The Journey Continues: Letters Home from Philosophy Studies, 1965 – 67 – Part 12

The April 2nd letter describes his last Easter at the Mount with references to chocolate, the Easter Vigil new fire and the death of two Jesuits of the community. Despite the vast amount of time given to the play, Shakespeare’s Henry IV part I, there is only one brief paragraph about it. The letter to Mathew refers to Graduation day approaching in May. He does not report that the rector insisted that every Jesuit scholastic attend the graduation because it will probably be the only graduation of his he will ever attend! (He was right!)

Although he tells the work involved in taking grad courses, he does not mention how his head would spin after each class so that it took a couple hours or so to calm the adrenalin rush. The May 9th letter bubbles a little with anticipation of regency at St. Paul’s High School in Winnipeg and because Tom Bonic, one of the ‘woof ‘n warp, is being sent there too. The letter ends with words from Craig Boly which contain a note of sadness that friends are being sent away.

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Mount Saint Michael

Spokane, Washington 99207

April 2, 1967

Dear Mum and Dad,

Here it is a week after Easter, the holidays are over, and it’s back to school. I was going to get much work done over these holidays, school work that is, but I’m afraid it didn’t work out that way. All I got done was to find a few reference books and decide on a subject for one of my term papers. The rest of the time was spent working on the play, catching up on some sleep, catching up on some sleep, and various other activities.

Easter week was very enjoyable and your package arrived in plenty of time. All the goodies were delicious (and the Easter eggs came through the mail very well with only 4 being broken). We had them (and the goodies in Bernice’s package) for the lunch after the Easter vigil and Mass on Holy Saturday night. I still have the [chocolate] rabbit you sent, and the one Bernice sent, on the top of my book shelf.

You should have seen the fire we had for the blessing of the fire on the Easter vigil. Wow! I was ready to run for a pail of water or something. They had built it with sticks into a pyramid (with four sides) about a foot high. It burned very well and there was no need at all forany lights to read the missal etc. It’s a good thing the roof is high up in the corridor in front of the dining room, or the flames would have licked the ceiling.

We had two funerals this week. One of the father who we buried had been suffering from cancer for a long time. In fact we though he was going to die already at Christmas time, and on New Years we kept a vigil with him at the hospital but he suffered through until now. The other priest also suffered a long time from strokes although he was not a very old man.

We said the Office of the Dead for them at St. Al’s church on the G.U. campus on Friday night. On Saturday morning we had the funeral Mass and burial for one of them at St. Al’s, and then later in the morning another Mass at the mount for the other priest.

For the Mass here at the mount, we left up the flowers and decorations on the main altar and had a concelebrated Mass (5 priests). It was rather lovely because the decorations on the main altar of the resurrection should have been a consolation to anyone.

Today we have our last dress rehearsal for our play (Henry The Fourth), but it really isn’t a rehearsal because there will be about 100 people watching it. Just writing about it now makes me weak all over. Thank goodness I’ve only a small part!

The razor is lovely and I’ll have to write Viv [sibling] and Alex to thank them. It was really quite funny. I opened it and found where you turn the razor on but I couldn’t figure out how you recharged the battery. The next day I examined the razor more closely and discovered that the one side comes off and low and behold there were four replaceable batteries inside. The whole thing is rather ingenious.

Well I’d better sign off for now and get some school work done for tomorrow the first day of class. I’m going to have to really work these next two months to get all my work done. I suppose I’ll get through it all, but right now the mountain looks pretty big.

Don’t forget the prayers. I need them! You are always in my prayers.

Love,

Frank

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[hand written]

May 9, 1967

Dear Mathew,

Thank you very much for your letter. You don’t know how much I appreciate receiving a letter from you. I remember the last letter you write which was very very very very long ago and was surprised how much you have grown. Your write well + don’t think the opposite.

Guess what? I’ll be graduating this May also. After going to school for almost 17 years I finally get at B.A. So in the last week of May we put on those crazy hats + gowns and march up to receive the diplomas. I find it hard to think of you as graduating from grade 8. It seems like yesterday that I was going into high school + I always tend to think of you as my little brother but here you are 14 years old– no so little anymore.

