“Yet even in these nobility shines through, when a man bears with resignation many great misfortunes, not through insensibility to pain but through nobility and greatness of soul.”
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
I didn’t realize how difficult it would be for me to stand at the podium and teach my class yesterday.
Sometimes when you stand in such a place of primordial significance in human life, you suddenly experience yourself as in the company of many others—including those who can no longer be there.
It’s rather amazing that anyone stands at a podium in front of fellow creatures—especially to pursue and to teach more ultimate things. To teach demands much of one who would do it. And those of us who stand at a podium do well to remember that.
The remains of my colleague and friend Brendan McGuire, aged 37 husband and father of three, were laid to rest yesterday in a cemetery called ‘Good Hope.’ A fitting name indeed.
There is so much that could be said of these nine years in which this great- souled man faced the challenges of an aggressive cancer. I would but share what he has taught me about being a teacher. He was fond of a quotation from Prosper of Aquitaine in the troubled fifth century, who wrote to a young man about the importance of continuing his liberal studies: “My son be not discouraged… Why should lasting values tremble if transient things fall?”
Indeed, as Prof. McGuire exemplified in his own life, lasting things endure, even as transient things are falling. The act of teaching itself—so exalted, so potent—has its time and its place. Brendan experienced this in all its poignancy. There was little, very little, that could keep him from being with his students where he so longed to be. Countless times in these last years, Brendan taught through pain and fatigue. He was at his podium the day before he passed.
Brendan was a teacher because he saw reality with extraordinary vision. And he loved it. Part of that reality was the persons with whom he could share his vision. And he loved them deeply. He experienced their journey with all the drama and passion with which he experienced his own. And he travelled with them, as far as he possibly could. He always pointed to the light, the shining truth at the end of any tunnel.
I think I will never stand at a podium again without feeling the presence and the example of Brendan McGuire. The act of teaching itself can and will pass away. The fruits of good teaching are everlasting.
As we lay your body in the cemetery of Good Hope, dear friend, we know that your faith and your hope were well placed. And that your love—your extraordinary love—and its many fruits, endure: for your dear family, your friends, and your students. You have been a teacher for all of us, to the end.
If you would like to learn a little more about Brendan McGuire, you can go here to the Christendom College website.
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RIP Dr. McGuire. I heard him lecture at the ICC and I was taken by his interjection of a greeting to his children watching him at home.
Peter, I’m glad you got to experience him through ICC. Interjecting a greeting to his children is a classic Dr. McGuire!
How tragic is this loss, and what a beautiful tribute you have left here. As with Peter above, I too heard Prof. McGuire at the Institute of Catholic Culture several times I so enjoyed his presentations that my wife and I obtained several CD recordings of them. He will be missed.
Brendan was a man of broad learning, and deep passion. I’m very glad that his lectures will remain available in the ICC library for years to come. Thanks Tom.
John, Thank you as always for recalling the “lasting values” that endure. I remember Brendan as an excellent teacher during my undergraduate days, and I think I know what you mean when you say that you will never look at the act of teaching the same again. I pray that many of us, his students and friends, will approach the “podiums” of our lives with like vigor, luminosity, and love. May Brendan rest in peace.
Amen! Thank you Fr. John Mark.