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Vol. XVI I

Winter 2012

special edition In Memoriam: John Stuart Schmitt, 1927-2012 John Schmitt was born in Norwalk, Connecticut to the late Carl F. and Gertrude (Lord) Schmitt. Upon return from service in the U.S. Navy, John obtained his B.A. and Master of Arts in Teaching History from Harvard and began his career as an educator. He taught in several schools including Millbrook School and Colorado Rocky Mountain School before founding Thomas More School in Harrisville, New Hampshire, serving as its Headmaster until it closed in 1971. From 1974-1979 he served on the faculty of Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California. In 1979 Mr. & Mrs. Schmitt were the principal founders of Trivium School in Lancaster. John served as Headmaster until 2000 and as President and Chairman of the Board of Trustees until 2011. Throughout his distinguished career, Mr. Schmitt was dedicated in faith to providing a classical Catholic education to young men and women. He was a devoted husband, father, and grandfather who most cherished time spent in the company of his loving family. Father Tom Schmitt gave the funeral homily for his uncle John. The Gospel text was Luke 24:13-16, 28-35, the story of Emmaus. It is a moment where the disciples, in

there confusion and suffering, began turn there hearts to the presence of the risen Christ. Here is a selection from the homily. Were not our hearts burning within us? These months and weeks, and especially these last days? Were not our hearts burning within us — on Wednesday, the Feast of Our Lady, the Queenship of Mary, marking the heavenly reward and crowning glory in Christ’s redemptive work. Julia, Sam and Jana, Bill, Stephanie, Clare, and Carl and Meg — along with Uncle Newbie, Carl — keeping vigil in prayer and song, along with Aunt Louise. Death, so terrible, became that day such a blessed, loving, grace-filled passage. With so many others having expressed respect, love and solidarity, those days of “passion” came to their culmination in a manner that truly reflected the Lord’s loving presence, thinly veiled. Jesus himself drew near and walked with them. He accompanied them. Jesus himself, as on the Road to Emmaus, drew near and walked with you. ‘We were hoping.’ The desolation of dashed hopes at (Continued on page 2)

John Schmitt at the Trivium School Benefit Dinner 2010.

John Schmitt’s copy of Rembrandtʹs The Storm on the Sea of Galilee hangs in the center hall.

the awful fact of death had depressed the two who walked away from Jerusalem. Jesus draws near and listens. “Oh, how foolish you are”—he admonishes—“how slow of heart to believe. . . Was it not necessary that the Christ would have so suffer and enter into his glory?” John believed; with his labored breathing, he said, “I believe.” We believe, and yet, we are foolish and slow of heart, are we not? A good death, the good death — by God’s grace — of a man strong and steady in faith, is not only a consolation, but a priceless gift and experience for us all. We grow strong, we know Christ’s mercy and God’s presence — not just as phrases of the Creed or propositions of doctrine, but also as facts of our lives, of our own experience. Great good comes from the death of a good and faithful man. John, we are grateful to you for your


life, your accomplishments and work — your witness to truth. Like Paul, you toiled and bore witness, in season and out; and poured out, too, like a libation, you finished well, keeping the faith and now facing the just judge and the crown of Christ’s victory. Stay with us, they said; for it is evening and the day is nearly over. Such a fine human sentiment; touched by such a presence, the Word of God himself, breaking open the Word of Scripture, bonds deeply the hearts of those disciples. “Stay with us,” also is the sentiment and desire not to lose a devoted husband, to lose your father, your grandfather. The flash in his eye, the timbre of his voice, that energetic, masculine, active and purposeful presence—“don’t leave us” is the impulse of hearts, even knowing the facts, even wanting him free from struggle and pain. Jesus, of course always does that, when we truly desire his way, his will and his grace. Then, after the Word, the Eucharistic action—unmistakable: taking bread, blessing, breaking and giving; just as at the Last Supper; just as it will be in the Church’s constant procession of Masses down through the ages; ‘they recognize Him in the breaking of the bread.’ John Schmitt treasured the Mass and valued it as the Sacrifice of Christ, efficacious and present. Now, as it has been, it is and will be effective on his behalf. Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way? The Lord’s presence was palpable as John lay dying. Louise and children, daughters and sons in law; brothers and sister, nephews and nieces, grandchildren, friends, colleagues. Who’s now going to fix the leaks, do the repairs and carpentry? Whence now the wit and humor—endless “Schmitt philosophizing?” God’s love and the gift of our faith is so magnificent, isn’t it? Our hearts are on fire with a love that has pursued us, walked along our difficult

