The aim of Notre Dame de La Salette Boys Academy is the formation of perfect Christians by the development of the intellect and the strengthening of the will down through every aspect of the whole man. The school offers grades 8 through 12.
This lofty goal is the traditional purpose of the classical Catholic education. Ours is a philosophy based on the idea that human reason can discover and understand an order outside itself, an order created by God. On the other hand, the goal of modern education is to give information without regard for truth or falsehood. Modern, secular education centers on an appreciation of the work and invention of man only, and not on the larger order of which man is just a part. Rather than teaching students to think and reason in order to reveal the presence of God behind and within all reality, modern education offers students a large quantity of facts and data with the utilitarian view of making more money and becoming better consumers. At La Salette, we understand that the mission of a school worthy of the name is not the mere conveyance of information, but rather the formation of the mind; that is, to teach men how to learn for themselves. This is why our curriculum is based on the liberal arts as examined under the lens of Catholic orthodoxy, the traditional method of education that is a practical application of Our Lord’s saying, “the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). This methodology is “the education of a free man” whose purpose, as St. Ignatius states, is “the conquest of self and the regulation of one’s life in such a way that no decision is made under the influence of any inordinate attachment.”
Our curriculum is based upon the ancient organizational method of the seven liberal arts. Students receive a general and integral view of reality due to the intimate unity of all the subjects, a unity that is made very clear in the classroom. They learn to be able to think in an orderly fashion, and to write and speak as clearly as they think. The ultimate goal is the same as that of the medieval universities: an exposition of the unity of truth leading to the formation of perfect Christians. A boy who reflects on God as his final end as presented in the various disciplines will be a better citizen of earth now in order to become a citizen of Heaven later. Classical Catholic education leads to Catholic gentlemen and Catholic Saints.
As education is largely accomplished by imitation, our students learn from the saints and other wise men of the past and present through theology, philosophy, literature, history, the sciences and mathematics. By opening to them the treasures of knowledge with a purpose much wider than merely achieving good grades, we awaken in the students the love and thirst for learning. By teaching them to think critically, we fittingly prepare them to face the concrete conditions of this world. Finally, we seek to inculcate a spirit of healthy competition at school, whether among our students or those of other schools, which inspires them to always reach higher, in the pure spirit of classical education.
- Catholic Doctrine
- Catholic Social Doctrine/Government
- Latin and Greek
- Music/Studio Arts
“What is the goal of the Catholic doctrine class? To make known and loved the written Word of God and the teaching of the Magisterium of His Church; to make known and loved true theological doctrine, and to show how it should nourish one’s prayer life, and how it should enlighten all other fields of knowledge in view of working for the establishment of a Catholic social order.”
– Father Roger Calmel, O.P. The Renewal of the Christian School
Education, as Frank Duff notes, is not only imparting doctrine, but also the spirit and sense of religious mission as well; i.e., knowledge with the sense of responsibility and duty to other souls. “Catholic” must not be an adjective, but life itself. Education is the medium to mold every child into another Christ who will Christianize the world and who will, if needs be, suffer and die in the performance of that mission.
In that regard, devotion towards Our Lady, Mother of the Church and Mediatrix of all graces, is essential. Her whole life and destiny have been motherhood, first of Christ and then of all men. That motherhood of souls being her essential function and her very life, it follows that, without participation in it, there can be no real union with her. True devotion to Mary must comprise the service of soul. (Victory through Mary and The Legion of Mary Handbook).
At Notre Dame de La Salette, religion is not just one class at one particular time. Religion permeates every class and all our activities. We instill in our students the realization that religion must penetrate every aspect of our lives. Religion must be all, or else it is nothing! In addition, as our first Pope exhorts us to be “always ready to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you” (1 Peter 3:15), instruction in Apologetics is included during the senior year as the student prepares to leave La Salette and encounter our troubled world as an adult.
“In the continual relation with Catholic doctrine, at the school of St. Thomas Aquinas and the contemporary Thomists, philosophy helps to discern, deepen and explain the immediate principles of common sense; to study the deeper reasons which answer essential questions about man and life; to think about modern problems in the light of sane, traditional doctrine in order to resolve them.”
– Father Roger Calmel, O.P. ibid.
Philosophy is the handmaiden of theology. While philosophical concepts are introduced in religion, literature, and history classes throughout the four years, a separate History of Philosophy course is given during the senior year. The aim of the course is to provide an introduction to the great philosophical conversation of the ages in a more formalized setting than through brief literary or historical encounters.
Catholic Social Doctrine
Perhaps in no age has Our Lord’s Temporal Kingship been treated with such contempt as in our own. There is no longer any nation that can claim that it has not been thoroughly infused by the principles of Modernism and become, therefore, effectually indifferent to the rightful authority of the King of Kings. Given the world’s nearly complete rejection of Our Lord’s rightful reign, an appropriate subject for a Catholic school is the Church’s social doctrine as presented by St. Thomas Aquinas and expostulated so poignantly in the social encyclicals of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century Popes. That all things may be restored in Christ, our young men are presented with what that order might look like in principle, focusing on the political and economic principles of a truly Christian social order.
Further, that our students may have an understanding of their own nation, United States Government is taught during the twelfth grade history class, covering both the theoretical foundations and historic evolution.
