If you’ve read this blog at all, you should know one thing: I love Holy Cross. It really was the place where I learned so much in such a short amount of time. Although I had attended Catholic school since kindergarten, I learned so much more about my faith – both dogmatically and personally – than I ever have at any other institution, or indeed time in my life.
If there was one person who really embodied all of the reasons why I love Holy Cross so much, it was Fr. Brooks. I didn’t meet Fr. Brooks until the first semester of my senior year, when I took his Contemporary Christology course. The Christology course is something of a tradition at Holy Cross. In a way, it almost is a tutorial. Every student in the class selects one theologian to study and, inevitably, present and argue in the style of at the end of the year before a panel of Jesuits. In the regular class meetings, Fr. Brooks would expound upon key critical questions in Christology, and then let us go away and read to balance the arguments he presented in class with those of our theologians.
Every Tuesday morning, Fr. Brooks’ passion for the subject material and how his students were absorbing and processing it was so clearly evident. If any of us had a particular question, Fr. Brooks would immediately direct us to another book or article. He encouraged and fostered debate, and, most importantly, he challenged us to wrangle with the questions he presented in class for ourselves. Answering a question how Rahner might answer it, for instance, was fine, but Fr. Brooks would always prod back, ‘But what do you think?’
Unfortunately, Fr. Brooks passed away yesterday afternoon. His passing is extremely sad for all of Holy Cross since he truly embodied what it meant to be a Crusader – intelligent, faithful, and embracing. His vision for Holy Cross forever impacted and changed the school, and it’s due to his insight that Holy Cross became one of the top liberal arts colleges in the nation. I could go on about his achievements for the college, but I’m sure that those will be listed in far better detail elsewhere. All I can say is that as a student, Fr. Brooks’ vision and insight forever changed me as a person and Catholic, for which I am eternally grateful.
When I was at Holy Cross in September, Fr. Brooks was gracious enough to take time out of his schedule to speak with me (again displaying how his students – past or present – always came first). In the course of the conversation, we talked about my plans for Oxford, how he wanted to visit the city again, and what his plans for this school year were. We talked about the past year’s Christology course and what I had learned from it. He closed with his now infamous line, “Keep Reading.” Thanks, Fr. Brooks. I intend to.
“Father, I thank you, I thank God you were born, I thank God you became a priest and that you came to Holy Cross. I know I speak for many, when I say that had there been no Father Brooks we would not be where we are. I certainly wouldn’t. You are a sine qua non in my life. I know that I am the better for you having lived. You were paternal but never paternalistic. You saw each of us as a person not a project. You wanted the fullness of humanity for all of us, our thoughts, our mistakes, our triumphs, our redemption. You loved us. God bless you, Father, for your wonderful, wonderful life.” – Justice Clarence Thomas