The Value of a Last Lecture

Today I am remembering Fr. James V. Schall – Jesuit priest, longtime professor of political philosophy at Georgetown University, and the author of more than thirty books. He died around this time two years ago.

I had heard that he had given a Last Lecture at Georgetown entitled “The Final Gladness,” but I only listened to it for my first time this evening.

Here is the video of the lecture and below are some highlights in summary as well as some brief thoughts on the value of a last lecture.

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Will loss enhance appreciation?

I recently asked a young woman about what ways she has found to profit from the situation of living during a pandemic.

Her immediate answer was that she came to truly value attending church because this is something that had been taken away during to the periods of lockdown. Prior to the pandemic, she would often skip church because of her erratic work hours, but once she had experienced the loss of this possibility that was not on her own terms, she resolved to make church attendance, when possible again, a non-negotiable commitment in her life.

This is a testament that we value that which costs us.

If something costs us nothing, it is natural to expect that we will not value it highly.

And so I am also reminded of the ardour with which persecuted Christians attend church.

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Do you have something you need to do?

This evening I heard a physician, who is also a Roman Catholic deacon, share a story about a dying woman to whom he would bring Communion.

The 50-year-old woman had uterine cancer that had metastasized into her spine and, understanding the gravity of her condition, he found himself surprised that she was still alive each time he went to visit her.

Eventually, he decided to ask her, “Do you have something you need to do?”

This question invited an response and she answered, “Yes, I do. I need to become a Canadian citizen.”

It turns out that this woman was very close to finalizing her citizenship and needed to do so in order for her children to receive their citizenship and avoid deportation back to Hong Kong.

On hearing this, the physician-deacon phoned a citizenship judge friend of his and explained the situation. When the citizenship judge heard the request, he agreed to meet the woman the next day so that she could swear the oath.

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A State Funeral as Civic Education

Winston Churchill died on this date in 1965, and for the first time I watched video footage from his funeral.

I was fascinated to learn that preparations for his eventual funeral began 12 years before his death and had a code name. The planning was initiated after Churchill suffered a serious stroke.

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