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or four years, with the recluse professor. If the measure of a teacher's ability and success be the amount of technical information he imparts to his pupils, Doctor Balfe certainly fell short of the standard. The defects in his vocal organs (hinted at above) interfered considerably with attractive lecturing. Moreover, like most deep-thinking men, who live in habitual solitude, he read the record of knowledge only as it lay before his inner eye, and had no sense of how it appeared, or might be made to appear, to those who could as yet read it only from without. Besides this he had no defined, no orderly or progressive method, of imparting his science. On entering the class-room, after the preparatory prayer, he would deposit his text-book, berretta, spectacles, watch, snuff-box, and red bandana on the desk, and frequently fall into what seemed to be a soliloquy, quite unintelligible to even one before him, his head meanwhile somewhat bowed, his brows knitted, and his forefinger and thumb ploughing over and over incessantly the contents of his snuff-box. Suddenly looking sideways through the corner of his eye, without lifting his head, he would exclaim, “Say, Mr. N-, what was that you said ?” Mr. N- had certainly said nothing since entering the hall, and of the many things he had said on previous occasions, he remembered not one of them. So he looks inquiringly towards the desk, whence after a short time, he learns that perhaps the day before, in recitation, perhaps during the inter-class recess, -when a knot of students were wont to gather round the Doctor to share at once his conversation and his snuff,-he had most likely unconsciously and in sheerest ignorance of its bearing-made use of an expression, which to the keen theological instinct of the Doctor, carried with it the slightest tinge or taint of semi-Pelagianism, or Calvinism, or some equally opprobrious heresy. Woe then to the youth if, now repeating the phrase, he showed by voice or manner the semblance of insisting on its verity. The Doctor would pounce
pounce upon the sentence, distinguish, and subdistinguish its inmost meanings and uttermost bearings, and though it might take many subsequent hours allotted to other class subjects, would never rest until he had buried
the error with all manner of logical and theological obloquy. Herein lay at once his greatest strength and weakness as a professor. His keen penetration reached the most hidden sources and the most distant consequences of theological propositions. This natural acumen, deepened and strengthened by many years of continuous study, had been perfected and rendered sure in its discernings by his constant recollection and communion with God. Habits of prayer and mortification had given to his soul that delicate sensibility which discerns in term or phrase the slightest deviation from the spirit of the Divine message delivered by God to His Church. Had this penetration, and faithful Catholic instinct, been balanced by a sense of proportion, and supplemented by a didactic method, Doctor Balfe would have possessed the qualities of a great professor. Unfortunately this was not the case. He was untiring in his efforts to show up the deepest roots of isolated propositions, and to hunt down to the death, any erroneous statement. But this insistance on detail obliged him to pass over but lightly, large and important areas of the branches he taught; whilst he quite failed to show the bearings of the parts whereon he dwelt so patiently with their immediate setting. He gave his students no notion of Theology as a co-ordinate system of truth. His own conception of his office was of course moulded by the fact that his pupils were young men who had come to him after six years preparation, and might therefore be presumed capable of gathering by private study of approved authors the needed sum of information. Moreover, as an aid to such study, and as somewhat of a basis for questioning in class, he had made a short digest—a theological catechism-of his text books, Kenrick's Dogma and Moral, and of Palma's Lectures on Ecclesiastical History. These synopses written on strips of foolscap, convenient for slipping into the author, were obtained and copied by some of the students. The transcripts being handed around and carried along from class to class in the successive years,
one finds in these notes the best reflex of Doctor Balfe's cast of mind, a mind built on the model of that of Duns Scotus. The pithy propositions and clear-cut
terminology, sum up a large amount of theological and historical matter, and, to the student fairly familiar with the general subject, suggest much more than they express, especially when taken in connection with the authors they represent. The true professor forms his pupils not so much by the oral teaching addressed exclusively to their intellect, as by his entire personality, which is the living exemplification of his doctrine and precepts." From this standpoint we must estimate the power
