Loyola Academy, Wilmette, Illinois
March 21, 1962
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Owens:
I regret to inform you that your son has been referred to my office for failure to conform to a very significant school regulation. He has been guilty of levity during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which is offered for the boys each day at noon. Needless to say, the school administration can, on occasion, look lightly upon levity in the classroom but it will never tolerate such carelessness in Chapel during the Sacrifice of the Mass.
Such an offense is considered quite serious. The only thing that saves your son from a suspension from school on this occasion is his ignorance and immaturity. Please impress upon him the seriousness of such an act of disrespect to the Blessed Sacrament.
Should there be any further occurrence of such childishness, a suspension will follow immediately.
(Rev.) John P. Beall, S.J.
Attachment. This is the original letter, as typed by Mrs. Serwich. She was Fr. Beall's secretary. I always liked her.
The Letter. The letter itself is a model of composition. It is concise and coherent, explaining a situation and leading to a conclusion.
It is curious to read that the student was saved by his immaturity and ignorance. This might seem like an accusation, but it is merely the statement of a fact. The young man was a sophomore in high school, age 15. Therefore, like most of the students in his class, he was immature and ignorant.
It was the task of the Jesuit order to solve that problem. It was expected that after four years of their training the student would be mature and a bit wiser.
There is a lack of moral judgment in the conclusion. The student will be suspended for his behavior if it happens again, but not punished by God. The state of his soul is not brought into question, only his behavior. What the student thinks or believes is between him and God. How he behaves in chapel is the concern of the Jesuits.
They were good at making these distinctions.
I was thinking -- we have a new Pope and Francis is a Jesuiit, just like Fr. Beall, only with a brighter smile. I should apply for a pardon -- and a plenary indulgence, why not?
As I said, this letter is a model of composition with no wasted words. It was the Jesuits who taught me how to write. I was not a model student. I was a frequent visitor to Fr. Beall's office. Mrs. Serwich was at her desk in the outer office and she had a big smile for me, kind of a gallows humor, as she escorted me to the inner office for a continued dialog with the man himself. And I always liked him -- that's the funny thing. It was other faculty members whom I hated or resented.
This was Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Illinois, a leafy suburb of Chicago. The all male school had 1,600 students, 400 in each class. I was 15 and a sophomore.
I can't for the life of me remember what it was that I did to generate this letter, but it was like the student's medal of honor to show my mom and dad, and to keep in my archives. It was personal. It was soulful.
Other news. Spring is here in southern California and the wildflower blossoms are incredible. The book I wrote might have a publisher -- but it's not good to talk about this right now. Laurie and I are driving to Arizona in a few days, to visit friends and have fun for a few days. Gardening work has been steady. I have five steady customers with choice gardens, so that is good. My daughter Eva sent me a smiling photo of herself with a friend on the Bainbridge Island ferry in Seattle. My son Eugene works as a librarian in Los Angeles. He was a twenty-minute walk home from the bus after work, and that is when he is liable to call me and we catch up on things.
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