Fr. James Schall, Promoting Faithful Catholic Education - Cardinal Newman Society

Fr. James Schall, Promoting Faithful Catholic Education

God raises up men and women throughout the centuries to defend the Church and the Catholic faith against her adversaries. In our own time, one such man is Father James V. Schall, SJ, who has served the Church as a Catholic priest for over 60 years and, prior to his retirement in 2012, as a Catholic educator for 58 years. Yet even Fr. Schall’s retirement has been enormously fruitful in terms of his publications, including journal articles and books. In addition to the 30 books he published prior to his retirement, he has since published titles including Political Philosophy and Revelation: A Catholic Reading (CUA Press, 2013), Remembering Belloc (St. Augustine’s Press, 2014), Docilitas: On Being Taught (St. Augustine’s Press, 2016), Catholicism and Intelligence (Emmaus Road Publishing, 2017), On Islam: A Chronological Record, 2002-2018 (Ignatius Press, 2018), and The Reasons for the Seasons: Why Christians Celebrate What and When They Do (Sophia Institute Press, forthcoming 2018).

As one article explains, Fr. Schall has never “gone viral”—he has never advertised or promoted himself in the midst of all his teaching and publishing. As this article further describes, his humble beginnings in rural Iowa, with more time spent playing outside with his friends than reading, continued to influence him throughout his life. He told interviewer Joan Frawley Desmond about his daily routine around his 2012 retirement: “[it is] exactly like it has been all my life: Get up; say Mass and [the Divine] Office; go to meals; shoot the breeze; read some more; do what I have to do; and go to bed.” Fr. Schall has humbly and tirelessly given his life in service of the Church through steadily remaining faithful to her and to a life of virtue—this simple way of life enabling him to reach countless souls.

Fr. Schall further brought this humble way of life to the classroom, where he wholeheartedly devoted himself to Catholic liberal education. He recognized the problems that we face in the modern secular university, and never hesitated to argue that the Scriptures and philosophers, including Plato and Aristotle, are fundamental to education. He truly revealed himself as a model for other Catholic educators when he wrote the following in his book, Another Sort of Learning. “[I]f I am concerned about teaching or lecturing or grading, it is because I am most concerned about the highest things to which we are called, called by being attracted to them in our souls, which are themselves somehow open to what is beyond us.”[1] Indeed, Fr. Schall recognized that education is not simply about ensuring that the students are prepared for the job market or are adequately trained in a set of skills. Rather, he saw that education is about forming the whole person, a theme in one of his other more recent works, Docilitas: On Being Taught. Education concerns forming a human soul, and this is how Fr. Schall sought to educate his own students.

In an age when Catholic liberal education is underappreciated and overlooked because it does not follow the common milieu, Fr. Schall stands as a witness that such education is both attainable and essential for the modern student. It roots the students in history and does not ignore the transcendent value of their souls. We ought therefore to turn to Fr Schall’s writings to help us as we continue to fight for and support Catholic liberal education.

[1] James V. Schall, SJ, Another Sort of Learning (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988), 18.

VERONICA ARNTZ Veronica Arntz graduated with a Master of Arts in Theology from the Augustine Institute and will be pursuing her doctorate in historical theology from Marquette University in the fall of this year.

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