Thanks very much for the Confederation train Booklet. I’ll be glad to get home to Canada. Sometimes you don’t appreciate your country until you live out of it for some time, and then finally realize that it is home + where you really belong.

I hope you had a nice birthday + that the weather warmed up enough for a weiner roast. Did my little letter arrive on time. Just at the time I was finishing 2 term papers that were due and preparing for a class I had to give on the eighth so I didn’t get a chance to make something or write a decent letter.

Good luck on your graduating toast. I never ever did like getting up + giving speeches, but actually just thinking + worrying about giving them is worse than doing them. That’s true of many things. I have often surprised myself when I discovered that although I didn’t like to do things, it was possible to do them as well as many others could.

Henry The Fourth.

What am I doing now? Well, I’ve a thirty minute report to get up on W.B.Yeats by the 22 of May; I have to prepare for a strange exam one of teachers dreamed up; + lastly have to study all the philosophy I’ve taken in the past two years so that I can pass and hour long oral exam.

We have to answer questions etc. in the 2 half hour sessions with 2 of our professors asking them in each session. Sounds like fun doesn’t it? After that I’ll breath easy again. As I told mum, I will make my retreat in the first week of June + then go to summer school here at G.U. I’ll probably get home in the middle of August.

Well I’m going to have to hit the sack for much work will be glaring at me in the morning.

Once again, Mathew, thanks for your long letter + for your prayers. (If you compare your letter to mine you’ll see you are a very good letter writer– so keep writing)

With love,

Your brother,

Frank

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Mount Saint Michael

Spokane, Washington 99207

May 9, 1967

Dear Mum and Dad,

Well at last I sit down to write again. Thanks very much for the letter and the tape. I’m looking forward to receiving the recording you are making. I got Mathew’s lovely letter too and shall answer it today. I would have written earlier but a number of things came up and so . . . .

Last night I finally gave my report on the three plays of T. S. Eliot in our graduate seminar class. It was really something. I came after two other reports were given, and the they were given by a couple of people with M.A.’s.

Henry The Fourth.

They covered Eliot’s Four Quartets in an hour and fifteen minutes and did a marvellous job. I couldn’t believe it. Then we had a ten minute break and I went on stage at 20 minutes after eight. Well, first I gave a quick resume of the three plays because I was sure that many had not gotten a chance to read them.

After thoroughly confusing them with that, I reviewed an essay which summed up what Eliot was trying to do with his plays. (I had dittoed off a copy of this summary for each one of them so they could follow along.) By then most of my time had been used up for I was only to speak for the three plays and they did.

To forestall any questions that would come up at the end of the reading, I first of al criticized the paper telling them to beware of some of my false emphasis, and then read the paper.

I think they enjoyed the paper or at least the reading of it because they were very quiet and whenever I looked up at them they looked as though they were able to follow the train of thought and , at times, intrigued. I finished at 9:15 and so my class ended 55 minutes after it began (30 minutes more than the stipulated time.)

But Dr. Schneider looked pleased and would have stopped me if he didn’t think what I had to say was interesting. So I guess it was a success. In two weeks I have to give another class, this time it will be on about 50 pages of W. B. Yeats’s poetry.

Last week, I finally became a cleric. We had minor orders and the tonsure. (The four minor orders I received were porter, lector, acolyte, and exorcist.) Their importance lies in the fact that they are a necessary step towards the priesthood. So now I am a full fledged cleric.

(The orders of sub-deacon and deacon are conferred when we are in theology.) I can now bless food at meal times etc. But that isn’t so great because actually any head of a family can do that. I’ll bet dad didn’t know he had the priestly power of blessing the family meal. It is worth meditating on the priestly powers each and every one has, for instance, the power to offer Mass.

It is true that we do not have the power to consecrate as the priest does in the Mass, but we do participate in the priest-hood of Christ by being able to offer all our prayers works and sufferings at the Mass for our own redemption and that of others. If we think about that, it’s really something.

Well, those last two paragraphs were pretty long. On Ascension Thursday we had our spring “house picnic”. We all took off on Thursday in buses and cars and went to Coeur D’alene Lake for the day. We rented this huge dance boat and sailed around the lake for about five hours.

