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I was born, I'm currently living, and will eventually die. After that I face my judgment, and we'll talk then.


Friday, August 05, 2011

Warren H. Carroll

This post should have been posted two weeks ago. It wasn't. But better late than never, I suppose.

One of my great heroes was a simple man, externally nothing spectacular. Yet he changed my life, and I am who I am today because of his influence. I am speaking of Dr. Warren H. Carroll, founder of Christendom College, which I attended for my undergraduate and graduate work. Carroll is best known for his historical books. Any Google search of his name will return infinite booksellers who offer to another customer some of the best works of historical scholarship in 20th century Catholicism.

He died on July 17. He was 79, survived by his wife Anne, also known for her works of history.

His legacy remains the alumni of Christendom and his works of history. Search his name, if you aren't familiar with him. Read his works, or read some articles you find by him, or articles about him.

He was a history maker in the truest sense of the word.

Barring some major setback, like a rejection by the academic board, I intend to write my dissertation on this great man and how he affected history.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me post this first.

Alumni of Christendom were asked to write some memories of Dr. Carroll, which would be included in a book for Mrs. Carroll. I took a crack at it, hoping it wouldn't come out too prideful, or too much about me. That was part of the problem with remembering Dr. Carroll. He would always deflect someone else as the center of attention.

But I'm getting sidetracked. Here's what I sent in as my memories.

I never had Dr. Carroll as a professor, but I still had him as a teacher. My Junior year saw Dr. Carroll's return to campus to give monthly lectures. I sat in the overcrowded Chapel Crypt with what seemed like most of campus, absorbing like sponges Dr. Carroll's account of Malta and its staunch defense against attackers, be they Turks or Nazis. He mentioned how he had hoped to write a history of Malta, even in his youth, but he never had a chance. He mentioned that he still wanted to write it, but that he was getting old and was unsure if he would be able to write the volume. He then charged the history majors in the room to do what he not might have time left to do. It was a jarring thought, a world without Dr. Carroll. I had just begun to know him, barely, in reading his works for school. I would know him a little better over the next year, but nowhere near the intimacy that others could claim. At the same time, Dr. Carroll made you feel like you were important, that he knew you well. This was all in the first moment of meeting him.

One of the features of Dr. Carroll lectures was his attendance at dinner immediately following the talk. He would sit at a table near the entrance and students would come and talk with him. Some would sit with him, conversing on anything. He would linger and talk and sign books when he was finished eating. His reaction to signing books wasn't a irritated "who do I make this out to" attitude. He would ask the person if they had read the book, did they like it, etc. He livened up when he signed his favorite book (The Guillotine and the Cross) and even made a sort of joke when I asked him to sign a copy of Seventy Years of the Communist Revolution (the Commie Rev book that was outdated). "You do know this is out of date," he said, smiling a little.

The greatest memory I have of Dr. Carroll was through the Teacher Apprentice Practicum. I did my Apprenticeship at Seton in Manassas, and had the honor of student teaching under Mrs. Carroll in her World History class. For the first few days, I would sit in the back of the room and observe Mrs. Carroll's teaching. It was in the morning, second or third period of the day. About five minutes into the class, in through the door came Dr. Carroll, carefully walking over to the arm chair set up in the front of the room, where he would sit during his wife's class. As Mrs. Carroll would lecture, he would call out "in the back left." I had no idea what he was saying; I soon found out he was telling Mrs. Carroll which students had questions. They were teaching as a team.

One day it was my turn to teach. Mrs. Carroll had given me the task of discussing Napoleon's Russian campaign. Dr. Carroll was still in his armchair when I came to the front of the classroom. There I stood, teaching high school students about a great military disaster with Dr. Carroll, who obviously knew more about the event then I will probably ever know. At the end of the class, he was happy, and commented that it was a good class. I nearly fell over.

Mrs. Carroll gave me three optional areas of history to teach. One was the history of Ireland from 1798 onward, and I jumped on it. Dr. Carroll seemed to enjoy the classes. A prime example was the class discussion of the 1798 Uprising, which involved, in true Christendom style, singing Irish war songs. At the end of that class, Dr. Carroll commented that we sang his favorite song, either "Rising of the Moon" or "Roddy McCorely," and commented, "Did you know I used to teach Irish history at Christendom?" I knew, and he smiled with a laugh, and said he enjoyed it.

The man was truly great. He was like a bulldog in his defense of truth and the Church.

I pray that Bl. John Paul II might present Dr. Carroll before Christ praising his work for the Church; that the heroes of History, whom he spent most of his life extolling, may swarm to him and greet him as one of their own; and that Christ will welcome him into Paradise with His words of praise reserved for a deserving servant.

Eternal Rest grant onto him, O Lord, and let perpetual Light shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.


1 comment:

  1. Yes, he was such a *nice* great man. He definitely could have afforded to be a jerk, but he wasn't.

    I saw a great deal of him in his last year, when he couldn't speak. You would have expected him to be frustrated, and probably he was. But he still dragged himself to his wife's class, day after day, and tried to be considerate of his "helper," who pushed his wheelchair or held his arm.

    I can't imagine how rough it must have been for the Carrolls at that time. One morning, early, Mrs. Carroll rushed over to school where a few early birds were hanging out. "Are there any big boys around to help me?" she asked, quite calmly. "Warren fell out of bed and I can't lift him into his chair." And then she took two strapping high schoolers and rescued her husband.

    I don't know if he even knew who I was. I always had a smile for him; he never smiled back because his face was somewhat paralyzed, but he met my eye. KC would rush into the teachers' lounge where he was and ask him tons of history questions: "Dr. Carroll, what do you think about Galileo?" Poor Dr. Carroll, he probably had a lot to say on the topic that he couldn't verbalize. But KC would patiently ask one yes/no question after the other, allowing him to do what he loved best -- share his opinions about history.

    I hated his big history books. I loved his book on the Conquistadors, though. And I loved him.