Headmaster

The following articles by our headmaster, Fr. Michael McMahon, can be viewed by clicking the links below:

The Jesuit Model of Education

The Heart of St. John Bosco

On the Education of Young Men

Building Strength

Building Society


 

Commencement Address

The following address was given during the graduation ceremony at Notre Dame de La Salette Boys Academy on Saturday, June 3, 2006, by Father Michael McMahon, the Academy’s Headmaster.

Please allow me to welcome you to Notre Dame de La Salette Boys Academy. After nine years of remote preparation in Michigan at St. Joseph’s and two years of intensive preparation, physical, mental and especially spiritual, we find ourselves at the momentous occasion of our very first graduation ceremony at our new campus. Having begun the day in that most Catholic fashion with a solemn High Mass celebrated by our District Superior, Father John Fullerton, whom we sincerely thank for honoring us with his presence, we come now to the awarding of diplomas for these twelve young men before you – the class of 2006!

Being the very first graduation, let us go to the very foundation, the heart of the matter and ask some basic questions. Why are we here? What makes this ceremony so important, especially since there are thousands of such ceremonies occurring across the nation? What is the purpose of La Salette Academy? The answer, my friends, is quite simple, yet most sublime, it is to form men! To properly form Catholic men – a Herculean task in any era, but especially in these times of disorder and chaos.

As that great educator and saint of Holy Mother Church, Don Bosco, stated: “A school must teach in relation to life.” That means in relation to reality, as things are, as Almighty God has made them, the nature He has created. In this age of revolution and even perversion, we are compelled to ask and clearly explain . . . What is man? What is the subject of the work of formation? As Aristotle, the greatest of the ancient Greek philosophers, taught, he is a rational animal. Common experience clearly teaches that man is of the animal kingdom. He has a body, made of matter, that is flesh, blood, bones, the wonderful systems of respiratory, skeletal, etc. Man must eat and drink, sleep and keep warm. Yet, he is unique among animals, one entirely distinct from all others, in that his animating principle is spiritual and thus immortal. Man, then, is not only animal, but rational as well, endowed with a spiritual soul made in the image and likeness of his Creator, a Creator that he can know, love and willingly serve. This Creator loves with such a boundless charity that to this wonderful spiritual existence he has also called man to a participation in the Divine Life, a participation which is achieved through grace, elevating man to a supernatural level in an intimate friendship with the Divine Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Thus, as educators, we must be cognizant of this reality, for as the great John Bosco stated, that is the purpose of the school – any true school, worthy of the name – to ‘teach in relationship to reality, to life.’ Neatly summarized, this reality is: man comprised of body and soul, a soul made in the image and likeness of His Creator, called to a supernatural destiny of grace in this life and glory in the next, which must be done through God’s only begotten Son and His Holy Church and the sacraments which She alone fully dispenses. As Pope Pius XI wrote in his masterful encyclical on Christian education:

“It is therefore as important to make no mistake in education as it is to make no mistake in the pursuit of the last end, with which the whole work of education is intimately and necessarily connected. In fact, since education consists essentially in preparing man for what he must be and for what he must do here below in order to attain the sublime end for which he was created, it is clear that there can be no true education which is not wholly directed to man’s last end, and that in the present order of providence, since God has revealed Himself to us in the person of His Only Begotten Son, Who alone is ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life’ (John 14, 6), there can be no ideally perfect education which is not Christian education.”

This is the noble and necessary goal of Catholic education, the formation of the whole man and all his faculties: physical, intellectual and spiritual – forming to life, both temporal and eternal. Let us again listen to the wisdom of the Magisterium:

“For precisely this reason [because of the ultimate aim], Christian education takes in the whole aggregate of human life, physical and spiritual, intellectual and moral, individual, domestic and social, not with a view of reducing it in any way, but in order to elevate, regulate and perfect it, in accordance with the example and teaching of Christ.”

At La Salette we strive to put this concretely into practice with a well-rounded formation, solidified and safe-guarded by discipline and permeated by the virtues of religion and charity. Just this week, we have had a wonderful example of this. Final exams were taken by the boys, capping our academic year. Our curriculum endeavors to form our boys in the pursuit of Truth and the love of good and beauty. Without excluding the necessary training in math and science we emphasize the humanities which have always been the foundation of true academic formation. Latin provides the key to the ancient classics, but much more importantly to the mind and wisdom of the Church. In the senior year, philosophy perfects their natural knowledge and through all four years, the great truths of religion are taught, providing the foundation of conviction, equipping the soldier of Christ with the weapons of spiritual warfare. (As an aside, congratulations are due to our seniors who placed first in the inaugural SSPX national religion examination administered to all Twelfth Graders).