paths and fed us on Word and saving Flesh. What more could we ask? Keep John Schmitt in your Masses and Prayers; that’s the way to love him ‘beyond the grave.’ We will see him again, in the New Jerusalem, our hearts burning within. When I was 14, I was a troubled kid from a working class neighborhood in the Bronx, John Schmitt, who had founded and was headmaster of a boarding school in New Hampshire, agreed to meet with me. I had been thrown out of my previous school, both for discipline problems and for failing just about everything. My family had no money. John gave me a two-year scholarship. I cannot tell you why. . . During my time at his school, I found myself and discovered a passion for books and writing. I have since won the Academy Award, the Tony, and the Pulitzer Prize. I would not have done these things without Mr. Schmitt’s intervention. I had a dream about John a few weeks ago. The atmosphere was good humored and relaxed. I explained myself to my old Headmaster. . . He laughed. I knew he accepted me. Yesterday, I found out John had passed away right about the time I had this dream. I thought how kind of him to tip his hat to me as he went on his way. God bless John Schmitt. Posted by John Patrick Shanley. (PhilbinComeau Funeral Home Book of Memories)

What follows is the Eulogy by Father Marc Crilly, O.S,B., from the Funeral Mass, August 25, 2012. The Schmitt family has asked me to say a few words at this moment. Of course I feel honored, but also overwhelmed. You see, it is a common sentiment that every death leaves a hole that can never be filled. John Schmitt’s death is closer to a chasm. And who can encapsulate a life that has left as gaping a hole as that? It isn’t just that he was supremely gifted; although he was supremely gifted. One day I was speaking with

Stephanie when she was, I’d say between twelve and fourteen, and I began asking about her father. Even though she was acting as coy and demure as one can expect from a girl that age, her love and admiration for her father shone through. I asked, Can he … sing? Mmhmm. Can he … write a book? Mmhmm. Can he … paint a picture? Mmhmm. Can he … fix the plumbing? Mmhmm. And so I inquired into one ability after another, growing ever more diverse, and got the same little Mmhmm from Stephanie every time. I knew she was being sincere, yet I couldn’t stump her, until I became about as starry-eyed over John Schmitt as his daughter was. That man can do everything! I thought. John was certainly a Renaissance man, but he wasn’t everywhere on the map. We all know where his main interest lay: in education; his own and others’. Someone might argue that if education was his forte, John didn’t go very (Continued on page 4)


John Schmitt writes at his desk at Thomas More School.

In the first year of Trivium School, 1979-1980, John Schmitt teaches in the Crispin Room.

Headmaster John Schmitt stands in front of the fireplace of the main room at Thomas More School.

far with it; a brilliant mind, a brilliant teacher, and where did he end up? On Langen Road in Lancaster. But John was not content to teach in a great university, forced into that university’s philosophical mold. He had his own philosophy of education, and if there was no institution of learning that conformed to his philosophy, then by golly he was going to found an institution of learning that would; even just a small, struggling school on Langen Road in Lancaster. Besides, John Schmitt wasn’t really cut out to be a university professor. I don’t mean that he wasn’t intellectual enough; he certainly was that. But he wasn’t the stereotypical professorial type. He was always teaching, but not as if in a classroom, even when he was in a classroom. He taught not as a professor teaches his pupils, but as a father teaches his children. A father doesn’t teach to impart just information or even just ideas to his children. A father teaches principally to


