May 18, 2010: Statue of St. Ignatius Loyola, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA
That Monday took on something of a somber tone after hearing via facebook from an old classmate of mine that one of our professors, a Jesuit priest by the name of Joseph Flanagan, had passed away at the age of 83, and that calling hours were that night. I promptly changed my plans, and spent the remaining part of the day in subdued, sometimes melancholy, reflection. As one of the first people to write a dissertation on the work of his fellow Jesuit, a philosopher, theologian, and economist Bernard Lonergan, SJ, Fr. Flanagan spent over four decades at Boston College’s philosophy department. While there, he chaired the department, helped create a doctoral program that has had figures such as Gadamer and Habermas as professors, created celebrated undergraduate programs, and headed the Lonergan Institute.
When I first started at Boston College twelve years ago as a Lonergan Masters Degree scholar, he guided me through Lonergan’s 700-plus page opus “Insight”, an experience that had taught me how to read more deeply. More importantly, though, Fr. Flanagan’s course helped cultivate an attitude that encouraged his students to be on the lookout for wonder when it struck.
As director of the Lonergan Institute at Boston College, his work helped set up the very scholarship that paid the tuition of a rather lost and clueless 22-year old having just arrived from Los Angeles, so I owe my arrival to Boston twelve years ago, in part, to his efforts. It’s easy say that Fr. Flanagan had assumed a rather influential hand in my life. So when I went to his vigil, it was important to give thanks and pay my respects.
Afterwards, I took a very short stroll around the Chestnut Hill campus, in part to bid farewell to the place, but to also find a picture. And the picture found me, with the sculpted statue of the Jesuits’ founder, St. Ignatius Loyola, which was never there during my time as a student, staring out into the rainy night with equal measures of determination and suffering.
A number of years on, the course of my intellectual interests and personal concerns has changed dramatically. But it’s undeniable that the education I received from Jesuit institutions have influenced my subjectivity, in many ways. Having returned to Boston College (a place which I have held with mixed emotions for many years) on Monday was a goodbye of sorts: to that school, to that prolonged chapter in my educational and personal development, and to Fr. Flanagan himself. It also helped me realize in much more vivid relief the change that is taking place by heading to Berkeley in August. Frankly, it’s very exciting.