The School of History

“We feel bound to disagree with these prophets of doom.”


Nestled in the foothills below Saddleback Mountain in “the O.C.” there is an abbey of priests and a small boarding school.  There is nothing there that would remind one of the lubricious television program that made the initials of Orange County, California, proverbial; rather, there is the round of services in the abbey church fulfilling the royal psalmist’s prophecy “Seven times a day I praise thee” and the going and coming to class, dorm, playing field, and pew of the boys, some confident and mature, others still scrappy and rough-edged, one sullen and homesick, another determined and docile.  Just as there is nothing at the abbey at the end of the naughts to indicate the rootless, reckless hook-up scene favored by media producers, or the “purpose-driven” world of personal trainers, hair-removal parlors, silicone enlargements, mega “churches,” and big-tent Republicanism, so, too, there is little that would tell the story of how it came to be that the late-18th-century absolutist state with its Enlightenment policies, resistance to papal authority, loathing of the Jesuits, and distaste for solemn liturgy and monastic silence is the remote but very real reason why the habited confrères devote themselves to the...

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