It was lot of fun. People played bridge and other card games, the various groups brought along their musical instruments, and every group played for awhile. We didn’t pack lunches or anything, rather, we brought along all the makings for sandwiches etc., and so everyone made a lunch on board when they wanted to eat.

We had an hour and a half of sun and then it rained. But that really didn’t matter because there was enough indoor room on the boat so we had a wonderful time anyway.

Henry The Fourth.

Would you believe it? After about seven years of college I will finally graduate with an A.B. this May. Graduation exercises will be in the last week of May. It’s sort of funny isn’t it? Graduation doesn’t mean too much after all that time.

Last Saturday I lost my beadle job, so no I’m free to study etc and try to finish up all those last minute assignments. It really does feel horrid at first because now in my new room there are no longer all those visitors wondering when we are this or doing that. And I no longer have to set the bell clock etc.

You always feel as though you are forgetting to do something. But that wears off quickly. I moved down from the third floor to the first floor, and am in a good central position, that is, central to the T.V. room, the card room, the dining room and the new swimming pool. It doesn’t sound as though I’ll get much work done does it?

I don’t think I told you in the last letter that the pool is now full of water and we have been swimming in it for the past two and ó weeks. It really is great, for you can go and get some exercise every day and wear yourself out in a half an hour.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s sunny or not for the pool is always at an even temperature. When the sun does shine we throw open the big doors and can dry off on the patio.

The weather here hasn’t been too warm yet this year. Of course we have no snow like you lucky people, but the winds have been a little chilly. But the grass is all green and the trees are “leaving” slowly, (that is, growing their leaves.). Flower-wise, we have tulips, daffodils, and pansies, and some flowering shrubs. But that’ about it.

Oh yes, I received your tape and will try to get those things recorded for you. I also have some new news. Tom Bonic was assigned to one of our High schools in Toronto but has now been switched. He will be coming to St. Paul’s, Winnipeg, with me.

I’m happy about that, and so is he because he will be closer to home and also will be able to teach the subjects he is majoring in. He’ll teach languages (that is, French) and math and perhaps science.

I still don’t know what I’ll be teaching because Father Monaghan, the principal, still hasn’t written. It is not absolutely certain yet when I’ll visit you on my way to Winnipeg, but it will probably be mid August. I’ll go to summer school here at G.U. and make my retreat here also at the beginning of June before summer school begins.

I’ll probably come by train and if I can’t swing a short train route coming up on the C.N. from the US border (from the great Northern Rail-lines) I’ll go all the way to Winnipeg on the Great Northern and then come back to Regina from Winnipeg. I don’t want to go all the way back to Vancouver and back. It’s too long a trip to take alone. (When I’ll be through Regina depends on when school begins at St Paul’s and I haven’t got that information yet.)

This has been one of the busiest years I’ve had yet and it will be busier till May is over. I plan to take it a little easy this summer and rest up for the deluge awaiting me in Winnipeg. You know it will be difficult to leave the Mount. I really have enjoyed my two years here.

One thing that will make regency more difficult is that there will be fewer in the community. The community here is large and wonderful, and it’s always hard to part with friends. But I am looking forward to trying to teach high school, and I know it won’t be easy.

Well, I’m going to sign off now. I always remember all of you in my prayers.

Love

Frank

P.S. I’m glad you met Fr. General Arrupe [The head of all the Jesuits in the world at the time.] I met him when he can to the states + was really impressed. He’s a great man.

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[This was added to the Philosopher’s letter]

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Obrigewitsch,

I am Frank’s next door neighbour, and having a few moment before going up to prayers, I want to add a few things your young man neglected to say. Last Saturday I helped Frank move into his new room, and that evening we had a party in his honor, sort of in gratitude for his contribution to the community as beadle over the last six months. He promises to show me how to play the guitar– we spent some time together last summer rooming together at Linger Longer. Now that I’ve got some chords down, I need somebody to play along with. Well, in conclusion, I just want to say how tough it’ll be to say good-bye to the friends who must leave for regency.

Keep us in your prayers!

Sincerely in Christ,

Craig Boly S.J.

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All photos courtesy of Frank Obrigewitsch, SJ

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

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