GUEST COLUMN
The Way Jesuits Used to Be

October 1995By P.M. Aliazzi

P.M. Aliazzi is the Director of the Wean Research Library, at University School, a prep school in suburban Cleveland.

What do you say to a white-haired old man in a black "bathrobe" toting a matching briefcase? "Court's in session in the cabana, Your Honor"? It was the first time I had ever seen a Jesuit, and I was both spooked and fascinated. I was used to kindly, comfortable parish priests in suits, but this guy -- these guys -- were something different: brisk, no-nonsense, "in-your-face" drill sergeants in insignia-free uniforms and far from slow to say that they had been given charge of some terribly unpromising raw recruits. Soon there'd be much more to worry about than how that wrap-around, buttonless, zipperless cassock stayed put; there was no time for idleness -- or student wisecracks -- in the Latin class of Arthur Walter, S.J.

From the second day until the end of the year, you began by passing forward your homework, in ink with no scratch-outs, never in pencil or without the obligatory heading of name, date, and A.M.D.G. (ad maiorem Dei gloriam, for the greater glory of God). Into the aged briefcase it went, exercises in Latin to English, English to Latin. From the third day on, and without fail, you came to class and found the previous night's work waiting for you face down on the desk every error (down to vowel length marks) corrected in a meticulous hand, and a percentage grade written at the top. He did that every day, for five classes of 35 to 40 students each, for I never learned how many years, in a demonstration of dedication hard to match apart from Inspector Javert in Les Miserables.

There was one escape, however. It was called an "exemption," and you earned one by besting the kids in your row in the sudden oral quizzes that were more like a cross between a gladiatorial show and a police line-up, with Father as Emperor Joe Friday seeking "just the facts" and determined to get them. After he chose a timekeeper from among the (temporary) spectators, the first group of combatants slunk forward, each to be participially probed, declensionally decimated, and generally found wanting -- within 10 seconds:

"That they may have been praised," came the pitch.

"Huh?" And down went Casey at the bat.

"Was that 'praised'?" stalled another.


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Back to October 1995 Issue

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It is my fervant hope that the order as a whole will again become the leaders of Our Holy Mother Church. Perhaps after the next General is elected. Those jesuits I have known in the military and since, have left their mark upon me as well. The Loyola book sits right next to my Bible and The Art of War!
A.M.D.G.
Michael Walsh
LCDR (SEAL), USN, (ret)
Posted by: seawolfman
May 18, 2006 10:06 AM EDT
Boy! Does that bring back memories! Whew! Posted by: sgraessle
May 18, 2006 12:21 PM EDT
The True Soldiers of God will return.
Deo gratias
Posted by: Philip Faber
May 19, 2006 03:24 AM EDT
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