packed up my worldly goods at the Jesuit Community in Georgetown, gave many
things away, and shipped other books here to Los Gatos. I flew via San Jose
here on the first day of spring. It is a beautiful place. About seventy retired
or infirm Jesuits live here, many old friends and classmates whom I have but
rarely seen over the years.
What have I been
doing? Once I was set up with the normal household things, the staff and my
nephews set me up with a computer. I can still use my Georgetown e-mail. So the
world is suddenly as close or as far away as it was in Washington.
far, I checked the galleys of two books which are hopefully to be out in the
fall. One is entitled, Rational Pleasures,
to be published by Ignatius Press. I wrote this book while recovering from my
jaw cancer operation during the Spring Semester 2010 when I was not teaching.
The second is called, Political Philosophy and Revelation: A Catholic
Reading, to be published in the fall by the
Catholic University of America Press. In many ways, this book is the summation
of my thinking about the nature, extent, and purpose of political philosophy,
where it fits into the “order of things”.
Also, I put
together for Jameson Books a manuscript entitled Schall at Georgetown: On
Being Liberally Educated. This collection
contains essays that I wrote in The Hoya, Utraque Unum, and other Georgetown journals over the years. It
includes the “Last
Lecture,” that was delivered last December 7 in Gaston Hall. The book is a
reflective summation of what I was doing, or at least thought I was doing,
during my many years at Georgetown. It reflects the memorable influence that
students, colleagues, and friends have had on my thinking about what makes
sense in the world.
Someone asked if I
would return for Georgetown graduation in May. My answer was: “Alas, I shan’t
be able to return for graduation. Missing it will break my heart, but not half
as much as being there.”
Having left a
place for a time, what does one miss? I definitely miss the constant
exhilaration and delight that I encountered each semester in meeting and
getting to know new classes of students. I also miss the comfort of students
who had taken two or three or more classes, who got to know what I was about.
I had many good and dear friends in Washington who were not part of the
University. They cannot be replaced, even though I have friends and relatives
out here. It is all in Aristotle.
can get a distorted view of the country from living too long in Washington (or
probably California)! Washington has its charms, no doubt. I loved to walk the
streets of Georgetown and, occasionally, of the rest of the city, or across the
bridge to Arlington. Much of what is wrong with the world begins or ends in
Washington, though not only there. It was founded for a noble purpose, a
purpose that still makes it worth living there.
certainly miss the spring days of the City and the fall days when the leaves
turn. I won’t miss the Hoyas’ basketball team being bounced out in the early
rounds of the NCAA, but I will miss it if they finally prevail.
In general, my
health is livable. I have coughing problems. I cannot see well or hear well. I
cannot seem to gain any weight. Outside of that, I am perfect. I manage to take
a good daily walk in the hills or walk down to Los Gatos. Though I “feel” like
teaching all the time, I realized that teaching at Georgetown was a special
experience. If I went someplace else to teach, no one would know who I was or
what I was about.
this issue was solved by tradition and word of mouth. This familiar “circle of
student friends” meant that I always had good students who wanted to be in
class and read with me what I wanted to read with them. The department of
Government, with its many good men and women, always let me teach what I
thought was important.
And I continually
seemed to find students who were ready to listen to my ramblings and often
blunt way of telling them what to read and what was important. But I only told
them these things so they would finally see them for themselves. There was a
kind of hidden bond with ongoing numbers of students that took years to build.
Without it, teaching would not be the same.
purpose of a university that does not lose its soul will always be in
classrooms, or at least truth in the classroom. Specialized institutes that are
more or less aside from the university may be helpful. Washington is full of
them. But the main interest should be what goes on in class.
I do not look
kindly on pursuing “research” before one has a liberal education to put things
in place. In general “research” is overdone and “what it is all about,” I
think, “under-done.” My books, Another
Sort of Learning and The Life
of the Mind, were about this issue. I still
think it a central concern. We will never solve our human problems by
“research,” only create more of them. We first have to know what we are and why
we are as we are; we have to know of what is.
When one looks
beyond the university, even beyond California, what does he see? Any human city
will constantly reveal unjust acts, random ones, and willful ones. They reveal
the relative level of virtue and vice existent in the society. But there is an
ideological root to many things we see today that are not simply chance or
haphazard events. There is ideological disorder in our society on a wide basis
that we often do not or will not recognize.
We cannot avoid
knowing, however reluctantly, of a systematic attack on the Church as such.
This ever more precise attack happens in many parts of the world. We Catholics
are very slow to admit and react to it, especially at home when we have voted
for its cause. Pope Francis said on April 6: “To find martyrs we don’t need to
go to the catacombs or to the Coliseum: today martyrs are alive in a great many
countries. Christians are persecuted in a great many countries. Christians are
persecuted for their faith. In some countries, they cannot carry the cross;
they are penalized for doing so. Today in the 21sst Century, our
Church is a church of martyrs.” Such are sober words indeed.
We have had a
change of papal regime. Benedict is the greatest mind in the public order
today. He is also probably the greatest mind ever to be pope, and there have
been some great ones, including his predecessor John Paul II. The measure to
which students and faculty do or do not read Benedict is the measure of the
universality of any institution. I have argued some of this in my book, The
Modern Age. I think the reasons that
Benedict gave for resigning were valid, though I wished he would stay on for
another decade. But he did not think that he was able to do that. Several folks
have noted that my reasons for resigning were pretty much the same ones that
Benedict gaveno connection implied!
It is good that we
have a Latin American pope. Something like forty percent of the world’s
Catholics is in Latin America. My impression of the Latino students that I had
at Georgetown over the years is that they were some of the most dynamic and
culturally adjusted people to faith and reason that I had ever met.
is nice to have a pope who is also a Jesuit; provided that we remember that he
is first pope, and only incidentally a Jesuit or anything else. Jesuits are not
supposed to want to be popes or bishops or anything else elevated. This
tradition does not mean there is anything is wrong with such offices. Rather it
means other things need to be done that such offices would impede. But such
hierarchical offices are of the very structure of the Church that Christ
established. Jesuit vows were not designed as a critique of some mistake in
Christ’s founding. Moreover, I suspect that Pope Francis, if he is tough on
anybody, will be most tough on the Jesuits, as we would expect if we are men
worthy of the tradition of St. Ignatius.
As many have
pointed out, since Pope Francis has left no real paper trail, as previous popes
have done, it difficult to read him. His interest in the poor and the humble
ought not to lead us to think that he wants everyone to be poor so he can care
for them, or that he wants everyone to be proud so he can be humble by
comparison. He seems to be a very likable and honest man. He does not have a
lot of other baggage. His desire is to serve the Lord.
The pope faces
many huge problems, most of which are just below the surface. They are not only
within the Church itself. In fact, I would say, for what it’s worth, that the
main concern of Pope Francis’ tenure will be concerned with what can only be
called persecution and legal discrimination against the Church. We are little
prepared for this. In divine providence, it may take a man like Francis to deal