize. I truly love you. I love you for who you are, not because of what you’ve done, or who you will become. Instead, I love you because of where you are going. We share this path together now. I will never forget you!

This is your greatest achievement – class of 2014 – your hearts are ready! Go out and ignite!

Message from the Headmaster

As our Lenten journey approaches its end with the beginning of Holy Week, I want to say “thank you” to all the students, Imagestaff, and parents for making this such a prayer filled, holy season.  From the penny drive, the food drive, Stations of the Cross on Fridays, the confessions before Mass, volunteering at the soup kitchens, taking part int he 40 Days for Life Campaign, adoration in the chapel, holy hours at the parish, it is humbling to  see how much our community puts their faith into action.  Mother Teresa once said, 

“How did Jesus love us? He died on the cross; He made himself the Bread of Life to satisfy our hunger for His love and then He mad himself the hungry one so that we, you and I, can satisfy His hunger for our love.  We must thank the poor for allowing us to love Jesus in them…” 

My prayer this week is that all of us continue to feed the physically poor, the financially poor, and all those poor in spirit through our loving Jesus in them. 

May your and your families have a blessed Holy Week and Easter.

In Christ,

David Thibault


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