impart wisdom. John cared enough about his own family, about your families, about you and me, to impart to us all his wealth of wisdom. He did so because he didn’t feel he had a right to hold onto it for himself. After all, it wasn’t really his wisdom, but the Church’s wisdom, and as he received, so he felt obliged to share. Therein lay the secret to John’s teaching method. He taught as a father because he first received as a child. There was a childlike quality about John, even when he was being the father. How John could be at the same time both fatherly and childlike became especially evident to me ten years ago when I was first invited to deliver the homily at a Trivium graduation. I gave what I considered a respectable little talk to the graduates. Then after Mass was over, and I had received a few perfunctory compliments, I happened upon Mr. Schmitt. He pulled me aside and in his fatherly way brought to my attention one point in my homily that he felt needed correction. I had admonished the graduates never to lose their intellectual

curiosity. We do not speak of curiosity here, John said. We speak of wonder. Wonder; that is how a child looks on the world; with wonder. And that is how John Schmitt looked on the world; with wonder: wonder at the mystery of God’s creation; wonder at the mystery of Christ’s redemption; wonder at the mystery of the Spirit’s working within us; wonder at the glorious reward awaiting those who live and die in fidelity to the mystery that is God. You could hear that sense of wonder in his voice, you could see it in his eyes, even — perhaps especially — when he was in one of his teaching moments. As we sat at his feet, he was sitting at the feet of the Divine, marveling at the works of God. Ever since his retiring as Headmaster, we at the Abbey have seen John and Louise almost daily, as they became regulars at our 7:00 morning Mass, until sickness prevented it. The last time I saw John, I came to the house to bring him Communion. I came as his priest; as his father. Yet as soon as we sat down, the roles reversed. He began to teach, to explain the Thomistic principles that expose the fallacy of Obamacare. I was still carrying Christ on my person, and as fascinating as John’s critique was, I eventually had to remind him of my purpose in coming. Immediately I resumed the role of father, and he, child of God that he was, received his Lord from my hand with humility and gratitude. John’s beloved Louise was alone with him when he died; his beloved children were close by. He continued teaching them from his bed until the moment of his death, when he taught what was perhaps the greatest lesson of

his entire life. It was then that he taught you his children and us his children to die with grace, to die with the hope in the glory of God that can be ours, if we remain his faithful children. We pray for John, that Christ, the Son of God, overlook his faults and raise him to eternal sonship, to sit forever at the feet of God his loving Father, so to live in adoration of the Divine Wisdom now and forever.

The Trivium School Board of Trustees, at their November meeting, decided to establish a scholarship fund in honor of John Schmitt. The purpose is of the fund is to help students who would otherwise be unable to attend Trivium School. John Schmitt often recounted how Blessed Mother Teresa, said that there should always be a place at Trivium for students who cannot afford it. According to Carl Schmitt, now serving as the Board’s president, the scholarship will help carry on John Schmitt’s long dedication to helping to make affordable an excellent Catholic education. He added that the details about the scholarship are forthcoming. 5

John Schmitt cleaning the balcony railings in front of Trivium, circa 1990. He saw this work as an integral part of serving the School.

Trivium School Aborning John Schmitt put together these notes in preparation for a slide-show during the 25th Anniversary of Trivium School in 2004.

John Schmitt, in the early years.

First of all, I wish to speak briefly about the vision of Trivium School. Visions are inspired by a number of things, as you know. They donʹt always spring full blown like lovely Athena from the head of a Zeus. Most often there are seeds that take time to gestate and grow. So it has been with Trivium School. These seeds of vision are inspired in times of wondering about past experiences, by taking counsel and prayer. I here mention some of the particular sources of inspiration. 1) Family. My parents, a saintly mother and a remarkable father of ten children raised in the Great Depression — he was a Catholic painter, an aesthetic, Trinitarian, and original thinker; our own immediate family, a saintly wife, constant companion in all endeavors and the gifted blessings of ten children. 2) Vittorino da Feltre. Italian Renaissance man and Christian humanist and educator. 3) Thomas More School founded in 1959 that never really coalesced but gave many daily forms and traditions that Trivium now has. 4) Dorothy Sayers’ oration at Oxford. Sometime in the 60ʹs I read her vision6

