THE LAST LECTURE
In the current Seton schedule there is nothing more dreaded than “Wednesday without Assembly”. School gets out at 3:00 on Wednesday to accommodate for the monthly Holy Hour and any assemblies that there are. Many times mid-week there is an assembly which means that classes come out about the same length as Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. (Mondays are always short classes because of Mass at All Saints.) But when there is neither Holy Hour nor assembly, then Wednesday classes are the longest of the week. Each is longer only by a few minutes, but for some reason they seem eternally long.
Partially in response to make “Wednesdays without Assembly” most rare, one of the newer teachers, Mr. See, a graduate of Steubenville, proposed that teachers give what he called “their last lecture”. It’s a great idea; here’s what it means.
If a teacher was only going to be able to give one more lecture in his life, what would that lecture be? Each teacher at Seton was asked to think about his or her answer to that question and to prepare such a lecture. Then throughout the school year, some teachers would be given the chance to give that very lecture for a Wednesday assembly. I think the question of one’s last lecture is good for every mother and father to think about. Really, it’s a good question for all of us to give some thought to.
We have inspiring Seton-examples. First, our Patroness: Mother Seton’s dying words were only five words, but they were a tremendous lecture, an admonition in which one could see the beauty of this convert’s heart. “Be children of the Church,” she said. Within those five words we find docility, lowliness and faithfulness. We see that Mother Seton was teaching all her nuns as she left them that their true Mother is the Church, and she was grateful to be counted among Her children as she looked at Holy Mother Church’s Bridegroom from her death bed.
We have the example of Colonel Pennefather when he found out that the cancer he had gave him only a short time to live. One of his first visitors after he did find out was Father Vander Woude who told him to “use it”, by which he meant that Colonel P should take this opportunity given him to make an impact on those he would see in his dying days. Colonel P particularized Father VW’s advice by teaching “Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence” and “Divine Mercy” throughout his final days to a steady stream of visitors, young and old.
I think of Mrs. Jones whose birthday is today as I write. Her final lecture was one of fearlessness because she knew dying was not about counting up her good works in life, but about the mercy of her Savior. She was asked by Father Hudgins if she was afraid to die. She said that she was not because she knew that one drop of Jesus’ blood was enough to prepare her for heaven. And in God’s good Providence, Father Hudgins was able to be at her bedside to give her a single drop of the Precious Blood as her Holy Viaticum.
Mrs. Aker’s final lecture to all was a paean of joy within the suffering she was undergoing. The words of Psalm 90 were ones that she quoted, “Fill us at daybreak with your love, that all our days we may sing for joy.”
Then there is the wordless lecture that Mr. Vander Woude gave to us three years ago on September 8th. What wisdom and what strength we learn from the action that says, “I consider myself the least” so that Mr. VW was ready to give his life for his son without hesitation.
What strikes me about these examples is that each of their final lectures was not something contrived as death approached. Their final lectures were testaments of their lives.
One’s final lecture can only ring true, can only be worth listening to only if it is a product of the life that preceded it. That’s why it’s very good for us to consider the question of our final lecture.
May Mother Seton and her faithful sons and daughters of Seton School pray for us that this day and every day prepares us for our final lecture.
Jezu, ufam Tobie.