Questions are often asked as to how a Catholic education differs from others. Even further, how does a Benedictine school differ from institutions founded by Orders such as the Jesuits, Dominicans, Cistercians, Christian Brothers, or similar communities? In essence, when a boy is formed in the Benedictine tradition, what are the hallmarks that will shape and define him?
Firstly, the Catholic intellectual tradition is a treasury of scriptural exegesis and catechesis, theology and spirituality, drama, literature, poetry and music, vast systems of philosophy and norms for living, as well as art, architecture, history and science. It isn't by mere chance that every possible standardized test consistently ranks Catholic education higher in every category! This enormously rich tradition is built upon a few cornerstones put in place by the earliest Christian thinkers. These include a commitment to think seriously about the culture in which one lives, to attend with respect to the ideas and world views of others, to listen to what God is speaking through them, and to use ideas old and new to understand the Gospel and communicate it in changing times and places. On this foundation, the Catholic intellectual tradition has created a distinctive approach to education. It stresses the continuity of faith and reason and respects the cumulative wisdom of the past. It places a high value on inclusivity, emphasizing the communal character of redemption and the integration of each person’s studies into life lived with others. Animating all this is a keen sacramental awareness of the ways in which the divine is manifest in the created world, in history and ritual, imagination and the human heart.
As immigrants flocked to North America in the nineteenth century, a number of Benedictine monasteries were established in the United States and Canada. The impetus for their founding was a revival of monastic life in Europe, as well as a missionary urge to be of service to the Church in a new land. These new monasteries, drawing on an ancient heritage of communal life, prayer, study and work, often started schools to help preserve the immigrants’ Catholic faith and cultural heritage, as well as foster new vocations to monastic life. These monks were faithfully living out the Rule of St. Benedict (RB) that had guided their religious communities for 1,500 years. These schools, colleges and seminaries sank deep local roots and as times changed came to serve broader and more diverse populations. Initially staffed by sisters and monks, their development was aided by a growing cadre of dedicated lay colleagues who today constitute the vast majority of the faculty and staff.
To be sure, a school is a different social and cultural entity than a monastery. However, an institution of higher education founded and sponsored by a Benedictine monastery cannot help but be influenced by the fundamental concerns of the monastics. Therefore the core values that animate their monastic life – awareness of God, community living, dignity of work, hospitality, justice, listening, moderation, peace, respect for persons, stability, stewardship – find a home in Benedictine colleges, universities and high schools and can be seen as hallmarks of educational vitality and fidelity to their mission. To the extent these hallmarks shape a pattern of life for the campus community, they foster a particularly fruitful – and particularly Benedictine -- engagement with the Catholic intellectual tradition. As they do so, a more expansive life emerges for all the boys, the collective result of a surprising transformation of individual human hearts and minds in the distinctively Benedictine outlook on life. For us, this transformation is not solely about becoming intellectually gifted, academically skilled, artistically inclined, deeply faithful, or even socially adept--although it does encompass all those goals. No, for Benedictines it is ultimately about taking an ordinary boy and transforming him into an extraordinary man filled with humility and wisdom who embodies the hallmarks of Benedictine values.
In essence, we take a young man and allow him to be immersed in a Catholic Benedictine community of life; a community of brothers that truly transforms him into what we refer to as a "Subi Man" who embodies these distinctive Benedictine hallmarks: