Formation in virtue is one of the hallmarks of the Regina Academies.
If you haven’t heard of him, Carlo Acutis was a very special young man. He was born in London in 1991 but fell ill with leukemia and died in Milan on October 12, 2006 at the age of 15. In many ways, he was very much like his peers, but in the most important way he was different: He had a tremendous love for the Eucharist and his passion was Jesus Christ.
Carlo was beatified in Assisi on October 12, 2020 and may very well become the Church’s first millennial saint.
Carlo was especially gifted in his use of computers and used his talent to create a website where he cataloged each reported Eucharistic miracle. He hoped it would be a tool of evangelization that would lead others to a deeper appreciation of the gift of Christ’s body, blood, soul, and divinity. He said that “the more Eucharist we receive, the more we will become like Jesus so that on this earth we will have a foretaste of heaven.”
Carlo is the perfect model of virtue for young people today. He was a typical teen who loved to play soccer, loved video games, action films and animals. His body has been made available for veneration in Assisi and he is dressed in jeans and Nike sneakers. Not quite the image most of us have of the saints. He lived his life’s motto, “To always be close to Jesus” fully. He was indeed an extraordinary young man.
Carlo taught us by his life that even typical teens can become saints by staying close to Christ. It is the sanctifying grace of the sacraments that allows the young and the old to be transformed to live a life of virtue and grow in holiness.
The mission of the Regina Academies is to “challenge students and their families in a communal and academic setting to be joyful saints through Catholic faith formation, classical wisdom, and virtue in action.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines virtue as “an habitual and firm disposition to do the good.” (1803) The Church divides the virtues into two categories: the Theological Virtues (faith, hope, and charity), and the Cardinal Virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance). The theological virtues are supernatural gifts infused into our souls at baptism and nourished through the reception of the sacraments. As the Catechism says, “They dispose Christians to live in a relationship with the Holy Trinity” because “They have the One and Triune God for their origin, motive, and object.” (1812)
The human virtues, on the other hand, are acquired by human effort through the assistance of grace. They are attitudes and dispositions that “govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to faith and reason.” (CCC 1804) The Catechism teaches that the human virtues are “acquired by education, by deliberate acts and by a perseverance ever-renewed in repeated efforts [that] are purified and elevated by divine grace.” The gifts of the Holy Spirit assist us in living virtuously as they perfect in us God’s grace and his love.
Virtue formation in the Regina Academies
God forms us in the theological virtues as he shares his divine life with us in the sacraments. The Regina Academies partner with parents to form our students in the human virtues. Living virtuously, especially in a secular and selfish culture like ours, requires the support of a community of faith, rigorous discipline of the will, and a firm desire to pursue the good.
Research has shown that in both the Catholic and evangelical communities, what a person believes at 13 is what they die believing. Sadly, many are making the decision at that age to leave the Church. It is critical that children in grade school are formed in the virtues. It is one of the most important things that we as Catholics can do.
Each of the Regina Academies follows a program of virtue formation that has been developed by either the Dominican Sisters of the Eucharist or the Nashville Dominican sisters. Some of our schools separate boys and girls so they can more easily discuss issues without the discomfort of mixed classrooms. Parents are kept informed and encouraged to reinforce virtues at home.
Virtues can be learned in a classroom, but they must be appropriated and put into practice if they are to be a source of spiritual growth. Our faculty model the virtues for their students, and students in all of our schools are expected to live virtuously in their conduct with their peers.
Of course, anything we ask of children must be reasonable, and the life of one like Blessed Carlo Acutis shows us just how reasonable it is to become a saint.
Catholic classical schools form the mind to reason well, and in studying subjects in the humanities students learn the consequences of behavior. The practice of virtue, however, is like any exercise – we get better the more we practice. As the Catechism states, virtues are deliberate or intentional acts. They only improve through “perseverance ever-renewed in repeated efforts” and when those efforts are “purified and elevated by divine grace”.
One of Blessed Carlo’s sayings is that “All are born as originals, but many die as photocopies.” Peer pressure demands conformity to a secular standard largely driven by the media. A life of virtue preserves God’s intent for each of us at our creation. It frees us to be what he intended for us at our conception, a unique and unrepeatable gift of his love – an original.
Blessed Carlo Acutis, pray for us and for our children. May their youth be spent growing in wisdom and virtue each day so they, too, may join you in heaven.