The Journey Continues: Letters Home from Philosophy Studies, 1965 – 67 – Part 6

The Philosopher is clearly not a stellar scholar, but he seems happy with the results to his academic efforts. In these two (three?) letters he shows his serious attention to his main responsibility, academic, but also his pleasure in working and being in the community. Surprises continue to be a theme in his life, as he is suddenly sent to Omak to work on the mission there.

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Mount Saint Michael

Spokane, Washington 99207

May 23, 1996

Dear Mum, Dad and family,

This letter was supposed to have been written last week-end, but as turned our too many things were happening and I did not get a chance to sit down at my type-writer. On Saturday we went out to Priest Lake for the house picnic, and Sunday was spent by classes and study for the coming exams.

At last all the exams are over includ[ing] the oral exams which were the worst. I should say that the orals are over for the first year men, for the second year men still are facing them. I got through them with a solid B, so I’m sort of satisfied. I don’t know what my other marks will be but they shouldn’t be any lower than B’s.

Frank in the library.

Right now some of the men have gone to villa for a few days holiday before we begin summer school. I am staying home this week to finish a few papers for a couple of courses but they should be finished by next Sunday. . . then villa and away from the books for awhile.

Actually villa is not entirely holiday; one of its main purposes is to get us away from studies but we will have to work and prepare the place for summer vacation.

Some of the lads are going to the missions to teach catechism and do other work. It would be fun and one of the missions is only about 350 miles from Regina (in Montana), but since ordinations are coming up a number of us couldn’t go because we have to sing and serve and help make the day a happy one for the new priests and their families. So now we are practising an hour or so a day to get a few hymns and Masses up.

This letter sounds pretty terrible to me. I was trying to write an essay but just could not get any where, so I gave up for tonight and decided it was time this letter was written. I just finished another essay yesterday and that sort of milked me dry as far as writing is concerned.

It was a descriptive essay supposedly 1,000 words long. It didn’t quite make it. I still have two more essays to write and a ten page paper. The latter won’t be too difficult because each page is a separate assignment. We are supposed to find ten artists’ quotations and interpret what they are saying. Then tell what [Jacques] Maritain (a philosopher of art) would say about the quotations.

But it is still work.

Actually, I can’t think of much to tell. The weather here is rather cool even though the sun is shining. We had some rather hot days a couple of weeks ago. I hope it will warm up a little because I find it harder to work when it is cloudy and cold, and I’ll have to pour on the gas this week if I’m going to get done. (The peonies are blooming already. Compared to other places I think they are rather early aren’t they?)

That last little parenthesis will give you an indication of how my mind is working this evening. Just little bits and pieces here and there completely without unity except that they’re running through the same mind.

Signing a card.

Guess what I’m taking for summer courses? An English course and a course in German.

You remember I told you I took some German on my own, (a class a week), in the Juniorate back in Guelph. That helped quite a lot in getting basic knowledge in grammar etc. But it is still impossible to do much reading in the language because it takes so much time to look up words in the dictionary and figure out the verb tenses, especially during the regular school year when it is hard enough to get all the reading done and the matter studied for the courses you’re taking.

So I decided [to] get down to brass tacks this summer and get a good solid background. I’ll have to start out in the beginners class, but if it is too easy I’ll be able to switch to a higher class. Both my summer courses will really be a pleasure after all the philosophy.

I guess you are almost finished seeding by now. I hope everything went well and that no one is sick. Have you put in your garden yet? That reminds me of the cotton seeds I found today. Some one sent them to one of the lads and since he wasn’t too interested in them, he gave them to me. I have never seen a cotton plant so it will be fun to try to grow them.

Earlier in the year someone else gave me one of those plants with large leaves with splits in them. . . . the things just would not grow over the winter so I planted some Mexican hat plants in the same pot. Now everything is growing so I’ll have to transplant.

Well I may as well sign off because this letter is getting worse and worse. I couldn’t put off writing any longer. Maybe the next letter will be the decent one I promised. It’s too bad we couldn’t get together for at least an hour because we could say a million times more than can be written in a letter.

