Posts Tagged ‘Jesuit Father James Schall’

A Tribute to Jesuit James Schall as He Retires from Georgetown after 35 Years

Jesuit Father James Schall

Jesuit Father James Schall

Jesuit Father James Schall recently gave his last lecture at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., after teaching there for 35 years. Fr. Schall, who has written over 40 books and taught thousands of students, will retire to California, where he first joined the Society of Jesus in 1948. “The gratitude of many will carry him westward,” writes Jesuit Father Kevin O’Brien, Vice President for Mission and Ministry at Georgetown University.

Fr. O’Brien recalls taking “Elements of Political Theory” with Fr. Schall in 1986, when Fr. O’Brien was a junior at Georgetown. “He introduced me, and by now thousands of other Georgetown students, to Plato, Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas. In his classroom, I became captivated by the idea of virtue as the measure of human character.”

Fr. O’Brien writes that Fr. Schall’s retirement has prompted him to reflect on the Jesuits who inspired him to join their ranks and who have sustained him in his commitment. “More than ever, I realize that I stand on very broad shoulders and rest in even larger hearts. One of the reasons I am a Jesuit is because of men like Fr. Schall, whom I have had the privilege of calling a brother,” Fr. O’Brien writes.

Jesuit Father Kevin O’Brien

Jesuit Father Kevin O’Brien

Fr. O’Brien says, “Fr. Schall is a humble man, reticent about accolades and attention. In his goodbyes, he will undoubtedly point to others — to God first, of course, through whom all things are possible. But he can also point to fellow Jesuits, colleagues, students and alumni with whom he has shared his life here. He too can recognize the very broad shoulders on which he has stood — some of whom are buried down the hill at the Jesuit cemetery.”

Fr. O’Brien says there is a certain humility that comes with taking leave:

“All that we are asked to do is leave a place better than when we found it and invite others into the ongoing project of giving glory to God and serving others. Fr. Schall has done that and more. In his retirement from teaching, he can relish all the good that continues to be done through the people he has influenced along the way.”

Read Fr. O’Brien’s full tribute to Fr. Schall at The Hoya.

First Things Highlights Jesuit Intellectuals

In October, the publication First Things highlighted a poll performed by The Gregorian Blog which surveyed the top Catholic commentators, editors and scholars, asking:  “Who were America’s greatest Catholic intellectuals?”

Of the top 10 receiving the most nominations, three were Jesuits.

The Catholic Hall of Fame’s Greatest American Catholic intellectuals, in the order of their birth:

  1. Orestes Brownson (1803–1876)
  2. Jesuit Father John Courtney Murray (1904-1967)
  3. John Senior (1923-1999)
  4. Cardinal Avery Dulles, SJ (1918-2008)
  5. Jesuit Father James Schall (1928-)
  6. Ralph McInerny (1929-2010)
  7. Richard John Neuhaus (1936-2009)
  8. Mary Anne Glendon (1938-)
  9. George Weigel (1951-)
  10. Robert P. George (1955-)


Keeping the Classics Alive: Jesuit Father James Schall

The Georgetown Voice, a student-run newsmagazine of Georgetown University, recently featured  Jesuit Father James Schall, the noted author, philosopher and professor of Political Philosophy at Georgetown University. Fr. Schall, who entered the Society in 1948, started at Georgetown as a member of the faculty in 1977. A prolific writer, Schall has authored more than 30 books, including Idylls and Rambles, which was recently added to the Ignatius Press E-Book Collection. The full feature about Fr. Schall is below:

In the moments before his Elements of Political Theory class, Jesuit Father James Schall stood in the hall, chatting with early-comers about the weather, the readings, and other courses. Fr. Schall not only knew all of his current students by name, but also recalled almost all of his recent students. He made introductions among the students standing in front of him, and a large, comfortable conversation started.

This conversation seemed to carry over into class. The period involved little group discussion, but was rather a series of conversations between Schall and individual students.

To Schall, this conversational teaching style fosters students’ intellectual engagement.

“College students learn most from talking to each other. You have to have ways for students to converse,” he said. “That’s why education is fostered by a good campus.”

When class began, Schall asked if he had failed to call on anyone during the course so far. “I don’t want anyone to feel left out,” he said. With 100 students crowded into a large White-Gravenor classroom, it would seem easy to be left out during a 50 minute class period.

However, Schall’s custom of pacing the aisles—addressing questions and comments to students at random—makes it difficult to shirk participation. Despite his sniper-like questioning style, his students appeared calm, seemingly unfazed by the possibility of being called on at his whim. Although his quiet voice could easily be drowned out by coughing, his students remained attentive and prepared to be called on. The conversations ranged from Plato, to the etymology of names of the months, to Shakespeare.

Schall teaches exclusively from the Western canon, classic texts that have been a cornerstone of Jesuit education from its beginnings. Some see these texts as providing a critical perspective on the legacy of human thought.

Professor Patrick Deneen, a government professor who also teaches Elements of Political Theory, speculated that Schall’s traditional perspective attracts students to his popular class.

“A paramount reason why students flock to Father Schall is because he reveals to them the profound depth of their ignorance,” he said. “But more than that, he allows them to experience that magnificent feeling that is the beginning of philosophy—the hunger for knowledge.”

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Ignatius Press Adds E-Books to Collection

Ignatius Press recently announced the release of more than thirty books from their collection into e-reader format. Many older Ignatius Press books are also incrementally being made available in the e-book format. These additions bring their collection of electronic books to over 300 titles available for purchase. The file formats available are .prc format for Kindle and .epub format for Nook and iPad.

A few of the additions include:

The Treasury of Catholic Wisdom, edited by Jesuit Father John Hardon. A Catholic library in miniature, a one-volume microcosm of what the Church’s great minds have thought and said since the apostolic age.

YOUCAT: Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church. An accessible, contemporary expression of the Catholic Faith, with a foreword by Pope Benedict XVI.

Idylls and Rambles by Jesuit Father James V. Schall. Fr. Schall writes profoundly and charmingly about people, places and things, giving a Christian perspective to the importance of little things and particular moments.

111 Questions on Islam by Jesuit Father Samir Khalil Samir is the result of a series of interviews with the internationally acclaimed expert on Islam who has dedicated many years to studying key themes of Islam and analyzing the possibility of coexistence between people of different faiths and cultures.