Don Edwards Literary Memorial

June 3, 2006

Reclaiming Lives


I don’t have any story to be compared with Richard Halter….the closest was with my friend Anthony. But it occurred to me, I may be a reclaimed person for different reasons.

I probably went to Mont la Salle, our boarding “Junior Novitiate” high school because Brother Edward who was the recruiter at the time, convinced me it was a good thing for me to do. I had known him from the second grade so I trusted him. My mother and step father were going through a very complicated and protracted divorce so I guess Brother Ed talked her into it too. So I arrived in Napa, a failing and indifferent student from Christian Brothers School in Sacramento, not interested in much more than playing basketball and I was about 5’ 4” tall. I could not have cared less about math, literature, history, science.

We lived in dorms, got up around 6:00 AM, went to prayers in our chapel, went to Mass, went to breakfast in our cafeteria, were silent all that time, performed cleanup tasks, went to classes, came back for lunch, went to other classes, played sports most of the afternoon, had study time, went to chapel, had dinner, studied, went to chapel again, went to bed, and every day was like every other day.

I began to be interested in reading. I liked the physics labs. Our compatriot, Brother Bede, Jim Van Duren, swallowed a weak acid in an experiment, not dangerous to taste, but he really should not have drank the entire test tube, had the most severe case of heartburn ever seen at the Mont. I got “B”s in Geometry, Trig.

Basically, I began to learn how to study. Brother Robert Smith told me once, “It is easy to be a good teacher, Don. Teach students how to learn and make sure they like learning…then they will be life long students.”

Like you I became a Novice, took vows, spent a year in prayer and meditation, went to St. Marys College, took courses, expected to teach literature the rest of my life and then, one day, I had “redition” with our director, Brother Gabriel. Redition was the regular meeting with one’s superiors, mandatory.

He looked me in the eye and said, “I think you should consider leaving the Brothers. The Council (I had not idea what “THE COUNCIL” was) has questioned your vocation.”

I was stunned. I consulted with my surrogate father, Brother Pius, our Novice Director. He told me that I needn’t pay any attention to the “suggestion.” It was entirely up to me. I walked with Brother Ed for hours. Finally, I decided, who wants to be where he is not wanted, appreciated.

I wrote a story about this, as a matter of fact.

So I left the Brothers, full of resentment, angry, feeling the injustice of the whole episode. But I knew I could succeed in anything I wanted to do. I had a good feeling about my abilities. I was thursty for knowledge and experience.

But I held a major grudge for many years.

Now, though, looking back, two things strike me:
1) Going to the Mont reclaimed my life.
2) Being told I had “no vocation” also reclaimed my life. “The Council,” whoever they were, was right.

So if I can do it at this late date, I extend my hand to Brother Edward and, very reluctantly, to Brother Gabriel, and of course to THE COUNCIL, and echo Richard Halter’s comment:

“I just want to shake your hands and say thank you, you saved my life.”


Filed under: DON POSTS — Don @ 3:08 am

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