As St. Anselm’s Abbey School begins to celebrate its 70th year as a Catholic school for academic excellence, it remains faithful to the principles of Benedictine education as set forth by our patrons, Saint Benedict and Saint Anselm.
Saint Benedict was a man motivated by faith, yet he also saw the necessity of establishing a practical framework for the organization and leadership of spiritual communities. The Rule of St. Benedict deals almost exclusively with the internal workings of the monastery. It focuses on the proper management, motivation, and organization of daily prayer and work, his Ora et Labora.
But more importantly, he emphasized the most basic, but often forgotten, universal principles of leadership. He founded schools for sons of noblemen and slaves alike, where all were educated side-by-side. Benedict held no distinction between persons; all were equal in the eyes of God. Benedict spoke to all peoples, all cultures, for all times, which is attested to by this 1,500-year-old history of stability.
Like Benedict, Saint Anselm was a man motivated by faith as expressed in his dictum fides quaerens intellectum – faith seeking understanding. He wrote: “I do not understand so that I may believe, rather I believe so that I may understand. Furthermore, if I do not believe, I will never understand.”
Anselm understood the monastic charisma to be provocative and empowering. The same potent energy is found in a Benedictine school. It is a peculiarly transfigurative power which allows a student to develop his own talents and capabilities in a community free from conflict and strife. This is reflected in our school’s motto, Pax in Sapientia, or peace in wisdom.
Today, in Washington, D.C., St. Anselm’s Abbey School continues to fulfill this Benedictine tradition, educating young men in grades 6-12. One of our graduates recently wrote to me:
“An Abbey boy is deeply curious about the world and discovering how he is called upon to improve it. An Abbey boy has a reverence for the tradition that surrounds him. Learning from 1,500 years of Benedictine history fosters within him a spiritual and ethical foundation to anchor him in a rapidly changing world. Though working as part of a team and as a member of a small collegial community, an Abbey boy understands the differences and dignity of each person.
“Whether in the classroom, on the playing field, or on stage, an Abbey Boy appreciates his own limits, what he must learn from others, and the value of friendship and cooperative effort. An Abbey boy understands that his natural gifts present him with the obligation to develop them through discipline and to use these gifts in the service of others.”
An Abbey boy becomes an Abbey man when he learns to appreciate that the good life is defined not by possessions, but by the perpetual pursuit of peace through knowledge and understanding. And he does this in a school where academic excellence is not only a social obligation, but a moral obligation as well.
Rev. Peter Weigand is the President of St. Anselm’s Abbey School in Washington, D.C.