of Doctor Balfe. The seminarians saw reflected in the life of their professor the meaning and value of theology in its final purpose. The science of Dogma underlies that of Morals, and both have for their ultimate end the “Union of the Human Soul with God,” and the realization of this end was presented to them by the actual life of good Doctor Balfe. Of no one with whom they came in contact could it have been said with greater truth that his “Life was hidden with Christ in God.” This was manifested not only in his habits of prayer and mortification, which were as the atmosphere wherein he lived, but especially by his great humility and charity, and his gentle consideration for the feelings of the least of his pupils. To those to whom it was given to live in close converse with those two professors whose mind and character shed an enduring glory on the Seminary-Doctor Corcoran and Doctor Balfe -it must ever be a comfort and a stimulus to higher feelings, to recall the friendly and almost childlike innocence with which these two remarkable men regarded one another. Both were far advanced in years during their co-labors at Overbrook. Yet each looked up to the other as his superior. Doctor Balfe regarded his confrere as a prodigy of wisdom ; and Doctor Corcoran would speak of his associate as a saint, and a profound scholar. Once when it had fallen to the lot of Doctor Balfe to defend a public thesis, he took his paper to Doctor Corcoran and begged him to correct the Latinity ! The good old Doctor was wont to whisper to his friends this act of humility, and he never failed to add that not only was the thesis remarkable for its solidity and precision of treatment, but that the style was pure and classical. “ Think of Dr. Balfe asking me to correct his Latin! Why Doctor Balfe
writes the Latin of Tacitus.'' Amongst the many examples of his gentle kindness, that cling to the memory of his former pupils, are the pains he took to heal the slightest wound that a chance expression in class might have caused to any one. "The bruised reed he never broke, and the smoking flax he never quenched.” It was his custom to question pretty much the same pupils in each of his classes ; these were not always the brightest, and one or another might at times put forth some erroneous proposition. Down would come the Doctor to combat with might and main until his face grew crimson. It sometimes, though rarely, happened that in the midst of the excited debate he would drop an expression not quite complimentary to the disputant. Presently the class would notice a calm stealing over the ruffled features of their Professor, and the furrows in the forehead would smooth themselves out, and a gentler and more palliating tone would creep into his argument. That same evening he would be heard stealing along the Theologian's corridor, looking for the room of the disputant, and the neighboring students would hear the gentle tap, and then the peculiar head voice at the open door : “I say, you said and I said, but I didn't mean it, didn't mean it at all," and this last phrase would be repeated again and again, as though to impress it to its fullest meaning on the mind of the offended, who had been in reality rather the offender, as well as the willing listeners in the adjoining rooms. And so while he might grow heated in class, he never allowed " the sun to go down on his wrath.” Thus it was that he taught his pupils, winning their reverence and affection; and the seeds of science which he sowed fell on better soil thus prepared; gave promise of greater harvest, and in the final harvest he shall shine as shine those that instruct many unto justice.
EXTRACTS FROM THE
DIARY OF REV. PATRICK KENNY
Continued from RECORDS, Vol. vii, page 137.
BY MARTIN I. J. GRIFFIN.
[NOTE.—This Diary has a record for every day, showing for whom Mass was offered ; detailing home and farm incidents and operations, and naming persons in the several localities visited. This makes the DIARY of historical value to local investigators.
For publication in THE RECORDS I have selected only such entries as appear of general value as showing the tour of duty of a priest near Philadelphia eighty or more years ago, especially those that record the names of other priests, so that the record of their presence may be preserved. The annotations are by Mr. Joseph Willcox.]
1816, JANUARY 13. Start for Concord-arrived at Judge Willcox's* about 4 p m.
14. Sunday. Mass for soul of Jos Willcox t-vast snow.
15. Mass-soul Mrs Sutton 1-start for home-fine overhead.
21. At home-not well.
24. Rev Mr Moynahan successor to Rev Mr Pasquet at Bohemia called this morning-took breakfast—had his horse fed and set out.
31. Received a letter from Rev Mr Debarth.
* The station at the house of Judge Mark Willcox, in Concord, was twelve miles from Wilmington. (See these RECORDS, Vol. vii, p. 309.) † Joseph Willcox, son of Mark Willcox, died Jan. 14, 1815.
Mrs. Sutton, sister of Mark Willcox, died Sept. 5, 1815.