The Four Pillars
When our patron Saint, Saint George defeated the dragon and saved the princess, he refused the reward of treasure, which he distributed to the poor. Instead, he offered the king four instructions: to care for the church of God, to honor the priests, to assist with devotion at the Liturgy, to have the poor always in mind. These four instructions provide four pillars for Ave Maria Academy.
I. Care for the Church of God
In an age when new is better and the past risks being forgotten, Ave Maria Academy stresses memory and the passing on of tradition. “And what you heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also,” writes St. Paul to Timothy. “Do this in remembrance of me,” says Jesus to the Apostles at the Last Supper. The living Tradition of the Church needs caretakers, those who remember the past for the good of the next generation. Ave Maria students memorize Holy Scripture, creeds, poetry, and old songs. They hear and retell the stories of faithful heroes. They carry the banner of the Church, in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, whom God told “to rebuild His Church.”
II. Honor the Priests
The special vocation of Holy Orders configures men to Christ in a way that demands a special respect. A priest acts in Christ’s name, and to encounter a priest is to encounter another Jesus Christ. For when the priest says, “This is my body” or “I absolve you of your sins”, it is Christ who speaks. Priests make Christ present to us, really and substantially, in the Holy Eucharist. Like the charge to honor one’s mother and father, Ave Maria Academy strives to cultivate a profound respect for priests that manifests also in a profound respect for the sacraments, especially for Holy Mass and Confession. This honor for priests includes especially the bishops, the successors of the Apostles, the first priests, and most especially the Pope, the Vicar of Christ. We encourage the prayerful consideration of a vocation to consecrated life and would regard any alumni ordained or accepted into religious life as an event to rejoice.
III. Devotion at the Liturgy
Ave Maria Academy follows the rhythms of the liturgical calendar through the Church’s seasons and holy days. Each day begins with Morning Prayer and ends with the Rosary. We celebrate Holy Mass regularly and reverently, knowing that the Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of our Christian lives. First Fridays include Eucharistic Adoration, and the season of Lent provides the opportunity for the Stations of the Cross each Friday. All schools have a culture, and Ave Maria Academy cultivates a Catholic culture by living liturgically. We honor the saints on their memorials, and we celebrate important feast days with banquets and appropriate devotions. Liturgy plays an essential role in education, especially catechesis. In the Liturgy, the faithful are initiated into the mystery of Christ, the invisible made visible. With the utmost priority, we strive to pray the Liturgy at Holy Mass and the Divine Office beautifully and with great solemnity.
IV. The Poor Always in Mind
In Matthew 25, Jesus separates the goats from the sheep according to how they lived out the corporal works of mercy. St. James in his epistle writes, “So, faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” Ave Maria Academy strives to cultivate a living faith, a faith animated by charity. Like our patron, St. George, we look to distribute our treasure to the poor. We give to the poor the fruits of our campus garden. We gather clothes for those in need. We emphasize the virtue of hospitality to guests, and we look for ways to serve the elderly, who are great sources of wisdom. Yet, we recognize that the poor need more than merely material goods, and we remember them especially in our prayers and at the Liturgy. Charity begins in the family; indeed, “the home is the first school of Christian life,” says the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Thus, at its heart, charity for others as a practice is instilled no better than with those closest to us, and we strive to endow our students with this knowledge and habit. Loving our family enables us to love our neighbor well.