On Friday, December 7th, Father James V. Schall, S.J. delivered his last lecture at Georgetown University entitled “The Final Gladness.” Father Schall delivered his lecture to a packed house of friends, colleagues, and students in Gaston Hall. After 34 years of teaching in the Government department at Georgetown, Father Schall is retiring to a Jesuit community in Los Gatos, California.
Professor Joshua Mitchell introduced Father Schall. He remarked on the unique quality of Father Schall’s teaching, something that all of his students have been fortunate enough to experience. Mitchell quoted Socrates saying, “The true educator knows that in order for students from fashionable opinions to knowledge, something more mysterious than mere teaching must occur.” Father Schall, like Socrates, never became frustrated with a student who couldn’t understand his teachings. He guided students and tried to open their minds.
Father Schall began his lecture with a question many of his students have heard before – when did Aristotle die? 322 B.C. for those who didn’t have it memorized. He moved on to address the question facing a professor at the end of his teaching – what do you finally have to say about what is? For Father Schall one of the most important lessons was the proper meaning and practice of friendship, specifically how it is gained, and how it is lost. Father Schall explains, “If we get that wrong we get life wrong.”
He continued on to say, “I want each student, on leaving here, to have in his own soul real education is not about current events, as you’ve heard me say a thousand times, or jobs, but about those permanent things of the human spirit, things found best, for most of us, in the obscure ancients like Plato and Aristotle, Thucydides, Cicero, St. John, Augustine, and Aquinas.”
The Tocqueville forum sponsored Father Schall’s final lecture. Through the efforts of students, and external funding this lecture was made possible. This is truly a testament to his legacy and the impact he has made throughout his time at Georgetown.
He went on to address his students, the potential philosophers. He remarked, a professor most wants students to remember “what is true, and the search for it.” Above all he called for people to remember, “It is never right to do wrong, that death is not the worst evil, and ultimately our lives are about eternal life.”
Father Schall concluded by stating, “Human life ultimately is about meeting again, about love and friendship and serious joy, about a final home. So let us think of meeting again.” He offered his blessing and his gratitude. However, it is the Georgetown community that owes their blessings and gratitude to him. Father Schall’s legacy will live on at Georgetown, his lessons will endure with his students, and that will have to suffice until we meet again.
See Father Schall’s full lecture “The Final Gladness” Here
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