The blog entry for last weekend completed eight years of twice-weekly postings under the title “Lessons from Loyola Hall”. It seems like only yesterday that I was explaining, in the first posting, the rationale behind this experiment in social media: I was carrying on Jim Skerl’s hope of staying in contact with our students after they graduated, and of helping them to live as Catholic men, husbands and fathers, in a world often dismissive of and hostile to the Gospel.
As I pass the torch of this work to my great friend and colleague Jim Brennan ’85, I hope that I have come close to hitting the mark that Jim Skerl ’74 would have hit had he lived long enough to be the author of these Lessons.
For me, this has been an incredible journey, and one that, forty-two years ago, when I began my teaching career, I could never have envisioned. Neither the word “blog” nor its precursor, “weblog,” existed, and the school was years away from owning any personal computers. Today, I could be typing this on my phone (of all things), and heck, I could be in Zanzibar, for all you know.
But I am not. I am in the Tower of the Main Building, looking out at a hazy skyline above Lake Erie in one direction and the century-old facade of Loyola Hall in the other.
My classroom in Loyola Hall is in the midst of a demolition that will transform it into a mathematics “learning space” for the next generation of Wildcats. My temporary classroom on the second floor of the Main Building is full of boxes to unpack in August, and my “real” classroom does not yet exist, but I am told that it will be ready for me at the beginning of the new calendar year.
That new room will be on the first floor of the Main Building, down the hall from the offices of our school administrators. I will be next to Jim Brennan, and both rooms will overlook the Marian Mall, a beautiful and tranquil space honoring Our Lady and two of her most faithful servants, Mike Pennock ’64 and Jim Skerl. When people talk of rewards greater than money, I am certain that this is exactly what they are talking about.
Other such rewards have been the many heartfelt written and spoken words that people have shared with me over these past eight years. Writing is a solitary business, and hitting send on a blog entry does not guarantee readers. There have been a number of people who have communicated to me that what I have written has resonated with them, and I wish I could name them all here but space - and the great fear that I would leave someone off the list - prohibits me from doing so. If you are reading this, you know who you are, and thank you.
Thanks are also due to those in that administrative hallway who both took a chance that this could be a worthwhile endeavor and have given me tremendous support throughout the eight-year run of Lessons. Principal Dan Bradesca ’88, Dan Malone ’00 from Advancement, and Michaela Malone (no relation) from Communications met with me in the spring of 2015, and after hearing my pitch, they jumped on board and gave me the greenest of green lights. Since then, I have worked with a second principal, Anthony Fior ’02, and a series of editors from Communications: Angela O’Donnell, Connor Walters ’09, Annie Brennan, and now Kristin Nauman. I owe all of these incomparable colleagues a huge debt of gratitude for their work behind the scenes and their loyalty to me and to the blog.
Finally, I want to thank my wife, Ann, for her constant support and her sage advice throughout the past eight years. In the early days, she was my primary editor and helped me to become both a better writer and a better self-editor. She has also demonstrated a saintly amount of patience as I used a lot of family time - including while on vacations - to complete my twice-weekly deadlines. She was unconditional in her support for this work, even when my promises of “five more minutes” often meant another hour or two. Without her, this blog would not have lasted eight postings, let alone eight years.
So, now my attention will turn to the editing of the previous 832 blogs, with the goal of publishing them in several volumes over the next couple of years. There will also be a weekly installment of what will be called “Lessons from the Archives” - past postings of Sunday blogs synched to the three-year liturgical cycle of readings. An audio feature will be added for those who might enjoy the advantages of listening rather than reading each weekend’s posting.
The three great transcendentals of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, are aspects of, as well as paths to, God. This God Who is Love became one of us and revealed Himself in the Son as the Logos, Tao, and Way. He lives with us now as the Corpus Mysticum - the Mystical Body which is both the Eucharist and the Church. Through this Corpus Mysticum, we are called to follow Jesus, to carry our crosses to Calvary, and to do so with uncompromising self-giving love.
I humbly hope that what I have written over these past eight years has shone a little light on these often-forgotten or ignored essentials of our Faith. I pray that each person who has taken the time to read a Lesson or two has enriched their life in some small way and has maybe even felt God’s love when it was most needed.
As a way of saying goodbye, I would like to conclude with a rather lengthy quote from - no shock - The Little Prince. May this stand as my last Lesson from Loyola Hall [although it is, in truth, a lesson from Saint-Exupery and not me, but at least I am now sitting in the Companions Center in Loyola Hall - so it really is from Loyola Hall].
And a brilliantly lighted express train shook the switchman’s cabin as it rushed by with a roar like thunder.
“They are in a great hurry,” said the little prince. “What are they looking for?”
“Not even the locomotive engineer knows that,” said the switchman.
And a second brilliantly lighted express thundered by, in the opposite direction.
“Are they coming back already?” demanded the little prince.
“These are not the same ones,” said the switchman. “It is an exchange.”
“Were they not satisfied where they were?” asked the little prince.
“No one is ever satisfied where he is,” said the switchman.
And they heard the roaring thunder of a third brilliantly lighted express.
“Are they pursuing the first travelers?” demanded the little prince.
“They are pursuing nothing at all,” said the switchman. “They are asleep in there, or if they are not asleep they are yawning. Only the children are flattening their noses against the windowpanes.”
“Only the children know what they are looking for,” said the little prince. “They waste their time over a rag doll and it becomes very important to them; and if anybody takes it away from them, they cry …”
“They are lucky,” the switchman said.