Latin and Greek
Latin studies at Notre Dame de La Salette are based on the idea that Latin is a language and not merely a written code. At the early levels, Latin is taught through methods comparable to the methods used to teach modern languages, so that through much practice in reading, writing, and speaking Latin, the students can internalize the language and make it their own, understanding its words according to the words’ own meanings in their own context. In the upper levels, the students are better able to appreciate the great Latin works as literature and poetry rather than as grammatical puzzles or translation exercises.
St. Augustine points out in De Doctrina Christiana that language and community are inseparable. The words of language are signs whose meaning is understood and agreed upon by a community, and a language likewise forms a community that thinks and expresses itself in a common way. Usually the community of a language is a tribe or nation, but by teaching Latin in a direct and thorough way we hope to make our young men real participants in a linguistic community which transcends time and space, and which counts among its members many great men in every age of our Faith and civilization. A person is truly a part of this community when he can hear the voice of Virgil or of St. Augustine or St. Thomas directly, understanding them from within their own mode of thought and expression without the need of translation even within his own mind. This is what it means to know a language, and this knowledge is the goal towards which we strive in teaching Latin.
A real knowledge of Latin is, of course, an especially important goal in a Catholic school, because the words of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and of all public and solemn prayers in the western Church are Latin. The Latin developed by the church for the praise and worship of God has a precision, beauty, strength, and appositeness that can only be approximated by any translations. A man who can join with understanding in the words of the Liturgy prays more perfectly with the Church, and a life of prayer informed by the Latin of the Liturgy will tend to be more elevated and mature and right in doctrine and sensibility.
Greek, the language of the Gospels and of the beginnings of western culture, is offered as an elective at La Salette with many of the same practical principles in mind, but with the more limited goal of providing a good introduction to the language and of building a solid foundation for future study.
Agreeing with the ancients that the primary ends of literature are to instruct and to delight, the purpose of these classes is to use the masterpieces of the canon to first examine the world and human nature in all of its vast and varied manifestations. With the imagination stimulated by this presentation, the ultimate aim is to aid the student in analyzing literature’s exposition of truth, especially of the three great transcendental ideals of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. Over the course of reading and analyzing “the best of what has been thought and said,” the student experiences delight, that higher form of entertainment that involves the soul being elevated, the mind exercised, and the heart quickened. As Pope Pius XII lyrically put it, the best literature “opens a window to the infinite.” Taught this way, literature classes work in harmony with every other class, especially religion, philosophy, history, music, and art.
With this understanding of literature, it is easy to understand why, in the quest to form solid Catholic gentlemen, each student takes four years of literature at La Salette. The goal is not to produce literary scholars per se, but rather to expose students to the greatest thoughts, to a noble manner of thinking and acting that is proper to a Catholic man. Consequently, only the greatest works of literature are emphasized, with some parallels to the time periods being studied in history, but by no means slavishly so.
An education in the liberal arts also involves the disciplines of grammar and rhetoric so that the student can learn to express the truth with clarity, dignity, and ease. As a result, every literature class incorporates robust instruction in English grammar, vocabulary, and expository and argumentative composition. Finally, a number of public speaking engagements are demanded of the student so that he may learn to feel comfortable and confident when expressing himself orally.
While history is not technically one of the liberal arts, it is a discipline that provides a necessary context in order to facilitate a true comprehension of the arts, sciences, and the Catholic religion itself. History at La Salette is examined from a Catholic standpoint, and thus has three cardinal ends: confirmation of the lamentable effects of Original Sin upon human civilization; the demonstration of God’s infinite mercy as evident in the unmistakable signs of Providence in the course of history up to Christ’s salvific mission at Calvary; and a real comprehension of the indissoluble relationship between human, political, and economic order and the Supreme Kingship of Our Lord. In the study of ancient history during the freshman year, the students explore at great length the strife and chaos of the pre-Calvary world, noting, nevertheless, the sure workings of Divine Providence in the preparation and development of mankind and the social order for the coming of the New Adam. During their sophomore year students study the growth of Christendom in Europe, which increasingly recognized and submitted to both the Spiritual and Temporal Kingships of Our Lord, climaxing in its development around the 13th century A.D. The junior year focuses on the decline of Christendom including the Renaissance, the Protestant Revolution, and the ever-widening chasm between the operations of secular society and the Mystical Body of Christ. In the senior year, the examination of the growth of modernity and apostasy begins with the American and French Revolutions and continues into the bloody twentieth century.
The study of the natural sciences perfects a man’s intellect by revealing to him the wondrous order of the created physical universe. These courses in the processes of nature prepare for and compliment the study of metaphysics and theology. The curriculum includes biology, physics, and anatomy, astronomy, and chemistry.
Mathematics trains the mind to think logically without the need to borrow heavily from physical experience. The curriculum covers the traditional disciplines of Algebra (I and II) and Geometry, with the possibility of more advanced studies dependent upon student’s desire and ability.
Together with the other liberal arts, music contributes to spiritual joy and the delight of the soul. At La Salette, the primary focus is upon the music of the Church – the chant and hymns that form a part of the Liturgy. In addition, some instruction in the great tradition of secular music from the Baroque to the Romantic era is provided. In addition to music, students receive a practical initiation to calligraphy, painting, pottery, and sculpture at the school of the artists of the middle Ages.