Saint Andrew’s banquet address

Saint Andrew’s banquet address

Dear faculty, students, family, and friends,

Happy feast of Saint Andrew – and thank you for feasting with us to celebrate the feast of the patron of our school! You may not know this, but Saint Andrew was not the patron we originally had in mind. We had discussed several saints, Saint Benedict, Saint John, Saint Joseph, King David, Saint Francis – we were not considering Saint Andrew.

The story of how Saint Andrew’s became Saint Andrew’s, begins with the story of the crest. Very early on, before we even had a place to begin this school, we had a crest. The imagery and design of the crest flowed from the idea of what it means to be a man – a human being – where we came from, what we are and what we should be. We are curious creatures, caught halfway between heaven and earth, drawn from the dust, but made in the image and likeness of God, half material, and half spiritual – and destined to become one with the God who became man. The aim of education is to come to appreciate and love these mysterious realities – and our crest reflects this aim.

In the center of the crest is a tree – a symbol of a man in his right place with the right disposition, with its roots deep in God’s good earth and ever reaching toward the stars. The root of the word attention is ad tendere, “stretching toward.” Attention is not only an essential element of education, but is the proper disposition of a man throughout his life. The word human comes from the Latin word hummus, meaning soil, and is the root of the word humor, and humility. A man in the right frame of mind knows that he has been drawn from this hummus, and is glad of it, and recognizes his curious and marvelous existence as a material being with a supernatural and eternal end.

Man’s knowledge begins in the senses, and a growth in and toward transcendental knowledge relies on and is deeply rooted in an experience of reality. Like a tree, this upward growth depends on rich soil and the conditions favorable to growth, especially in early years.

John Senior writes that “Our Lord explains in the Parable of the Sower that the seed of His love will only grow in a certain soil – and that is the soil of Christian Culture, which is the work of music in the wide sense, including as well as the tunes that are sung, art, literature, games, architecture – all so many instruments in the orchestra which plays day and night the music of lovers; and if it is disordered, then the love of Christ will not grow.” A tree is an image of a man with his roots sunk deep in this rich soil of true culture, growing tall and strong – reaching for the stars – towards the good true and beautiful.

The tree also brings to mind the most significant points in human history; the Fall and Redemption of man. The entire history and destiny of humankind, collectively and individually revolve around these two events. To know ourselves and to know Truth is to know what happened on two trees – one in the Garden of Eden, and one on Calvary.

It is tradition Christ was crucified above the place where Adam was buried, so beneath the roots of the tree is a skull, calling to mind the fall of our first parents, the rejection of the order God had established, and our need for the Redeemer, who would come and make it possible again for us to attain that for which we were made. By his death on the wood of the cross, our stretching toward the heavens was rendered fruitful, a path was forged from death to life.

Above the tree is a star, the timeless symbol of those fixed and eternal realities for which man was made. The word desire comes from the Latin de sidere, “from the stars,” and the tree, with its seemingly single purpose of reaching toward the stars, is a reminder of the single desire that should animate the lives of men: to reach for and reach the heavens.

To the left of the tree is depicted a harp and a sword. “His father’s sword he hath girded on and his wild harp slung behind him.” These words from the “Minstrel boy,” an old Irish Folk song, speak something about a man whose heart is in the right place. He is a man of piety and tradition, treasuring, defending and loving those things valued by his father. He is a poet and musician; someone who has heard and loved the music that moves the stars, and is willing to lay down his life in defense of the land of song. The minstrel boy is an image of King David, a poet and a warrior, who God Himself says is a man after his own heart.

The harp and the sword placed together calls to mind the sacrifice required to attain an ideal and the reality that unless the old man die the new cannot live – that there is a price to be paid to attain and possess the good, true, and beautiful symbolized by the harp. The minstrel boy gives his life for the land of song that he loves – the land betrayed by all the world. It is for Love that men have been born, and for Love that a man will lay down his life. The Song of Solomon tells us that Love is as strong as death – that a foeman’s chains cannot bring a proud soul under.

Opposite the harp and sword is placed wheat and grapes, a reminder that all creation participates in the Divine reality that permeates all things – that everything in its own way points back to the infinite origin of all being. To say something is significant is to say that it is a sign of something else, a shadow of something greater. Wheat and grapes, bread and wine, may perhaps carry the most significance in creation. They point back to the origin of man’s condition, call us to our end, and are reminders that “By the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread”, but also of the benevolence of God our Father who has given us “bread to strengthen, and wine to cheer the heart.” Bread has a mystical significance as the image of Christ as the “Bread of Life,” and is a symbol of our material needs in the prayer taught by Christ. We are like bread and wine, we are meant to be transformed into Christ, and when we receive Communion we become one with the God-Man, Jesus Christ.

“Venite et videte” is the first reply of Christ to man recorded in St. John’s Gospel. When John the Baptist points out Christ to two of his disciples, saying “Behold the Lamb of God,” they follow after Him. When Christ sees them following, He asks them what it is they seek. There follows a simple and beautiful exchange… one almost gets the impression that the disciples are overwhelmed by such a profound question, and it is easy to imagine them asking their very simple, honest, human question in response – Where do you live? Christ’s reply, the twofold invitation to “come and to see” was accepted by the disciples, and they became no longer servants, but friends.

All words and conversation are symbols and references to things previously seen or experienced… knowledge begins with the sense perception of reality. Poetry, the language of scripture, and the parables of Christ rely on a rich experiential knowledge, and this invitation of Christ is an invitation to a personal experience of Christ. To know, we must first “come and see.”

This invitation serves as a guiding light to the school, a reminder that in order to come, one must possess a heart capable of hearing and responding to the call of Christ… one must have cultivated a habit of attentiveness and contemplation and possess a properly detached, spontaneous, adventurous, and courageous spirit. The soil of the heart must be fertile and free of thistle, and one must have the heart of a child. One must have not only eyes, but eyes that see, and are in the habit of seeing, which as Josef Pieper says, “is the first step toward that primordial and basic mental grasping of real­ity, which constitutes the essence of man as a spir­itual being.” Our motto is a reminder that this invitation echoes through time to all men, and of how beautifully and completely man is transformed when he responds to Christ’s invitation to “Venite et Videte.”

We had been praying to Saint Joseph since this school became a possibility – asking for his guidance, direction and blessing on our efforts. Considering Saint Joseph is the greatest male Saint, a model of docility to the Holy Spirit and of true and sacrificial love – he was, after all, chosen by Almighty God to be the foster father of His Son and chosen to be the spouse of the Immaculate Virgin Mary – we had decided to name the school Saint Joseph’s Academy.

Then, one year ago, on November 30th, the feast of Saint Andrew, we received final permission to use this building for this adventure in education that we are now in the midst of. After receiving this news, and realizing that the adventure had begun, we realized a few other things as well. First, we were struck by the obvious fact that it was the feast of Saint Andrew – and then Father Bourbeau pointed out that our motto, which we had already chosen, “Venite et Videte,” was spoken by Christ, to Saint Andrew. We designed our crest to remind us what it means to be a man – a true man, a man whose heart is in the right place – and then we realized that the name Andrew translates to manly, and Saint Joseph’s Academy became Saint Andrew’s Academy, and we changed the tree on the crest to be the shape if an “X” – the form of the cross on which Saint Andrew was crucified.

So, here’s to Saint Andrew, may he abundantly bless our new school, our faculty and students, and all of us here – Saint Andrew, pray for us!

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