ary talk entitled “The Lost Tools of Learning.” 5) Thomas Aquinas College, where, as a tutor for five years, my education really began, especially in the universal value of the classical liberal arts. 6) Vatican IIʹs call for the laity to step forward as laymen and women to meet the world. 7) And finally the One, Holy, Roman, Catholic and Apostolic Church; and here, three inspirations: that summit of all sacramental grace, the Holy Eucharist; its singular marks; and the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, whose pontificate has been contemporaneous with Triviumʹs existence. The seeds were there. Yet all institutions require a number of factors: membership, constitution, purpose, means and leadership. These five factors were all there in the winter of 1979 when a good friend, Raymond Kelly, wrote to us in California that the time had come to educate our own children. His brother, Robert, had located a beautiful site. We did not follow the American plan. We really did not have adequate means, but we had more than the equivalent in prayer and hard work. On Saint Crispinʹs Day, in October of 1979, Trivium School was born. We soon dedicated Trivium to Our Lady Mother of God and Seat of Wisdom, Who is the Christ. Through the year Trivium has developed certain marks which distinguish it specifically. The first is its oneness — oneness in leadership. The offices of headmaster and president were so designed that boards and committees played a secondary role. Oneness in its “trinally” integrated program of the seven liberal arts, opening the pathways to truth; the seven fine arts providing studios in making and performing the beautiful, and the seven sacraments those prime channels of grace, to be lived daily by each according to his or her station in life, develop-

ing the good life of the person and the School. The second mark is that the School is set apart. Set apart from what? Set apart from the world with its enslavements of fashion, passion, and secular mores. This may be seen symbolized in the Schoolʹs dress code and the fact that we are some 800 feet from the public road! The Third mark is universality. By this I mean that we study those basic and necessary principles that all men should be habituated in. For instance, the liberal arts. Everybody has to some degree something of the liberal arts, whether he knows it or not; but not everybody is schooled and habituated in those tools of learning regarding truths that universally transcend time and place. The liberal arts open the wondering and lively mind to philosophy, the handmaid of theology and maturity. Our studies are conducted sub ordine deorum rather than sub ordine humanorum. The fourth mark is the Classical and Catholic Tradition. We stand on the shoulders, as it were, of those great men and women of the past, saints and scholars, warriors and artists, founding fathers and poets. Yes, we teach those eternal verities that come down to us from the apostles of our faith and the great thinkers of our Western Heritage, which is Graeco-Roman and JudeoChristian. The first twenty years were years of gradual development. The most significant event was that Our Lord came to live with us under the same roof in 1991. Then in 1999 the principal found-

John Schmitt stands between Father William Rutler and his wife Louise Schmitt at the Trivium Commencement in 1999.

ers stepped down and a new generations stepped up as the new headmaster was appointed. The School Corporation was able to purchase the property, and the Arts and Athletic Building was constructed. Finally, what is it that the School does? Trivium School graduates young ladies and gentlemen informed and practiced in the pathways of learning what is truly good, true and beautiful. Our leadership has been in service, service not only to our students, but also to their families, the larger community, the Church and to God. We have been truly blessed.


John Schmitt directs a student, Bridgette Nelson, in “Trivium Pursuits” during a Saint Crispinʹs Day Celebration.

od has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission - I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be a preacher of Truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling. Therefore, my God, I will put myself without reserve into your hands. What have I in heaven, and apart from you what do I want upon earth? My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the God of my heart. Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman The Deposition of Christ by Carl Schmitt

Trivium School 471 Langen Road Lancaster, MA 01523

Scripta Winter 2012  

Trivium School newsletter, Trivium Scripta

Scripta Winter 2012  

Trivium School newsletter, Trivium Scripta