"Are you Father Schall? I think I'm signed up to sit in on your next class."
And thus was born our friendship. It was my junior year of high school, and I was visiting colleges. It was his forty-third year of teaching, and he was waiting for his next class to begin.
James V. Schall isn't just one of the most prolific Catholic writers in the country. He's a Jesuit priest with an award named after him. He's both wonderfully optimistic and hilariously cynical. He knows sports, literature, and political theory like the back of his hand. He is on a lifelong search for the perfect croissant. He's a favorite professor of Georgetown students.
But of course I had no clue I was introducing myself to one of Georgetown's legends. Heck, I was sure I had this college visitation thing down pat: attend the info session, go on a campus tour, and (time permitting), sit in on a class.
Fr. Schall arched an eyebrow as I explained my trip back east. "So you fly out here, maybe visit one school a day? How do you know if you like it or not?" I confidently explained my theory about getting a 'vibe' from the people at each place and getting to know the student body.
"So you meet one person you like and you decide you'll apply to the school. You meet one person you don't like and the school's out?" He began to smile. "Seems like a waste of your parents' money."
We talked for the next fifteen minutes or so before class started: it turned out he had grown up in the Bay Area as well, and my parents had attended his alma mater.
I sent him an email a few days later thanking him for letting me attend his class - I think I wrote that something he said had reminded me of Huxley's Brave New World. Fr. Schall jumped all over the reference and wrote back asking me for my opinion on various literary themes. And so we quickly became pen pals.
When he told me he would be in the Bay Area to attend a bash at Santa Clara University this summer, I insisted we meet up for lunch. Fr. Schall is such a fascinating person. Seeing him again was wonderful!
What mentors or teachers have shaped your life?