Fr. James Schall, S.J., once paused in the middle of class and exclaimed, “I want to move your souls!” I think this caught everyone off guard, but the man knew that his role as a Jesuit pedagogue was to draw our hearts and minds toward the deepest truths of human existence. Yes, he taught us about the greatest theologians and philosophers Western civilization has to offer, but more conclusively, he wanted his students to know that while in the classroom, we were striving for the salvation of our souls. Fr. Schall intended that we forge ourselves into fundamentally good human beings, to learn good from evil, to learn how to sit and think and contemplate the order of things, to learn how it is that the divine labors within the depths of our souls.

More poignantly, Fr. Schall once told us that his vocation as a teacher was to make it so that one day we would no longer need him. He went on to say that he knew the vast majority of us would leave his life permanently. Fr. Schall knew that he was planting seeds in our lives whose fruition he would not see. Tears welled up in my eyes as he openly acknowledged this bittersweet truth.

And now I find myself in Fr. Schall’s role, trying to move the hearts and souls of my students, trying to come to grips with the fact that the teenagers in whom I find my meaning will one day be absent from my classroom. Ultimately, this legendary Jesuit taught me that all I can really do is love and pray for my students.

Know this much, Fr. Schall: I will always need you because you taught me what sort of man and what sort of teacher I want to be. Pray for me.

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