Editor’s note: Fr. Jim Schall, SJ – author of over forty books, teacher of thousands, devotee of the classics, professor of political theory, believer in the unity of reason and faith – retired from Georgetown University just over a month ago. His former student (and current VP of Mission and Ministry) Kevin O’Brien offers a few words of introduction to Fr. Schall’s Last Lecture.
After decades of teaching political theory at Georgetown, Jim Schall, SJ, retired from full-time teaching in December. As a junior government major, way back in 1986, I took his Elements of Political Theory class. The class of 75 students read (or at least, was asked to read) one book a week. Long before I would study them again as a Jesuit scholastic, I read for the first time Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas (among others) under Fr. Schall’s tutelage. His teaching approach was this: you don’t really “get” a book until you’ve read it a few times. So he wanted to introduce us to the great minds of Western philosophy as if to whet our appetites in some scholarly buffet. So convinced was he that the wisdom of the ages could speak powerfully to us today that he believed he only needed to introduce us to the texts to get a life of learning going.
It worked for me. Off I went to law school, where I learned under the Socratic method, the very pedagogy that Fr. Schall used in his classes. As a Jesuit scholastic, I became enamored again with the virtues as the ultimate measure of human character, one of Fr. Schall’s consistent themes. Now as a Jesuit priest and educator, I appreciate what Fr. Schall was getting at all those years: to encounter truth, beauty, and goodness is to encounter the divine. The classroom of philosophy could become sacred space if taught in the right way. For Fr. Schall, there was no division between his vocation as a philosopher and as a priest — both point to the divine.
So I invite you watch Fr. Schall’s Last Lecture at Georgetown, “The Final Gladness,” given in Georgetown’s Gaston Hall, Dec. 7, 2012. The lecture begins, after some introductions, at 14:00.