You are always in my thoughts and prayers. Don’t forget the prayers; I need them.

Love,

Frank

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Mount Saint Michael

Spokane, Washington 99207

June 11, 1966

Dear mum and dad,

Well, again it’s been over two weeks. I finally finished all my written assignments about ten days ago, but it was impossible to sit down to write a letter after that. I simply could not face the typewriter.

Frank, Mike, Tom at Villa.

So off we went to Priest Lake, and that’s where the ten glorious days were spent, washing windows, scrubbing floors, painting boats. But there wasn’t too much work and there were many of us, so we had much time to enjoy living at the lake. It was a real holiday. We worked till noon [each day] and relaxed the rest of the day. That’s what I call an easy work day.

During the last of the days I worked mostly on the boats, naming them. The other lads busied themselves painting them all hues and shades from pink to icky brown and then suggested the proper names reminiscent of various members of the community. (The only reason for the horrible colors was practicality. They were using up old paint.)

During the last few days the ordinandi, who are going to be ordained tomorrow, came out. They made villa even more enjoyable. Right now many people are preparing for the ordination ceremonies and first masses. We had two choir practices yesterday and two today. We have another one this evening down at St. Al’s where the ordination will take place.

Four of the ordinandi wish to have folk masses for their first low mass, so that means some more practice time On Sunday morning we will have to play for a Mass at 8 [am] and 9 o’clock, then go down to sing for a solemn high Mass at 11. The families will be served a brunch here at the Mount too, so the day will be a full one. Tomorrow should prove to be very busy too.

jamming session.

I’ve moved to a different room again. This time my window is in the front of the building and I can look through the trees to the valley. It’s a lovely room, small and cosy, with lots of shelve space and nooks and crannies to pile books and papers. Last time I moved I never did get entirely unpacked. This time I did.

The lad who moved out was really an angel– he put new sheets on the bed, left the room spic ‘n span, and bequeathed me many little odds and ends.

Jun 12, 1966

Yesterday was a day and one half. We left home at eight in the morning. The ordination began at nine and finished some time after eleven. That in itself was very tiring especially for the servers and those helping in the ceremonies on the altar because they could just stand and couldn’t move about too much. The choir loft was bad enough too because there was no place to sit except on the floor.

After the ordination there was a brunch for the families and invited friends of the ordinandi. The place was packed. A regiment of us served and the “mothers” hosted, made up the plates and a million other jobs. (The “mothers” are those ladies who make sure we live and eat well. I think I mentioned them in the Christmas letter.)

We ate dinner at about two, then four of us went home to help set up for the dinner in honor of the ordinandi. The rest stayed to clean up down at G.U. I spent the rest of the afternoon making table center pieces and arranging flowers.

We finished just in time for benediction. Of course, the choir sang for it. After that we had a “social hour” so that everyone could meet a few of the 200 guests from our various houses. Dinner was at six and about 12 of us served it. There were first blessings after dinner, so by the time we ate it was late in the evening. I had no problem falling asleep.

This morning is a relatively busy one also. We played for one folk mass at eight. There were supposed to be two more at nine but one was cancelled because things were running behind time, so I got off quite easy. We have to go down to St. Al’s in a few minutes to sing for a solemn high mass and that will take up the rest of the morning.

This afternoon I’m going off to a mission, Omak, to work for a week. There’ll be about ten of us there so it should be a lot of fun despite the work.

I’ll have to leave now. The car is leaving for St. Al’s in a few minutes.

[hand written later in the day]

Everything turned out alright except for a few little things. We are leaving for Omak in a few minutes so I thought I’d better get this mailed immediately.

Don’t forget the prayers– by the way I missed 2 birthdays + now it’s even too late for

“Sorry I missed your birthday” cards–

You’re always in my prayers.

Love,

Frank

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Photos courtesy of Frank Obrigewitsch, SJ

Frank Obrigewitsch, SJ, is pastor of St. Ignatius parish in Winnipeg.

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