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Remembering Father James V. Schall, an Old-School Jesuit

The most distinguished son of Pocahontas, Iowa, Father James V. Schall, S.J., died at age 91 on April 17, just as Lent 2019 was drawing to a close and Easter was visible on the horizon.

Father Schall was what’s usually referred to as an “old-school Jesuit” — meaning (to my mind) that he was the kind of Jesuit St. Ignatius Loyola imagined when he founded the Society of Jesus in the 16th century. Jim Schall was both a man of rock-solid Catholic faith and a first-rate intellectual, a distinguished political philosopher at home with political theory from Plato through the moderns. His faith informed his intellectual work, as his intellect refined his faith. He was an exceptionally gifted teacher; before he was put out to pasture by Jesuit superiors who didn’t seem to grasp what a magnet he was for the students they ought to be recruiting, his last lecture at Georgetown University was attended by hundreds, who spilled out of venerable Gaston Hall into the surrounding corridors. He was a devoted priest, a masterful spiritual director, and a counselor who encouraged his students to think vocationally, whether about the priesthood or consecrated religious life, marriage, or their professional careers.

He was also an ascetic, whom self-denial, religious disciplines, and — in his last decade, illness — had whittled down, so that in his eighties he looked something like a lean, mean pirate in a Roman collar (which he always wore). But there was no meanness in the man, only a sweetness of temperament wed to a bracing, unblinking honesty about the state of the Church, the world, and the Society to which he had given his life. His suffering from cancer and his being blinded in one eye did make his legion of friends and protégés wonder about God’s ways with his most devoted servants; Father Schall would have said that suffering is good for you, because if you conform your sufferings to those of Christ in his Passion, then God’s grace helps you grow through suffering into the imitation of Christ that every Christian should be.

Read more at National Review. 

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