Beyond academics, we had the great excitement to see our rugby team defeat in the state quarter finals a public school of over 4,000 students and ranked fifth in the nation. Such a great physical effort and example in grit and determination against a superior foe is the fruit of long hours of difficult P.E. classes where the body is developed and the will strengthened. You enjoyed last night the wonderful spectacle of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, played on our stage, played superbly by our boys; literature coming to life. While this morning you witnessed at Holy Mass our boys not only serving, but also as is customary on Sundays and Holy Days throughout the year, singing both the Common, and the Gregorian Propers of the Mass. The same boys who sweated in the rugby game, performed on the stage, sang with their hearts at the Holy Sacrifice. Thanks to God and His Immaculate Mother, thanks to the teachers and staff, thanks to our generous benefactors. Let us pray that this formation continues.

At this point, I would like to speak directly to the graduates of the Class of 2006.

Graduate comes from the Latin meaning to step or advance and today, my friends, you took your last steps at La Salette leading to your seats on this stage and in just a few moments will take your first into the world as young adults formed in the Catholic Faith. No more bells to rise and bells to bed; no more job checks; no more whistles at Phys.Ed. class exhorting you again . . . again . . . again! The time then has arrived for you to “leave the nest” and regulate yourselves aided by God’s Grace; to enter the world and take your place there as Catholic men.

With this in mind, let me place before you the words of the prophet Jeremias which the Church uses at the Offertory of the Mass of a supreme pontiff: “Behold, I have given my words in thy mouth, I have set you over nations and over kingdoms, to root out and destroy, to build and plant” (Jer.I, 9). These beautiful words, inspired words, are truly apt at the culmination of your Catholic high school formation, and they provide a vision as to what you must do with what you have received. The “words” put into your mouths are the learning which you have received, whether the human wisdom from the great literary classics, philosophy and history or the Divine Wisdom from our Holy Liturgy, religion classes, your daily scriptural and spiritual reading, or the Grace of God given through Holy Mass, the frequent reception of the sacraments of Penance and Our Lord in Holy Communion. This perennial wisdom has been put into your heads, your hearts, your intellects, your wills . . . and thus you are “set over nations, over kingdoms”. Some by God’s Grace will become priests and thus shepherds of souls, some as fathers of a family, all over that great spiritual kingdom of his own soul, striving for its sanctification and ultimately salvation. Whatever the kingdom over which our heavenly Father places you, you must first seek to root out all evil and once rooted out it must be destroyed! Anything which is against the will of God, that is anything which presents an obstacle to your sanctification must be identified, mercilessly rooted out and destroyed. This is that violence by which the kingdom of God will be won. Our Lord spoke of the possible need to “pluck out eyes, cut off hands,” if they offend. This is the violence which will get us to Heaven.

This is the negative aspect, yet there is the positive as well. Once the enemy has been destroyed or at least held in check – for all of life on earth is warfare – we then must plant, we must build. Our holy religion, being divine, is one of profound joy and true peace, a peace which “the world cannot give.” It is a religion of great goals and great desires, of daily heroism, although far-removed from the renown, glory and vanity of the world. Therefore, you have been set up over this kingdom to build. You have been given various gifts and talents, and now a solid Catholic formation in order to plant – to sow the seeds of God’s glory and of His Church. Fortified by His Grace, you are, paraphrasing from St. John Chrysostom to sally forth, using the weapons with which you have been armed.

You are to be men of character and conviction, true to your word, stable, balanced lights in this poor, dark and ever-darkening world; not necessarily in great words or works, but rather in the daily, diligent devotion to duty – both supernatural and natural.

In short, you are to be Catholic gentlemen. This was our goal throughout your years at the Academy: to form men who seek virtue, both supernatural and natural, who seek to do God’s will in all things, rejecting human respect and the world’s sensual call to selfishness, vainglory and pride; to serve and not to be served. Heed those words, my friends, from Psalm 133 which we have prayed so often together when singing the Divine Office at Compline: “Ecce nunc benedicite Dominum, omnes servi Domini.” Now, servants of the Lord, Bless the Lord . . . bless Him in your words, thoughts and deeds; bless Him in public and private, bless Him at all times and in all places. Go into this world of 2006, a world which has rejected Our Lord, rejected His Church, rejected His teachings and enlighten it with your faith, inflame it with your charity, conquer it for the kingdom of God!

Let the last word be from the Academy’s fight song which we have sung so frequently this year . . . La Salette Forever. . . May the Faith and the Truth, and the conviction and the love of the Mother of God be permanently engraved in your hearts. Be assured of my prayers, we ask for yours and know that the doors of your alma mater remain open to you always!