Recollections of My Life and Reflections on Times and Events During It: A Memoir by Father W. J. Howlett

Page 44

did not realize that this was the very essence of my vocation, and in going forward, as I intended to do, was but fitting myself into the requirements of the new life upon which I was entering. Some of the students when they saw me said among themselves that I would not stay. I may have borne the appearances of a semi-invalid after my illness, but I felt stronger than when I left home. The table at St Thomas was not suited to delicate feeders, and I never in reality had been such, and the food suited. It was plain, substantial, nourishing and plentiful. I might not get better at home, but there had been times when I had not as good, and the food was not going to be one of my grievances. Leaving St Thomas was simply unthought of; I had the money, but not the will to go elsewhere, even to return to Denver.

          The main thing now was the studies. It was three years since I had done any school work for myself, and, although, my mind was ready, my memory was rusty. It was never easy for me to commit my lessons to memory, and that had always made the catechism the hardes[t] of my lessons, and now I found that in the systematic study of Latin the rules, declensions, the conjugations, and consequently all progress, depended on memory. To add to my difficulty was the fact that I was going into a class which had been four months in operation. The Rev David Russell, pastor of the church of St Thomas, was also a professor in the seminary and he kindly offered to help me in my difficulty. I was much indebted to him both in the way of class work and of encouragement, for at times it seemed that I never would see through the confusion of cases and tenses and all the rest. He gave me the light that by degrees pierced the darkness which at first enveloped the dead languages in the tombs of the masters where I thought they ought to have been left undisturbed. It was quite encouraging to be told by Father Chambige at the end of the scholastic year that I had merited several first prizes, which would have been mine in fact if I had not been too late in entering the classes to be eligible for their award. That pleased me more than if I had been there the entire term and won them according to the rule. In either case the honor would not have been so very great, for my classmates were mostly young boys while I was a man of twenty-one and farther advanced in other studies than they were. There was one exception, however, a man older than myself came in at the same time from Lawrence, Massachusetts. He was woefully lacking in understanding but he was strong on will and memory. To construe a Latin phrase was beyond him but he knew by heart every word without case or tense; he could develop a problem in Geometry exactly as the book showed, but displace one letter of the diagram and he was lost. He was advised to try some other vocation, but he persevered in spite of all. No bishop in the United States would adopt him, but he went to Canada and was ordained and did good work, dying a successful and honored pastor.

          I spent the vacation of 1868 at the seminary doing a little study, but principally passing the time until the return of the students for the opening of the following term. In September, again with the advice of Father Russell, I combined the classes of two years into one, and by hard work finished with credit, thus in a year and a half I was on a par with those who had been there three years.

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