The Intellectual Life: Fr. Schall's Rough, Wise Voice Praises the Book by A.G. Sertillanges

Earlier this week, I listened to a podcast from the Art of Manliness featuring Fr. James Schall.

My Introduction to Fr. Schall: A Student's Guide to Liberal Learning

Fr. Schall has been an influence in my life ever since I read his little book A Student's Guide to Liberal Learning in college. My friend had a copy, and I have a memory of reading it while puttering around San Francisco in his Volkswagen Rabbit.

Fr. Schall on the Accumulation of Good Books

One of the reasons I loved Fr. Schall's book, and Fr. Schall himself, was that he seemed to justify one of my obsessions: the accumulation of books. His wise counsel — that every person should build a personal library of good books — made me feel that my amor librorum, even if excessive, wasn't wholly unnatural.

(One of the other reasons I loved Fr Schall from the beginning: his admiration for Samuel Johnson. But that's a subject for another post.)

Fr. Schall, Louis L'Amour, and the Making of Book Lists

The next major Schall influence in my life came from his book The Life of the Mind.

In that book, Schall talks about the western writer Louis L'Amour and his self-education through frequent, sustained reading. Fr. Schall recommends L'Amour's book The Education of a Wandering Man.

Fr. Schall also discusses the habit of making lists of books. Fr. Schall points out that L'Amour kept long lists of books that he'd read in a given year. It's true. Thanks to Schall, I read L'Amour's book, and L'Amour lists his books.

And both Fr. Schall's and L'Amour's listing habits share some responsibility for Hanson's Book Lists page.

Fr. Schall Points to Sertillanges and The Intellectual Life

In the Art of Manliness podcast, the interviewer asks Fr. Schall about a good place to start for anyone seeking to cultivate a life of the mind.

Fr. Schall recommends a book by the French Dominican A.G. Sertillanges: The Intellectual Life.

That book — The Intellectual Life — was first introduced to me in college. And since reading it as a twenty-two-year old, I've returned to it several times. My copy is now heavily annotated. (I went nuts in the margins with my new .3 mm lead Pentel GraphGear 500 Automatic Drafting Pencil back in 2012).

The Intellectual Life: A Book to Reflect On

I'm glad that the Art of Manliness podcast) has come out, and that it came out when it did.

Here's why:

  1. Making Fr. Schall More Widely Known: A wide audience deserves to know about Fr. Schall.
    • He is a good teacher and a warm, friendly, inviting figure for anyone new to "the life of the mind." And I hope that the AoM listeners hear in his podcasted talk something that stirs them to go and read Joseph Pieper's Leisure: The Basis of Culture. It could be transformative.
  2. Stirring Me to Start a Series of Posts: One of the items on my Ideas for Articles list (stored in my trust @GTD Docs folder) is Sertillanges - the intellectual life.
    • My note means that I wanted to start writing a series of blog posts about The Intellectual Life.
    • It's a book that has been deeply influential in my own self-formation. I want to write at lenghth about it, because it might profit others who either (a) don't know about it or (b) might not be inclined to read it without an introduction or explanation.
    • And in writing about it, I get the privilege of thinking about it more deeply. For as Fr. Schall said in the interview: "The writing is the thinking."

Check Back at Just a Catholic Family for a Series of Posts on The Intellectual Life

Hearing Fr. Schall's voice — rough with age, but warm with life and light — was the prompt I needed to start my series on The Intellectual Life. Fr. Schall shared his mature enthusiasm for books that had formed him and helped him.

So with Fr. Schall as a model, I will share in a series of posts my own enthusiasm for a book that I think ought to be read by more people: The Intellectual Life by A.G. Sertillanges, O.P.

So check back tomorrow for the first post in the series.