Just like an Abbot does with his monks, our Headmaster regularly writes and speaks to the larger Academy community to keep everyone abreast of activities. A few years back he took the opportunity during the Christmas break to offer a few words directly to the students. We share this letter below as it allows a prospective parent or student to catch a glimpse of the unique approach to our Academy way of life that seeks to mold and transform an ordinary boy into an extraordinary man...a Trojan!
Through this first semester I have been writing letters to your parents, to the faculty and others describing the happenings and philosophy of this Academy. I want to take some time to address you, the purpose behind all this activity, and tell you a little about the ‘why’ behind the scenes.
There was a cheer we did while I was in school here that went: “We are the Trojans / the mighty mighty Trojans / everywhere we go / people want to know / who we are / so we tell ‘em” (then repeat). It is true – people want to know about a true Trojan when they see him, because he carries himself differently from other boys or other men. He acts differently because he is different. He has been trained to act like a true man – the way a man should truly act. What does this consist of? And how does it apply to your daily life here in the Academy?
T – Tough – A true Trojan should be tough. I don’t necessarily mean physically tough, although physical activity and being in-shape are important. The toughness we want to instill in you is primarily mental toughness. It is also known as ‘Grit,’ or perhaps ‘Fortitude.’ Mental toughness or Fortitude is an attribute that will be invaluable to you throughout life. It is the ‘will’ inside that says, ‘push harder,’ ‘study just a little more,’ ‘make another effort.’ Whether you are facing an opposing linebacker, a difficult test, a temptation to sin, or later a tough time in your job or marriage – the mental toughness you learn here will carry you through. Fortitude is a virtue that ensures firmness in difficulty and constancy in pursuit of the Good. It strengthens your will to resist temptation and to overcome obstacles. It enables you to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. We try to instill Toughness or Fortitude in you by constantly challenging you – academically, spiritually, athletically, and just by being surrounded by other people who are sometimes annoying, pushy, arrogant or mean. We push you to, have a clean room, do your homework, practice your drills, and make a true manly effort. We don’t ask you to do all these things just to be burdensome to you. It is to teach you that mental toughness which will make you a true Subi-man.
R – Respectful – A true Trojan should be respectful. These days you are told that everyone is equal, and that no one should be treated differently. That is not true. Some people deserve to be treated with greater respect than others. Here is a quick list – girls/women, religious leaders, those in authority over us and the elderly. Sometimes it is because of a person’s position that they deserve respect (i.e our parents, religious leaders, teachers, deans, etc.) Once we get to know these people, we may respect them even more because we know them to be good people who truly care for us. But even if you find these people to have faults of their own, they still deserve respect because of their position. A Trojan will give this respect, sometimes even when it is not ‘deserved’ by the person, because it is the right thing to do. I am not asking you to accept injustice, but we will talk about that later. The elderly and women/girls deserve respect not because of their position, but because of who they are and what they represent. Women, in general, are physically more vulnerable than men and the elderly are more vulnerable because of age or illness. As true Trojans we respect them because true men never oppress the weak or vulnerable. Those who are defenseless have a moral claim on our strength. This claim is what drove the knights of old to fight for the vulnerable and protect them. The strong have a moral duty to protect the weak. We may need to protect someone’s good name or reputation. We may protect them by insisting that others address and talk about these people with dignity and respect. We should never speak vulgarly or degradingly about women or our elders. We were all born of a woman, and they all deserve to be treated with dignity.
O – Honest (the ‘H’ is silent) – A true Trojan should always be honest. When honesty will get you in trouble – be honest. When honesty is difficult – be honest. When it would seem to be easier to lie or say nothing – be honest. Honesty is one of the most important traits for any human being to possess. If you are known by reputation as an honest person – you will be given more credibility, more respect, more honor. Once you lose the reputation of being honest – it is extremely difficult (almost impossible) to get back. Never lose that reputation – always be honest.
J – Just – A true Trojan is a person who seeks justice. We may seek justice for ourselves, but most importantly, we should seek justice for those who cannot seek it for themselves. We should seek justice for those who are unprotected as we discussed earlier. It is unjust to speak ill or rudely of persons who cannot defend themselves. It is unjust to spread rumor and gossip. It is unjust to be vulgar. It is unjust to lie, cheat or steal. It is unjust to be wasteful of resources. It is unjust to be wasteful of one of the most precious resources – time! Justice demands that we give what is due to both God and neighbor. It is truly right and just to worship God. It is right and just to look after others as you are able.
A – Accountable – A true Trojan understands accountability. We ask you to be accountable for your room, your homework, your actions, and many other things. When you are older you will be accountable for your own money, property, family, your actions and your work. Having an attitude of accountability will prevent us from becoming too prideful. We will learn some humility because we will understand that we are blessed beyond what we deserve. Someone who is accountable will be honest and just – and will accept responsibility for their actions. Sometimes our role here is to give out punishments for incorrect behavior. Accepting these punishments manfully is part of the training in accountability.
N – Not insecure – A true Trojan is calm and confident. There is no reason to be agitated about every little thing. Most comments made to us each day or most happenings are not ‘the world out to get us’ or people purposefully trying to make us mad. Remain calm. A calm attitude will save our mental energy for the times we actually need it. We should not be restless or nervous – everything is in God’s hands. This should give us the confidence to go through life trying to make the best decision that we can in each circumstance. We do not have to fight every battle, respond to every criticism, be involved in every debate. Be still. Be calm. Be peaceful. Have enough confidence in your training that you will be able to handle situations as they arise.
S – Spiritual – A true Trojan is spiritual. He understands that we are not random cells bouncing around. Entropy can easily tell us that something has created order out of chaos. That something is God. A Trojan understands that the world does not revolve around ‘me’ and my every desire. There is a much higher purpose in this life than satisfying our own selfishness. A spiritual person understands that we are bound together with invisible threads. We belong to a greater community, both here on ‘the Hill’ and far beyond. The ‘S’ in Trojans is what makes us ‘a people’ set apart. We are not here as individuals. Our life would be impossible without the help of countless others. The ‘S’ brings us together into a whole, into a community. The ‘S’ means we have a responsibility to the community of other Trojans. We have to give back, we have to protect the good name of the place, take care of the place, take care of each other, and the collective reputation of all Trojans. Our actions reflect on all other Trojans. We have to act like true men, true Subi-men, both in regard to our Savior and in regard to our brothers here.
Fellow Trojans - It is a great privilege to be part of the community of Subiaco. It is a community that extends back in time for generations, and that also will extend forward for generations. We each have a duty to live out this privilege in a responsible way.
Back to that cheer: “We are the Trojans / the mighty mighty Trojans / everywhere we go / people want to know / who we are / so we tell ‘em”. I’ve talked with guys over the years who relate stories of being promoted earlier than others, getting degrees with higher marks, performing better than anyone expected, living a better moral life than other men. It is because these men are true Trojans. Not every graduate ‘gets it’ in a way that makes them a true Trojan. The ones who do though are mentally Tough, very Respectful, completely hOnest, fairly Just, always Accountable, Not insecure and Spiritual. They are TROJANS. Act in a way that proves to others that you understand who the Trojans really are. Become one of the mighty mighty TROJANS!
Have a blessed Christmas. Come back refreshed and ready to continue your training next semester.
Mr. Matt Stengel ’99