Saturday, December 01, 2012

Honour is flashed off exploit, so we say.

I rarely post strictly 'intramural' items on this blog, but here is some local Jesuit news that I'd like to share. This past Wednesday, a reception was held at Regis College to honor Father Michael Shields, S.J. on the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood and the completion of thirty-two years of full-time work at the Lonergan Research Institute at Regis; you can see Father Shields at the center of the above photo, plate in hand, offering his thanks to the assembled crowd. Serving very ably as the Institute's librarian for almost three decades, Father Shields has also undertaken the monumental task of translating Bernard Lonergan's numerous Latin works into English, helping to make many previously unpublished texts by one of the great philosopher-theologians of the twentieth century accessible to a broader scholarly audience. By his own estimate, Father Shields has rendered 1.2 million Latin words into 1.7 million English ones - a sign, he says, that Latin possesses a greater economy of expression than English. Though he has begun what he calls his "semi-retirement," Father Shields will continue to work at the Lonergan Research Institute on a part-time basis and intends to devote some of his newfound free time to other scholarly projects - including an article on Lonergan's use of the Latin language, a topic about which this veteran translator can write with unparalleled authority.

I mention Father Shields here in part because he is a good Jesuit, an outstanding gentleman, and a fine scholar worthy of recognition. I also mention him because it occurred to me while attending the reception in his honor that Michael Shields is an example of the sort of Jesuit whose witness nurtured my vocation to the Society of Jesus. I never met Father Shields before I came to Toronto, but I knew Jesuits like him when I was an undergraduate at Georgetown: erudite yet self-effacing scholars who united the life of the mind and the life of the spirit, finding God in lives dedicated to the pursuit and increase of human knowledge. The words that Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote of St. Alphonsus Rodriguez apply just as well to the many Jesuit scholars who, like Father Shields, spent many years working quietly in archives and libraries to produce academic work of enduring value. Even as an undergrad, I believe that I already recognized the Jesuit scholar's life as poignant yet ultimately heroic; I saw this as a way of being in the world that attracted relatively little public notice yet helped to further the great intellectual mission of the Society of Jesus. The Benedictine scholar Jean Leclercq once wrote a book on medieval monasticism called The Love of Learning and the Desire for God, but I can say that the conviction that the same two traits could also be found in the Society of Jesus helped to bring me where I am today. I am grateful to all those whose good example has helped me to remain firm in that conviction, including Father Michael Shields. As I commend Father Shields on his fifty years of priestly ministry and his thirty-two years at the Lonergan Research Institute, I pray that his example may inspire others as well. AMDG.


At 12/01/2012 11:03 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life... Paul tells the Thessalonians.

I enjoyed the image of all those Latin and English words piling up around Fr. Shields, but even more the thought of what can be done in perseverance and joy.

May all be well at the end of term....

At 12/01/2012 12:41 PM, Blogger Lynda said...

Thank you for your thoughtful tribute to the work of Fr. Shields. It was a real privilege to be present at the reception of such a humble and quiet servant of our Lord. We all learn so much about how to live from people like Fr. Shields.


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