Fr. James Schall: A Final Gladness
This past April 17, Fr. James Schall, one of the great Jesuits of our time, passed away at the age of 91. We haven’t featured him much on the station simply because there are not a lot of video materials available. But it would be remiss not to remark on his passing.
Fr. Schall was born in Pocahontas, Iowa, in 1928, and entered the Society of Jesus in 1948. He taught for over 50 years and wrote on, so it seemed, just about everything. He wrote over 30 books, and a mere list of these and his book reviews, essays, letters to editors, etc., runs to 150 pages. His last lecture at Georgetown in 2012 was a Friday evening event in which the 700 seat auditorium was filled and an overflow crowd listened in the outside hallway.
This month, we will again feature this last lecture titled “A Final Gladness.”
The title of this talk, “A Final Gladness,” was taken from a line of Hilaire Belloc: “…each time I have remembered my boyhood and each time I have been glad to come home. But I never found it to be a final gladness.”
What Belloc and Fr. Schall meant by this is that we will never experience complete and enduring happiness in this life; that must wait until the next. In Fr. Schall’s words “…death is not the worst thing that can happen… The real issue is… not whether there be a final gladness. Rather… it concerns… whether our manner of living and thinking is worthy to receive it.”
Fr. Schall quotes G. K. Chesterton: “…comradeship and serious joy are not interludes in our travel; … rather… our travels are interludes in our comradeship and joy, which through God shall endure forever. The inn does not point to the road; the road points to the inn. And all roads point at last to an ultimate inn… and when we drink again it shall be from great flagons at the tavern at the end of the world.” Fr. Schall continues “…human life ultimately is about meeting again, about love and friendship and serious joy, about a final home. So let us think of meeting again, in the inn at the end of the world, where we shall meet Dickens and all his friends, Socrates and those with whom he converses, yes, with the God who has told us, when we meet again, that we shall see Him, as we would want it, ‘face-to-face.’” Recall Jesus’ words in John 15:15 “No longer do I call you servants… but friends.”
Fr. Schall stressed that a proper understanding of truth, of the end of our life, that is, the beginning of the next, helps us have the proper attitude toward life: “… we do not appreciate how much we can damage ourselves and others when we do not know the truth of things and reject the order of things to impose our own order on our lives and the world… The modern world is little more than a gigantic effort to accomplish the transcendental ends of Catholicism, not by grace and faith, but by our own efforts in this world.”
He found fault with modern education because it tended to reject objective truth, because “what is really important in our lives is not much discussed” and wrote three books on the subject of “How to get an education even while still in college.” These were: Another Sort of Learning, A Student’s Guide to Liberal Learning, and The Life of the Mind.
Fr. Schall was fond of recommending books. He thought Chesterton’s Orthodoxy was the greatest book written in the 20th century. Among others, he recommended Josef Pieper: an Anthology, A Guide for the Perplexed by E. F. Schumacher, and The Whimsical Christian by Dorothy Sayers. Books of his that I would recommend include Another Sort of Learning, A Line through the Human Heart: On Sinning and Being Forgiven, On Islam, and The Regensburg Lecture.
One of Fr. Schall’s fellow Jesuits, Fr. Hendrianto, wrote that “For Fr. Schall, Western civilization was built upon the premise that divine revelation is compatible to reason and reason that is open to the understanding of Revelation.” The task ahead of us, Fr. Hendrianto said, is “to defend and rebuild Western civilization.”
This is what we are trying to do at St. Michael Broadcasting. Please support your station through word of mouth, by praying for its success, by volunteering and a financial contribution if possible.
Thank you, Fr. Schall. Pray for us.