As I sit here, trying to think how to begin this year’s Christmas letter, I say to myself, “Yep, it’s been quite a year!” The sound of the mill is low, and if the Golden Bowl is not yet broken, it has more cracks in it than it did this time last year. Then, too, a few strands holding up the pully have snapped, although the rusty Buckley bucket hasn’t fallen yet into the well, but its days are numbered. “It is better to give than to receive” is the scriptural passage that keeps me consoled, during these pandemic days. Doesn’t that mean: If it comes, hand off the virus to someone else rather than keep it selfishly to yourself?
I’ll bet the year has been no different for you than mine has for me. Surprises, trip-ups, adjustments at every level. Fortunately, the College has met unexpected civil dictates with optimism, alterations, and adaptation. Fun-filled reactions mixed with a serious intent to cope with reality still seems the sensible way to deal most effectively. We putter on waiting for dreamed-about good old times to return.
Meanwhile, there are books to read. I just finished one, Vibrant Paradoxes, some eighty-plus short pieces by our local bishop, Robert Barron, a work that begs considered attention. I was enticed by the title of one of his essays: “America Needs You, Thomas Aquinas.” Of course, he was referring to St. Thomas, the philosopher and theologian, and his reasoning was easy to follow in these days of so many conflicting ideas.
The essay’s title, however, turned my thoughts to how much America needs academic institutions like Thomas Aquinas College, where the thinking of those who crafted Western Civilization is studied, leaving the students on their own to evaluate our ever-politically correct cultural society that seems to be moving each year further from common sense.
Unlike most so-called Catholic institutions of learning in our country today — universities, high schools, and even grade schools — Thomas Aquinas College is where Catholic faith and morals are put into daily practice along with athletics, drama, and dancing. The graduates do remarkably well in a variety of fields, including medicine, engineering, computer science, business and the military, and leave college with a light debt, compared to that of graduates from most universities. And, it is a serious but fun-loving place. I should know. I am still living in a men’s dorm, where the inmates interrupt hours of serious study with relaxing conversations and occasional periods of playful goofiness. (Yes, the dorms are separate: men live with biological-defined men; women with biological-defined women.)
All the students live on campus, where they mingle and eat together, situated in a remote, hilly area, home to a variety of animals — wildcats, deer, bears, cayotes, skunks, racoons — all of which are exempt from wearing masks, but they keep social distancing exceptionally well and appear indifferent to the on-campus statues of Christopher Columbus and Junipero Serra.
It’s been a great year for me. I thank God I have not yet had to file a claim with the state unemployment agency. I say Mass daily, hear confessions at all hours, baptize, sometimes confirm and witness marriages. All these events unriddle a provocative nudge. When will I come to the end of my pilgrimage and enter the presence of God? Of course, I have no idea, but pullies snap and antiquated Golden Bowls break. Thanks to the life I have had so far, I don’t think the transition will be great. But look, no more room!
May God bless you and all those close to you. Have a blessed Christmas and a faith-filled, joy-filled 2021, and please pray for me here at TAC and for my apostolate among the students and personnel. I assure you I shall do the same for you and your apostolate there where God has placed you, to bring peace and joy to those you encounter on a daily basis.
Rev. Cornelius M. Buckley, S.J.
Thomas Aquinas College